Conversations with an Artist: Whitney Sharpe
We met Whitney, the designer and owner of The Latch Key, and were charmed by her vivacious personality and irresistible talent. We think her wall hangings are like jewels for your home. The metallics, forms, and mid century modern inspired one-of-a-kind ceramic gems are just stunning!
Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
After really digging into my journey as a maker and artist I believe the moment was when I realized the power of symbolism. In my early teenage years, I was constantly writing poetry and painting. I would code my work to hide how I felt from the outside world while still attempting to express myself. Then I discovered the works of Max Ernst, Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo and saw the inherent narrative within symbolism. I realized the power and freedom of these symbols and how it had the ability to reflect my thoughts, desires and fears. I had the tools necessary to continue to allow self expression, a bit less inhibited.
What themes do you pursue in your art?
The cycles within life are a constant theme I refer to. Whether it is human life, the cycle of the moon and planets or even the very cycle of the earth that produces clay. Everything is always in motion, regardless if we feel it or not. We as individuals have the ability to accept this constant in our lives and not be fearful of what we cannot change. I have a few words that I wrote years ago and often refer back to when I am aware of any shift in life: Change is constant, change is necessary. It's not about altering the past but supplementing the addition. This is my life's mantra and my work is an extension of that. I believe that is why I am drawn to clay itself; it's in a constant state of change and I choose to embrace it.
Wall Hangings: Bonne Phase and Notte Luna
Tell us about what influences the direction for the jewelry and home goods you create.
Sculpturally influenced, I create my pieces to have individuality and function. I studied textiles in addition to ceramics and I find inspiration in the repeating motifs and color ways. With the home and wall decor, I worked on what I personally would hang in my home. Subtle variation of color, repeating shapes and clean lines were a must. Once I had an entire collection, the aesthetic then reflected back into my jewelry. Focusing on cycles as inspiration, I allow both my home decor and jewelry to have a conversation. It must be said that I had an idea for a large scale piece and once it came time to assemble it, I was not satisfied. I redistributed the pieces into new wall hangings which in retrospect are stronger than the original. Allowing for failure and admiring destruction as a form of creation is a guiding light throughout my practice.
How has your work developed over time?
Beyond the refinement of my craftsmanship, I have eased my distaste for making utilitarian objects. In undergrad, I was proud not to be a potter and to focus on sculpture. I was proud to rebel from the typical textile students work of florals and made weavings of wire, focusing on concept rather than functionality.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
Besides my hands, it would be my glaze recipe book. I have 5+ years of research there and although I know a few by heart, it would be an unimaginable loss.
Do you collect anything?
Antique lace. I made a small collection of portraits and instead of applying paint to a canvas, I used different shades of lace, sewing each piece together. I cannot resist buying a one of a kind piece of lace, regardless if it's a scrap or a full yard. I like to imagine its life before I found it. Had it been on a beautiful wedding gown, worn once and treasured for generations then forgotten in an attic? Had been the edging of a hanky? Someone's grandmother delicately making it with bobbin thread in the country side in Ireland? All of these untold stories wound together in a portrait holds emotional value to me. I want to return to these, if I ever have enough time!
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, read, watched or listened to recently?
I have just recently rediscovered ceramicist Beatrice Wood. She is rarely listed as a pioneer of DADA but she was a large part of the movement. She lived till she was 105 and did not stop making until her death. Her final wish was to be cremated and mixed with her favorite glaze and fired into the last vessel she made. Although dark, it's a beautiful ending to an inspiring life. I hope to visit her studio in Ojai.
What advice would you give to your younger self about your artistic journey?
Don't be afraid of what people will think. Don't be afraid of failure. Make what feeds your soul and never allow anyone to hold yourself back - including you.
Wall Hangings: Grand Lila and Alma
Come explore Whitney's The Latch Key pieces at Poet and/the Bench. And stay tuned for our next First Tuesday Art Walk on October 4, 5-8pm with Whitney and more of her beautiful work.
If you'd like more information about The Latch Key wall hangings or jewelry, please do get in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-569-4383.
Until next time,
Bonnie & Jeffrey