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October 5, 2017

Olivia Kathigitis’ wearable art

Art and fashion collide with one pair of hands and one pair of earrings.

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  • Story: Sharmonie Cockayne

Adelaide is a great place to make art, especially for emerging artists. The price of living is cheap, creative collaborations are encouraged and supported, and the artist community is a warm and inviting one.

But, people don’t really buy art in Adelaide.


Olivia’s jewellery will be showcased at the SLOW Fashion Festival runway presentation this Saturday, and will be sold at the SLOW Market Place at Ensemble.

Festival not withstanding, Olivia’s wares can be found at Tinker.

It’s a major problem for the city’s practicing artists. Local sculptor, Olivia Kathigitis, has accidentally found a way to work around that challenge.

Olivia makes jewellery. More specifically, she makes coated brass, hand-shaped earrings with gold-plated sterling silver hoops. To her surprise, that design is now helping fund her art practice.

“I did jewellery making in uni – I did two electives,” says Olivia.

“I only kind of picked it up, however, many years later because I’m obsessed with big earrings. I couldn’t find any earrings that I wanted to wear, and I just started making my own stuff. For the hands [the popular design] especially, my friend said they were really nice so I gave a pair to her for her birthday. And then, from that, it’s just been word of mouth ever since.

“I don’t have a personal store. And from people requesting them, I’ve just continued to make, and do different designs. My shoulders have been turned in that direction, you know?

“I’ve been incredibly lucky with the recent jewellery success, because that has been able to fund me to a certain point.”

Most recently, that point has been in Norway, where Olivia undertook a residency with La Wayaka Current Atctic in the Arctic Circle.

“It was eight artists and two supervisors on an island in the Arctic Circle just walking, talking to people, foraging, it was just that, and making stuff,” she says.

“I used my time, because I work with sculpture, as a research residency. So I took lots and lots and lots of photos. Film photos, you know, really thinking about the image that I’m taking.”

For Olivia, photography is part of the process of her practice.

“It’s trying to capture something that I want to process into another medium. So, the photos that I took on my residency, they’re going to fuel embroidery pieces for the exhibitions coming up. I really like repetitive motion artworks, that’s always what I steer back to. That’s why I think I call myself a sculptor.”

But even with the success of her jewellery behind her, Olivia’s practice can sometimes be stymied by the unwillingness of Adelaide locals to invest in South Australian art.

“[People seem unwilling to buy] Unless they’re told ‘this is amazing,’ you know, at a Helpmann show where everything is for sale and it’s a showcase of everything coming out of art schools,” she says.

“I think people are less willing to contact an artist directly and say ‘hey I really like this.’ People are less willing to go out of their way and talk to an artist, and I think that’s the massive disconnect in Adelaide.”

But, what Olivia’s earrings do is take both of these challenges, and convert them into smaller but more frequent sales. Rather than the support of a giant like the Helpmann Academy, her earrings are commended on the word of individuals, resulting in strangers connecting with her for jewellery commissions.

With her golden hands, Olivia has stumbled upon a low barrier entrance for us to buy into her art. And, perhaps, after wearing Olivia’s hands, we might find ourselves feeling a little more comfortable investing further in the world of local art.

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