Kat Cole: Finding Inspiration Everywhere

by Metalwerx on November 4, 2015

by Joan Dusoe


No matter where she goes, jewelry artist and sculptor Kat Cole finds something that influences her work, and then she finds a way of sharing that inspiration with others. Cole is visually inspired by the forms and colors in the landscapes she sees, and she is propelled deeper into her work by the experiences and interactions that she has with the people she encounters in her many roles in the world of contemporary jewelry and craft. Teaching workshops, organizing pop-up galleries for the online store she co-founded, Jewelry Edition, and now a board member of the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG,) this young artist gets, and gives something everywhere she goes.

Oil and Water (left) by Kat Cole: enamel, steel; Sense of Color (right) by Kat Cole: enamel, steel

     Kat recently taught a sold-out workshop here at Metalwerx, entitled Enameling on Steel, that not only instructed students how to employ this technique, but also how to score and fold metal to create geometric forms. Cole’s work is largely inspired by architectural structures. Tantalized by the landscape, built and altered by human history, Cole sees the distinct and unique qualities of each community, while at the same time recognizing the common forms that we have created around us.

The View by Kat Cole; steel, enamel, plexiglass

     Smack dab in the middle of her adolescence, Kat and her family moved from the suburbs of Atlanta, GA; a diverse community with an equally diverse landscape of rolling hills, trees and streams, to Muncie, IN, where everyone seemed to know everyone else going generations back, and the landscape, in which you could see miles and miles along the crop fields, felt plain and endless. Cole remembers this being the first time that it really struck her that, “not everywhere is the same.” For her BFA she chose to attend Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Cole wanted to be in the middle of a city, and again undergo a drastic change in landscape and architecture. She then spent some time in Pittsburgh before going to graduate school in Greenville, NC. “I found that there was a lot of relationship and connection, architecturally between things like grain silos and smoke stacks, and the row-houses in Pittsburgh and the tobacco barns in North Carolina.” And while those commonalities exist, and are at the core of Cole’s fascination with structures and dwellings, she is equally amazed by the fact that, “each area has its own nuances in terms of architecture and how things are built: what kind of materials they used, the different color palettes; things like that. It’s just really amazing to see the diversity and uniqueness of each community’s aesthetics and how they seem to be individual.” When I asked Kat what type of buildings she is most drawn to, she tells me,  “industrial agriculture, factories, and things like that. I do sort of love those forms and shapes because they are both abstract and sort of mysterious. I don’t know what those funnel cone shapes do or what is inside of this structure, or what goes on there. But I know it has a purpose, and function and I have always found that really interesting about industrial structures and those spaces.”

House Earrings by Kat Cole: found metal, sterling silver

     Kat Cole’s jewelry is all wearable and much lighter and more comfortable than one might think, being that it is made of steel. But functionality is very important to her. Cole says, “Jewelry comes so naturally to me. I can sit and make, and I don’t have to force it; things just kind of come together. I have a very comfortable relationship with jewelry and body adornment. I like to push those limits into a sculptural form on the body, and all of that is well within my comfort range.” Now Cole is also focusing some of her attention into larger sculptural work as well, and finding it very different for many reasons. “With the scale shift in jewelry, where I’m taking something structural and scaling it down onto the body, its monumental yet intimate and I can understand the kind of balance that it makes. But once I scale my work up, I struggle with it because the relationship changes. The scale is different but it also takes on a relationship to the architectural space that houses this sculptural piece. So there are a lot of things that change when you switch over from jewelry to sculpture and I think that its an area that I’m still navigating through, but its an area that I am getting more aggressively into because I want to figure it out.” And when speaking about her piece, Progressive Landscape, which she describes as one of her most ambitious undertakings, she says, “my reason for pursuing sculpture is because it frees me from the functionality and allows me to explore the narrative, because I can work much larger and I can have many pieces that are part of one larger piece.”


Progressive Landscape by Kat Cole: steel, enamel

     As aggressive a studio artist as Kat Cole is, it seems equally important to her to stay involved with those communities which she draws inspiration from. In addition to teaching workshops and selling her work at various professional craft shows, she also co-founded an online store called the Jewelry Edition in 2012. The site is dedicated to showcasing and promoting the work of emerging and early career jewelry artists. Jewelry Edition also holds pop-up gallery exhibitions and looks for new and exciting ways of educating the public about the world of contemporary jewelry. And now, having joined SNAG’s Board of Directors, she will have a hand in all sorts of educational outreach across North America. She says that the interactions that she has with students, clients and professional colleagues always reinvigorate her, and she goes back home and into the studio with a fresh perspective and a ton of excitement.









Samples of Student work from Enameling On Steel workshop, taught by Kat Cole at Metalwerx in October.

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