Work is Love Made Visible
Fri, April 11, 2014 by
Kerris Casey-St.Pierre is the designer of the fabulous lanterns that guided visitors on our ‘Candlelit Story Trail’ at the Settle Storytelling Festival in 2018.
As Kerris has had a varied career and produces such marvellous work, we were pleased when she agreed to be interviewed by us.
Tell us about your work
“I am a Community Artist and a Creative Facilitator – I work in schools and with community groups using a variety of different art techniques including masks, shadow puppets, lanterns, textiles, models, clay, gigantes, mosaic, photography, to explore different themes, learn skills and create beautiful things. I help facilitate people’s creativity by giving them the sparkly bits of kit and the license to play and experiment, and the support they need to create what they want. I believe strongly in the importance of the process, as well as the benefits to self esteem of producing good quality work.”
“I feel that individuals and communities need to be engaged with and have ownership of art and art pieces that are present in their lives. I am also working being a Forest Schools practitioner into my repertoire, which is not only great fun, but really helps build children’s self esteem and emotional intelligence, as well as promoting a healthy respectful relationship with nature.”
What life path led you to become a community artist?
“Initially I got a scholarship to attend an international college – called the United World College of the Atlantic – in South Wales, which was set up to promote world peace and international understanding. We studied the International Baccalaureate, and as part of it we had to do some community service, and I did mine with the local Arts Centre, which was based on the college campus. We were taught skills by visiting artists and performers and then went out into the community to run projects.”
“When I left college I decided to take a year off before uni, and then ended up on another course – a BTEC in Art and design. After this I took part in a 3,000 mile anti- nuclear walk across Europe, leaving it after 1,000 miles to come back to my home town and live in a tree on a motorway protest. I then lived in a caravan for some time, working on and off in factories and selling art works. Then I went off to Sheffield to Greentop Community Circus Centre to do a circus course where I learnt trapeze and fire performance.”
“I went to North Wales then to get involved with a circus company there, but found out I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, so trapeze was then not really an option. I came back to the Blackburn area and a friend asked me to help out with a workshop at an event run by Action Factory Community Arts. I also applied for some work at Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company around the same time, which I didn’t get, but I did end up doing something else for them instead.”
“Once I’d done some work at Action Factory I just kept getting offered more. Most of what I know now I picked up along the way, but some of it was in place from the community service I’d done years before. I’ve always been self employed and freelance as it suits the way I choose to live- flexible, although often skint! I was once given a piece of paper that said ‘Work is love made visible’, and I am lucky enough to say that that is what my work is for me.”
Tell us about the range of your work
“I have done all kinds of things in my work life – simple ‘make and take ‘ workshops at events; big mosaics for public spaces; fire performances for opening events; textile pieces to exploring different themes; gigantic puppets for parades; animations; shadow puppet performances; costume making . I have collaborated with another artist to create a 12 foot totem pole with mosaic work at the base, and am currently collaborating on another public sculpture- mosaic and metalwork to go by the canal in Manchester.”
“I have worked at a number of festivals, creating garden spaces – some of them story gardens, kids’ spaces, lantern parades, lantern installations, home education information spaces, walkabout performance and more. I have worked in countless schools and community groups, and every project is different. I am always learning and always having to be creative myself in order to best design each particular project around the client groups and their needs. I am currently running Forest Schools sessions as well.”
“I manage a lantern festival every year in November as a fundraiser for Acorn Steiner Parent and Child and Kindergarten, I manage another lantern event in Blackburn, and of course, when I get time I make my hand cut silhouette story lanterns.”
“I am also co running a monthly event called Art SPACE in Blackburn, which is an event where creative people can get together, show work, perform, socialise, have fun – and it aims to help build a stronger creative community. I don’t really separate work from the rest of my life as it is so much a part of who I am and I love it.”
Are there any particular life influences that impact on and shape your creativity and designs?
“I think the experiences I had at Atlantic college and the people that supported me in my early years as a practitioner really helped shape my creativity, as well as my parents when I was young.”
” My designs…? Well I love stories. I love to read to my children and to take them to see storytellers. Many of my lantern designs, if not shaped by a particular story, seem to be of things that feel as though they should be an element of a story. The silhouette work was really inspired by an illustrator – Jan Pieńkowski – who actually stayed at our house when I was young. He illustrated some of Joan Aitken’s wonderful storybooks and I guess that’s where the story-silhouette connection started for me.”
Light and shadows seems to feature significantly in your work – what is the interest or attraction for you?
“There is something truly magical about firelight, and flame – sitting round fires telling stories, looking into the fire to see what shapes are there, magical worlds of dragons, and the shadows that flames cast and feed the imagination- what lies within them just out of sight? I like the way that the contrast between the silhouettes or the shadow puppets is quite stark and clean cut, but then brought to life by the flickering light of the flame. I love the glow of lit lanterns and the feeling of warmth and welcome and safety that they bring. There is just something magical about them that people really appreciate.”
You mentioned earlier that you love stories…
“Of course. How could we live without stories? I was fortunate to be brought up without a TV, so I read, read, read as a child. If I could change the education system I would have stories read to every child of any age, every day as the first most important thing in the curriculum!”
“Stories teach us so many things, about history, about the world, about humour, about our fears, about ways to deal with things, about belief and magic and possibility. Stories inspire, they teach us empathy, help us know ourselves, extend our horizons. We also learn extended vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and how to write and tell stories ourselves through hearing them aloud and reading them. I read to my children every night, sometimes for hours – as much for me as for them – and take them to see as many storytellers as I can, and I believe it has been a really important part in forming who they are.”
If we could give you three wishes, how would you use them?
“Three wishes…. wow!”
“World Peace would have to be tops – the ability to live in harmony with fellow humans and to care for everyone as part of the same family.”
“Worldwide respect for and care of the environment and all that lives on the planet, regardless of species, financial value and perceived worth.”
“And that everyone could have some magic in their lives, and be able to appreciate it and celebrate it when they see it. “
Kerris’s website, ‘Spiral Designs‘ will tell you more.