kevina-jo smith weaves a protective layer for australian landscapes

We talk to the artist blending fashion design and large-scale installation art, against the backdrop of the Blue Mountains.

by i-D Staff
25 January 2016, 9:15pm

Can you describe what you do?
I am an artist. I constantly collect, predominantly found objects and consumer by-product materials from which my work emerges. I have a continuing interest in shelter and protection of people, nature and the environment as a whole. I also work in costume and prop making for film.

Your large-scale woven pieces are so amazing, are they something you continue to do?
Thank you! Yes, I continue to work large-scale. I really love building an installation with the large pieces to create a space to view the smaller more intimate or wearable pieces.

There is an undeniable impressiveness about large-scale work. I love the meditative state and endurance required. And the challenge that using up-cycled materials creates with the audience.

Can you tell us about your transition into wearable pieces?
It evolved naturally through draping artworks various ways during the making process. Also because people would always say, 'I wish I could wear that'.

For me it has nothing to do with fashion in the sense that I am not creating a certain amount of pieces for a certain season or anything like that. The pieces are an extension of my art practice. I am inspired by the tradition of clothing and jewellery being very meaningful, symbolic and protective. Everything is one of a kind and still essentially an artwork.

What's the response to the garments been like?
I think people really get into the idea of wearing something that is one of a kind. If it fits them and they feel comfortable, I guess they feel like it was made for them. Some people find them too 'precious' or weird to wear and rather just look and touch. The concept is not for everyone. People either get it or they don't. For me it is a success if someone puts a piece on and they derive the protective intention. I make everything with passing on a certain power and strength in mind. I can tell within seconds if someone feels that. And we are both happy.

Who have you dressed?
I recently assisted Helen Fitzgerald who costume designed for an Australian feature film being released next year. We incorporated a few of my handmade pieces into Anna Samson's (lead actress) wardrobe. She was incredibly fun, sexy and professional to work with. It was really rewarding seeing a piece that I'd made help Anna 'become' her character and that Helen had envisioned in her design. I love the nature of collaboration in film. The moment when we all look at each other and know it's working...success!

Is there anything else you're working on?
At the moment I am resetting my open studio/store space for Spring/Summer. It is so seasonal up here in the Blue Mountains and I really get into refreshing myself, my space and my work with each season. I also have a confirmed exhibition with Louisa Clayton at 107 Projects in Redfern early next year. I'm working on a few proposals and as always making new artwork. Also I am doing costume on a pilot called Age of Consent written by Dave Mullins next week, which will be really fun.

You are evidently concerned about the state of the environment and you incorporate sustainable elements into your practice, can you tell us about your thoughts on this?
I feel a responsibility as an artist to be commenting on the environment. I was always working with ideas of protection and nature/nurture and symbolism. Now it feels more relevant than ever to create awareness. It's time we all sit up and pay attention.

You live in the Blue Mountains, it seems like there's such an amazing creative community up there. What's the best thing about living and working there?
The landscape is definitely the best thing. It is endlessly inspiring and changing. Each season is vastly different. It is a really powerful experience to role with the changes. Winter is so tough for me, but it feels essential to life to hibernate and have the downtime that it forces you to hav. The appreciation you feel when Spring arrives makes it all worth it. In summer the bush walks with waterfalls are the best. Autumn is stunning. Every season is stunning.

It is obvious that creative people are drawn not only to the beauty and space, but delicious local produce, fresh mountain air, just simple basic things that are essential to clarity for thinking, making and living.

Do you have a good crew? Who else up there inspires you?
I live with my partner Tim Rogers (Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders) who works so hard and consistently. He is unendingly inspiring and supportive. We are two artists in different fields so we can talk things out and bounce ideas off each other without any competitiveness. And then get back to work.

Also Heath and Chloe Killen, who are part of a collective launching a publication in early November called Mountains Made (MTNS MADE), which will essentially be a voice for quality being made in the Blue Mountains across all creative disciplines. Having lived here for four years now, I can see that this is something that was really missing in the creative community puzzle. There are some incredible artists of all kinds hiding up here for them to uncover and support.

Who are your favourite Australian artists working right now?
The hardest question! I have too many favourites. I am excited and inspired by Kate Mitchell's endurance-performance artwork. Rob McHaffie is an artist I met whilst at art school. I loved his work then and I have really enjoyed watching his practice grow and evolve. Joshua Yeldham, I adore the delicate intricacy he achieves in his large-scale works. I love the playfulness and immediacy of Brendan Huntly's work. It feels really honest. Lauren Brincat makes successful work documenting action and is endlessly encouraging and collaborative which I find inspiring. As well my old favourites like Jenny Watson, Fiona Hall, Elizabeth Gower, Louise Weaver…I could go on for days.

What's your greatest hope for the future?
I hope to continue developing and growing my practice.

I would like to move around a bit and really immerse myself in other cultures. There is so much knowledge and history that I would love to learn, absorb and respond to.

See more of Kevina's work at:



Photography Louisa Clayton

blue mountains
kevina-jo smith