Inside the South Burlington studio, sparks fly and underneath the heatproof welder's visor is Burlington-based sculptor, Kat Clear.
Clear's sculptures - from the enormous "Fabric Of Life" that graces the University of Vermont Medical Center lobby to the bike rack shaped like a bike lock outside Radio Bean in Burlington to a recent jewelry collection for Perriwinkle's - usually begin as scraps of metal and found objects.
Clear recently spoke to VPR about transforming metal into enormous sculptures and delicate jewelry and the sometimes daily process of convincing oneself being an artist is the right path.
On welding metal and steel as a sculptor
"I think I wanted to be around people who knew how to do things with their hands. And then, I realized I wanted to learn how to use more industrial tools and so I started hanging around places where people were using those tools and asking a lot of questions."
On the process of using metal and found objects to create sculptures
"I think my biggest thing is to take something that is 'man-made' and has some history to it and maybe a life of itself before and then sort of transforming it into something different. And I think that difference comes into my practice with my feminine or feminist perspective."
Check out this video of Kat in her studio as she creates one of her pieces.
Credit Stuck In Vermont/7Days
On teaching welding to young girls through Vermont Works For Women
"It was such an experience! First of all, I wish there was a camp for me when I was a kid. Rosie's Girls is geared toward 9- to 11-year-olds and that's sort of the age where women and girls start to notice that boys and girls potentially do different things so we sort of try to grab them at that stage and say, 'No, no, just in case you were wondering, you can do whatever you are really interested in doing.' Part of me wishes I had that, as well!"
On self-doubt, even as a successful working artist
"I think all the time there is that little voice in the back of my head but maybe it's an instinctual thing, like 'don't put yourself into danger,' ... when we go and follow our interests and our dreams and do our work and all the things that we do in our lives we still have that instinctual thing ... so I think I just try to practice stepping outside of my comfort zone. It turns out that I'm usually glad that I stepped out."
On what success looks like
"Success to me feels like I am living my life and doing the work that I do and interacting with the world in the most holistic and balanced way ... looking back, I've done a lot of work, which is exciting."
"Financial success is sort of a tough one, because I really just want to afford the lifestyle that I want to lead and I feel like that's pretty modest."
On designing a jewelry collection
"I don't have any training in small metal skills for jewelry so that was interesting ... I've always been really hands-on and involved it the materials and the process of my work ... I was a little nervous that if I wasn't touching it that it wouldn't look like I thought or hoped or designed it to look like. I literally brought cardboard and duct tape mock-ups because the (jewelry) line is based on cardboard and pink duct tape but realized in silver and pink enamel and throughout the whole process, we were really able to keep that vision and so I feel like it looks exactly like I would have made it ... I'm so invested in the material. I think that's why I make things because this busy-ness of the hands allows my mind to think."
See Kat Clear's sculptures outside Radio Bean in Burlington and the Queen City Crown in the Burlington Town Center, as well as many other locations throughout Vermont and New England.