Seattle Artist Series:
I meet Katie Kurkjy outside of Pratt Fine Art Center as it grows dark. We exchange hugs as she walks me into the woodworking studio, mostly empty at this point in the evening. “I hope you don’t mind Ella Fitzgerald,” she says.
Katie is trained as a painter, sculptor, and woodworker. Katie’s work deconstructs broken and recycled instruments, giving them a new life through reassembly. By day, she sells art. By night, she works tirelessly on her projects and on marketing her work. She meets everyone, she goes to shows, she finds collaborators and musicians. Not a moment is wasted.
“In high school, I focused on glass blowing. I entered college with the idea of fusing glass and metal. In my program at Cornish, they taught the basics in every element of sculpture – mold-making, soldering, fiberglass, all sorts of things. When we got to the wood unit, I had no interest. After learning the basics of woodworking, I was given free reign to explore on my own but I was struggling with what to do. I was dating a musician at the time and he had this old broken acoustic guitar just sitting in the corner collecting dust. He said, ‘you could you do something with this’. I took it to school and drew a tiny acoustic guitar ten times and cut it in different ways. I played with the pieces, then came up with a design that worked. In my entire tenure at Cornish, it was the most well-received piece I had made. It was obvious that it was the direction I was meant to go.”
“All of these objects have a previous life. I don’t feel like I do the story justice if I don’t draw from that. I think of it as reincarnation, where I take something that already has a story and then create it into something new and beautiful by continuing its life.”
“Being a professional artist takes constant learning and improving. I’m always challenging myself on making my pieces more polished or finding new ways to reconstruct instruments. Aside from that, the art business is crucial to me. You have to be your own agent, your own brand.
“Being a professional artist takes constant learning and improving. I’m always challenging myself on making my pieces more polished or finding new ways to reconstruct instruments. Aside from that, the art business is crucial to me. You have to be your own agent, your own brand.”
A week after our second session, Katie and I head toward Carnation to visit her old studio. It sits mostly empty with a single chair and lamp in the back yard of an old friend’s home. She explains how she constructed the floors, pointing out a bright red stain from one of her iconic pieces. Ten minutes in, it becomes almost unbearably hot. She jokes about how the temperature changes drastically from morning to noon when you work in a greenhouse, recounting stories from her time there.
“This was where it all started. It’s interesting being here right now as I’m finally fully moved out of this space and in my studio at home in Seattle. This is a transition. My friend Morgan graciously let me move in when he learned that I needed a place to work. This was just sitting here being used for storage. He allowed me dive into what I was doing. Where your camera is right now, I sat and carved for hundreds of hours. It’s sad to have that gone now, but I know that what I’m creating is going to be different. This has been a special place. Also, there are a lot of spiders.”
“My art is therapy for me. I experience my life and I process while in my studio.”