Monday, October 8, 2007

Forever: Kate O'Connor's Embroideries

"Why does he have Sheryl Crow on his iTunes?" asks Kate O'Connor. And she also wants to know, "If you've found a 'black renaissance style shirt... $20 reward. No questions asked." Kate O'Connor, artist, designer and illustrator based in Halifax, Nova Scotia takes text and image to new place, one that is both personal and universal, acerbic and friendly particularly with her series of embroidered handkerchiefs, two of which we've used in our latest Carte de Recontre series. The limited edition (1000) will be distributed throughout Paris this weekend. (Find 'em, use 'em and then make your own cards with us).

Kate O'Connor works from the Co. & Co. Studio, an award winning art and design collective she co-founded with a group of art school friends in the Spring of 2003. She holds both a BFA and a BDes from The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. And she loves British artist Tracy Emin's artworks (the YBA also uses embroidery).

"Emin's work is so confessional" she says. "I went to NYC a couple of years ago and it just so happened two of my favorite artists, Tracy Emin and Maira Kalman had shows on. By chance both were showing embroidery work. It seemed like a really obvious way to translate very quick immediate ideas and drawings. Through the process of embroidery you're forced to slow down and work on the same image that took a minute to draw, and translate it into something that takes hours to do. It's a way of honouring a little tiny drawing from your sketchbook. So I came back to Halifax and asked my Co. & Co. partner Kate Sinclair to teach me how to embroider and that was the beginning of this body of work."

Kate plans on hooking up with a gallery this fall to get her sardonically witty embroideries out into the world. "I have a couple of pieces for sale in Brooklyn at Cinders gallery," she says. "They sell between $150 and $200 depending on the complexity of the image. I think I'd sell them on a case by case scenario, but some I'm not willing to part with just yet!"

Currently Co. & Co. includes four partners based in Halifax, NYC and one in St. Kitts. The majority of their clients are arts organizations, art galleries and universities. Partner Ray Fenwick works exclusively on illustration using his extreme talent for type design. "We were all competing for the same crappy jobs so we decided to join forces and pool resources instead." To make ends meet Kate worked full time as an art director at local alternative newsweekly The Coast for three years (while two partners held down the office) and finally quit last December to work from Co. & Co. full time around the same period Fenwick joined full force. "It's a more flexible situation, allowing me time to travel and work on art." Kate's text works are also wonderful. One series inventories people's bookshelves in a delightly scribbly hand. O'Connor, who I ment via, an advertising design site based in Chicago, launched Co & Co Studio with art school friends. The company, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia where she lives, develops print and digital designs for clients all over the world. Projects include editorial, corporate and company identities, logos, web sites, catalogs, posters and packaging. Check out this group of geniuses, they're hot.

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