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Photo: Kathleen Atkinson-Hindle

Q&A with Apt613 artist-in-residence Kathleen Atkinson-Hindle

By Apartment613 and Kathleen Atkinson-Hindle on June 21, 2020

In Week 1 of their virtual residency at Apartment613, we’re getting to know the blog’s metalsmith-in-residence, Kathleen Atkinson-Hindle.

If there’s something you want to know, please leave a question in the comments section below. Over the next few weeks, Apt613 readers and writers get to follow our resident as they share their progress and inspiration.

Kathleen’s unique proposal is to create a metal map of Ottawa which will be broken into pieces that come together like a puzzle to form a whole. She would like each piece to become a necklace that belongs to someone in that part of town, bringing all these strangers together by holding a piece of the whole artwork “together apart.” If you’re just joining us now, visit apt613.ca/residency to get caught up on Kathleen’s work and the story of Apt613’s new residency program.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Apt613: How will the number of pieces be selected?

Kathleen Atkinson-Hindle: This is the big question! And one I would really like readers’ feedback on. I think there are 108 little neighbourhoods that make up our beautiful city, that seems like too many so how do we break the city up?

I keep coming back to the idea of wards. Ottawa has 23 wards, using this as the marker makes a lot of sense to me but I know it lumps a few key neighbourhoods together. We could do the 23 and then break a couple areas into smaller ones if there’s enough interest…

Maybe readers have an idea I haven’t thought of yet. Do we include the large rural areas or focus more on individual neighbourhoods in the core? Either way, I want your feedback, your ideas on how best to break up the city that will represent where we live. [Editor’s Note: Comments section below!]

What are the necklaces made of? From where are you sourcing the material?

The necklaces are going to be fabricated out of solid sterling silver and come on a sterling silver chain. I use both new and recycled silver for my projects. For this project in particular I will be using a single sheet of sterling silver to make the map of Ottawa and then cut out each neighbourhood.

A sheet of silver, new and recycled materials. Photo: Kathleen Atkinson-Hindle.

How can I get a piece of the artwork?

We are still figuring our all the details but it’s possible we will have a silent auction or they will be available for purchase on Apt613’s Shopify store. Ultimately, I’d love to see the pieces go to someone who lives in that neighbourhood or has a special connection to it.

One of the ideas that keeps buzzing around in my head is that they go to people within community that have really stepped up, gone above and beyond in their neighbourhood throughout this experience. So people could get them as a thank you gift for someone in their area that deserves recognition. I would love to feature little stories on each recipient as a finale for the project. A spotlight on all these strangers that are now connected by possessing a section of the whole piece.

Metal will last much longer than I will.

One of the things I appreciate most about being a metalsmith is that the work I create will last for generations—metal will last much longer than I will and I believe this shared experience has made a permanent impression on all of us living through it. The idea that these necklaces can serve to commemorate the beautiful acts that are happening everyday on a small scale in our neighbourhoods as we navigate our way through this tragedy delights me.

A lot of folks want to know… How will you choose who gets “the coveted Centretown piece?”

Is it folks that live in Centretown that are asking this? I can see why people would think that this neighbourhood would be more coveted but actually, the whole idea of the project is that no one neighbourhood is more important than another. That we need all the unique and diverse areas that make our wonderful whole Ottawa.

I have toyed with the idea of either having the necklaces available on a first-come first-served basis or having them up for auction. I’d love to hear from readers to get opinions on what you think is the best way of going about this.

Also, if when the project is completed you didn’t manage to get your neighbourhood piece, get in touch with me and I would be happy to make you your hood.

Photo: Kathleen Atkinson-Hindle

In what local neighbourhoods have you lived? Which is your favourite and why?

Come on now, I can’t pick a favourite!

This was a really fun question to answer, I rewrote my answer a number of times the more I thought about it. Turns out there’s a lot of really special spots in Ottawa that have shaped me along the way.

I lived in the Glebe Annex when I first moved to Ottawa, I was just a little rug rat roaming the streets with neighbourhood kids, riding our bikes and building forts at Dow’s Lake.

I lived in the Golden Triangle in my teens, went to Canterbury High School in Elmvale and used to go to dances at Hintonburg Community Centre when it was a very different neighbourhood.

I love Overbrook, my auntie and my bestie both live there and even though I don’t have a house there, it has always felt like home. I have spent many hours of laughter and joy in the ByWard Market and even more aimlessly riding my bike from one end of the city to other on our awesome bike paths. I play softball in Vanier and kayak in Orléans.

When I first moved back to Ottawa a few years ago I settled in Sandy Hill and am now happily nested in Old Ottawa East. I would say each of these spots and more have, at one point, been my favourite. We’re all pretty lucky to live here. There’s water and green and community and safety and beauty. A small town that happens to be a big city. 💕

Have you done a project like this before? What inspired you to think of this concept?

I have worked on many projects throughout the years but never one like this. I think one of my jobs as an artist is to make work that reflects what is going on in the world around us. This experience has been a really interesting exercise in being deeply alone and yet at the same time deeply connected to my tribe, my neighbourhood, my city and the world. Never before have we all been so connected by something. We are all doing this right now. Together. Apart.

This experience has been a really interesting exercise in being deeply alone and yet at the same time deeply connected.

As soon as I read the call for submissions the entire idea for the project appeared in my mind, almost as a completed thought. It just made sense to me that this was something I wanted to do. A visual representation of everything I have been feeling and thinking through this experience.

Is your other art Ottawa-focused?

Never so literally, but my art is almost always focused on the human experience. It celebrates love and nature, grace in grief and the outline of beauty that sits just on the edge of tragedy. I have always tried to find the elegance in the human experience and that experience happens everywhere.

I believe I am influenced either consciously or subconsciously by my surroundings and since Ottawa is my home and has shaped me in so many ways throughout the years, it is inevitable that it finds its way into my work.

The artist’s workbench. Photo: Kathleen Atkinson-Hindle.

How is the “metalsmith” scene doing in Ottawa/Wakefield?

I have no idea. I only know a handful or blacksmiths and jewellers in the area and would be happy to know more. If you’re a metal making human get at me. I’d be stoked to have a metal makers meet up.

Besides the grant, what’s the benefit of doing this project with Apartment613?

For me the grant had little to do with my desire to be part of this project. I moved back to Ottawa a few years ago after being away for a long time. It’s great to be home and in many ways feels like getting to shore after a long swim, but I have yet to introduce myself as a maker here. In many ways this is my introduction as a maker and a homecoming of sorts. Next step is to get my work into local shops and get more involved in the arts scene here.


Watch this space or follow @apt613 for updates on Kathleen’s project. Visit apt613.ca/residency for more about Apartment613’s artist-in-residence pilot program.