Kate Castelli – Cambridge, Massachusetts

Woodblocks on 19th century book covers dimensions range from 9x12" to 12.25x18" unique impressions  2013

Woodblocks on 19th century book covers
dimensions range from 9×12″ to 12.25×18″
unique impressions

Briefly describe the work you do.

My work is an intersection of prints, books, and works on paper that explores poetic and formal juxtapositions in order to connect what cannot be connected.
At the root of it all is the idea that paper has a memory and a history. Much of my work explores how I can edit, alter, or add to that history. There are threads that run throughout my work: traveling and the desire to be elsewhere, cities, fragments of literature and art history, small moments that need to be recorded or remembered. They all get layered on top of each other to weave something new out of something old. There is a subtle poetic tension in that, something mysterious and lingering. Someone once described my work as “Sherlockian,” and that has always seemed very accurate.

Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.

I grew up going to museums and galleries, traveling, and spending a lot of time with my nose in a book or with a crayon in my hand. My parents have always been extremely supportive of my artistic endeavors and they fostered my curiosity and creativity from an early age. They are both public school teachers, and my father is a photographer, so it is really no surprise that I am an artist and a professor. 

The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”

Where I work depends largely on what I am working on. I tend to work on projects in stages. I use a lot of ephemera and found paper, so a vital part of my process is sourcing material. I wander around used bookstores and antique shops. My printing surfaces and grounds take time to prep and the prints need to dry longer because of the nature of the surfaces. Books and mixed media work gets developed in layers. I like to have a lot of space to spread out on (aka create a large mess) and I use every available flat surface. I have a large oak table that my father made to fit my workspace in my apartment. I’m also a big fan of working on the floor. My woodblock prints are small in scale but very intense. They can take 8 to 12 hours to carve, so I work on a few of them at a time and print them in batches or series. As faculty, I’m lucky to have access to the print shop and other studio facilities. So I take full advantage of that workspace in addition to the space I have set up in my apartment.
woodblocks on vintage paper and ephemera dimensions range from 7x9.5” to 10x14” unique impressions 2014

woodblocks on vintage paper and ephemera
dimensions range from 7×9.5” to 10×14”
unique impressions

What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?

You get the privilege of being the architect of your own life. But that also means wearing many hats and switching gears a lot. You have to be a maker, a critic, an editor, and a savy self-promoter. But above all you have to be resourceful.

When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can? 

I have more of a weekly routine. It depends on my teaching schedule but I generally have one full day in the studio and several afternoon/evenings a week. I work best anytime after 2 pm, although rarely very late a night. I’ve never pulled an “all nighter” in my life. I can’t seem to work in the studio in the morning so after my daily trip to Starbucks I take that time to email, research, document work, and update my website and social media.

“Tiny Little” series pairs of woodblocks on 1920s navigational charts 8.75 x 11" each, unique impressions 2014

“Tiny Little” series
pairs of woodblocks on 1920s navigational charts
8.75 x 11″ each, unique impressions

How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?

I have a background in illustration and design, and after earning my BFA I was interested in working in the book and publishing industry. Things did not work out quite as planned and my work evolved away from illustration and client based projects. I’d always been interested in print based work and printmaking techniques, but I never considered myself a printmaker. When I decided to go back and pursue my MFA, I focused on printmaking and bookmaking. 

Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?

I’ve loved Alexander Calder since I was very small and frequently visited the monumental “Steggy,” in Hartford CT. 
The range of William Kentridge’s work and his multifaceted process is fascinating to me. Most people know him for his animations and performances, but I love his prints and works on paper.
The Rolling Stones have always been a soundtrack to my life.

If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?

A flâneur: an urban explorer with a passport, plenty of time, a blank sketchbook, and good food. Somehow I would be paid to just live like this.


photo credit: Ashley Wood

photo credit: Ashley Wood

Kate Castelli is an artist living and working in Boston. She earned her BFA from Lesley College of Art and Design (formerly the Art Institute of Boston) where she is currently an assistant professor teaching in the Illustration program. She received her MFA in printmaking and book arts at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She is the blog editor and a member of the Board of Directors for Glovebox, a non-profit organization created to enable greater awareness of the art of emerging and established artists in Boston. When not making or thinking about art, Kate can be found happily wandering the city. She is rarely without a sketchbook, frequently haunts used bookstores, and is hopelessly addicted to Starbucks.



All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission. 

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