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Katja Abbott
South Africa

"In many cultures birds are seen as symbols of the soul and of transcendence with an ability to defy gravity. They represent spirits with the capacity to break from confining patterns of existence and bridge the realms of earth and sky."

"With roots in the earth and branches growing skywards, trees too straddle the worlds. The bodies of these birds are made from recycled fabric eco-printed with wood shavings from oak trees, uprooted by storms or other natural causes. In the patterns that are transferred to the cloth through the sap and tannins in the wood the residual essence of the life-force of the tree lingers, holding the memory of the vitality of the tree."

"In this post-industrial time of the Anthropocene where the widening gap between human and nature has resulted in a disconnect from wilderness and wildness, I seek to give expression to the idea of animal. Both the instinctual, intuitive aspects of human nature and to the animals themselves who watch from the side-lines, marginalised and displaced."

After studying graphic design and working as a freelance graphic designer, illustrator and editor for many years, in 2022 I completed a Visual Arts degree (cum laude) through the University of South Africa (UNISA). Using a variety of mediums including clay, textiles and mixed media, I explore animal forms and imaginary realms that emerge through dreams. The creatures serve as gateways to the instinctual phenomenal world, silent familiars or emissaries bridging the conscious and unconscious worlds."


"I draw on imagery and forms from my internal dream-space. My art-making process is thus unpredictable, spontaneous, driven and often chaotic. Unbidden, animal forms appear and reappear and I am constantly challenged to be at ease with uncertainty and to trust in the non-rational intelligence of my hands."



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'Shumar', raku-fired ceramic, recycled fabric eco-printed with oak shavings, felt, wire,

h. 40 x w. 15 x d. 10 cm

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Do you plan each piece in advance or do they develop intuitively?

"I draw on imagery and forms from my internal dream-space. My art-making process is thus unpredictable, spontaneous, driven and often chaotic."


How important is tactility to your work?


"Combining different materials to create textural and tactile contrasts is something I have been exploring for a while. By integrating ceramic and fabric in my sculptures I explore the tensions between hard/soft, rough/smooth, rigid/flexible."

What’s been your biggest achievement in your artistic career so far?

"Last year I graduated cum laude with an honours degree in Visual Arts from the University of South Africa. It took me 8 years to complete the degree studying part-time while I worked as an artist’s assistant to support myself, but I did it! During this time I have also managed to build my art career and I exhibit regularly in galleries throughout South Africa."

Can you talk us through a usual day in your studio?

"Usually my studio time begins in the late afternoon or over the weekend when my day job as an artist’s assistant is done. The Studio Manager (Pixie, the cat) presides over proceedings from her sunny spot on the window sill from cat dreamland. I strive to be tidy but my studio is a rather chaotic space. Ideas emerge spontaneously from the disarray when materials or images land up next to each other sparking unplanned combinations of materials or unpremeditated notions."

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Can you tell us more about the work in our Winter Exhibition? 


"These bird forms are part of an ongoing exploration of the effects of the eradication of wild spaces and animal habitat loss."


"The bodies of the birds are made from recycled fabric that I eco-printed using oak shavings – the by-product of my partner’s craft, Paul Kristafor, who is a wood turner. The inherent vitality in the timber is transferred to the fabric through the sap and tannins in the wood. The ceramic heads of the birds are raku fired, also using oak shavings. In the final raku process the glowing ceramic is plunged into wood shavings which burst into flame, crackle the glaze and permeate the piece with smoke."

"The birds are named after various species of oak trees, silent witnesses of a changing world."

Available Work

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