INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST: RENATE KASPER

Renate Kasper is one of our featured artist for this month.  We hope that you will enjoy learning about her through her artist statement and our interview of her.
​"In looking over my artist's statement, it seemed to reflect a time when everything was 'business as usual'. But that's not the case. Most people would agree that 2020 has brought wild changes to our routines, and this time last year, we would have never imagined what was right around the corner. We've all had to adapt to new ways of doing things. As a result, I find myself having less patience than before. I haven't had the focus to pick up the graphite pencils and work in that medium. Fortunately, I still have enough focus for tedious beadwork. Go figure! Early on, I took pleasure in being told I must stay at home. It was like being given the gift of extra time to be productive. I spent the first couple of weeks in quarantine sewing face masks. Then I got back into beading in a big way.
 
Additionally, I've also been cleaning, organizing and purging unneeded things from my home. I've heard the same from many others. There seems to be a trend, where we're eliminating excess, and giving the boot to all but the most necessary things, or our favorite stuff. It reminds me of the William Morris quote posted on the front wall of Art Connections Gallery, 'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.'   That's a very personal and subjective statement, but a great metric for all of us to use."



1.  Tell us a bit about yourself-where you grew up.  Things you like to do besides your art.  Interesting tidbits.
I grew up in rural western Illinois, in a small town of 1500 people, and not really any large cities within reasonable driving distance. As an only child (and the only grandchild), I spent countless hours at my Grandparents house. My Grandmother taught me to crochet and my Grandfather taught me to whittle. We would carve individual chain links from a solid piece of wood. He also let me “steer” the lathe while he operated the other controls. What a treat! My mother taught me to sew, and I must’ve gotten some of my creativity from my father, who built things and taught industrial art at the local high school.
2.  Did you start art as a kid or other creative things like music or dance?
I have done art all my life, or as early as I can remember. I also was made to take piano lessons for the majority of my years growing up, which I really disliked. “Someday you’ll thank me”, I remember my mom saying. I began beading very early as well. Those early works were quite crude, as I recall. I even did a simpler version of the macramé process I use now, but in those first bracelets, the ends were just loose threads that the wearer had to figure out how to tie onto their wrist. Those pieces were more about the macramé knots, with very few beads attached. Now, I focus on the opposite effect. I like for the threads and the knots to recede, and the beads take center stage. I have also come down to a smaller scale of work. When I was young, I wanted to finish a bracelet in a few minutes. Now it takes all day to complete one bracelet, and if it’s a double-reversible one, it can stretch into two days.
3.  When did you start to paint or make jewelry?
I always tinkered with beads, but I remember “officially” doing jewelry for sale with a friend from another small town nearby. Her mother sold antiques, and we would set up our small table in her mother’s booth to show and sell our beaded items.
4.  How did you come to choose your medium?
My first recollection of beads was one winter when I found a single red seed bead on the floor in our house. I couldn’t imagine where it came from. I was so excited about it, and asked my mom if I could keep it. Seriously? What good is one tiny bead, not much larger than a grain of salt? Come to find out, one of my Christmas presents that year was a tube of red seed beads and a spool of elastic thread, to make a simple choker. One of the beads had apparently escaped.
5.  Who was your most influential mentor?  Why? How?
Other than my family members teaching me various crafts, no one really comes to mind as a mentor until I was in college. There was a very influential graphics arts director who taught a couple classes in the university, and I was fortunate to enroll in both of those classes. I learned more from her than any instructor over the years, as she was also running a large agency at the time, and the real-world application came to life, so to speak.
6.  Who is your favorite artist?  Why? 
My favorite artist is French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. When I see his work in museums, I can stand and stare at them for a very long time. I appreciate his smooth soft skin tones and the especially real detail of the hands and feet.
7.  Where do you get your inspiration for painting or your jewelry or other creations?
When I start a piece of beaded jewelry, say, a bracelet for instance, I will usually have a color scheme in mind. Sometimes that is influenced by a printed piece of fabric, a garment I own, or something I’ve seen in a magazine, etc. Then I get out an assortment of bead bottles, WAY more than I’ll need for this project, but enough to have many choices. I do this to eliminate ALL the beads I have, because it’s necessary to narrow the choices down from many hundreds of different seed beads to about a couple dozen. When I start that piece, I only know which style of bracelet I’ll be making, whether it’s a double reversible one, a 4-in-1 piece, or whatnot. Then as I start, it just takes shape. I usually have no preconceived idea of exactly what I’m going for. It just evolves on its own. At some point, a repetition starts to happen, and from then on, it’s already been decided what I’ll do. And often the repeats will dictate the finished size, so that the beginning and end of the bracelet match. I often make a trial run before I make a custom bracelet. Once the repeats are figured out, and the first “draft” is done, the final bracelet can be altered by stretching or shrinking certain parts, to accommodate a special size that a customer needs.
8.  Tell us a bit about your process. 
The previous answer pretty much covers that.
9.  Toot your own horn. Tell us about awards and honors that you may have gotten in your creative life.  Which was the most meaningful?
Well, I haven’t won many awards with my beadwork. I only entered one online contest a few years ago, which required the use of seed beads. It was more-or-less a popularity contest through facebook. I did win, surprisingly, and received a haul of beads as the prize. Yay! But more seriously, I have won numerous awards with my graphite pencil artwork. I’ve kept all my ribbons, but I’m not sure how many there are. I’d say about thirty, ranging anywhere from a few honorable mentions all the way up to a few ‘best of show’ awards. Some of the honorable mention prizes were just the ribbon, but many higher awards included money. The highest honor was a $1500 prize for the most recent Best of Show I received a couple of years ago. That was the most rewarding award to receive, not just for myself, but it was at an event my parents got to attend with me, and they’d never seen me win anything before. It was at the Eisemann Center in Richardson, TX, and not only was the venue a beautiful place, but it was Mother’s Day, and my mom was certainly proud!
10.  Please tell us any other info that you think people might like to know about you.
I like to remind people that my jewelry is always one-of-a-kind.  I vow never to exactly repeat any of the pieces, and if someone wants something similar to one I’ve already made, but possibly they need it in a different size, I will remake it with several changes, but the overall piece will still look quite a bit like the