Reminders of my first artistic learnings.

30 years and back where it started

It was in 1987 when I first had an opportunity to work in organic shapes unlike the techniques of my trade training. And here I am again reminded because of doing something similar to thirty years ago.

Although my skills have developed I still remember how challenging it was to think in an organic non-technical way hard dimensions are easy for me but this was all touchy feely arm waving stuff which took me decades to embrace. 

Installing art in Adelaide for UAP

Came to install art, noticed a few other things.

This is my first attempt to publish audio onto my own site via my iPhone. I’ve recorded the audio in Voice Recorder 7 which has everything I need to tweak the audio and upload via FTP to my site. From there I’m using the Blubrry PowerPress feature to publish here. As I write this I’m still working things out but if you read and listen to this then it’s worked.

The piece I needed to install consisted of a light box reflecting an image onto a shallow tray of water  all presented in a dark room. It’s to express to right of passage of youth. Below is an image which doesn’t do it justice.

Tamara James piece of a man jumping into water.


A post shared by Ian Kath (@iankath) on

This is the piece by Lindy Lee I mentioned in the audio

Becoming an artist.

A long time …

2016 was a time of doing some really good work at UAP (Urban Art Projects). I’ve been continuing to develop and refine my skills, evolving and finally realising that I can now call myself a sculptor. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an artist but maybe that’s the next part of this process. But first to backtrack a little…

My Apprenticeship Indentures from 40 years ago

It’s now forty years since I started my apprenticeship as a patternmaker, so I’ve been making things for a very long time and I’ve learnt a few things on the way. Sometimes I forget and even I’m surprised when I’m reminded.

Pattern making is a foundry trade, primarily in timber, which had it’s heyday during the age of steam, declining towards the end of the 20th century. It still exists but with the advent of CNC machining and lately rapid additive manufacturing, die casting metals and development of plastics to replace metal castings, there’s little need for patternmakers and all the associated foundry trades. However for someone of my era, I managed to get some wonderful training from the old die-hards of the trade, as it was fading away. These skills I have used all my life, in associated fields from building my own home and many furniture pieces, through to working on films and my own small manufacturing business.

But it’s not personally creative.

It’s the general approach to creativity through the discipline of patternmaking which has assisted me to approach all manner of tasks, including the audio and video production which I also like to play around with. It’s more an approach for many aspects of creativity rather than just in the production of metal castings.

The issue with patternmaking is that it’s highly technical. I’ve often referred to it as, ‘industrial sculpture’. We are given detail drawings which we have to follow. No creativity! No development away from what is asked! Just follow the drawing to the letter and don’t vary. There is no room for creativity, there is no room for art. But at the end of the process there is always some form created and often very beautiful.

From patternmaking I moved into associated trades and this is how my working life was through my early twenties. Basically making things in joinery and cabinetmaking shops. No real free form creativity.

Can I sculpt organic shapes?

Then in 1987 I worked building components for World Expo ’88 with a small creative team at John Underwood’s Art Busters.This was my first experience at organic sculpting and I was thrown in the deep end to sculpt an oversized beetle to be installed on the Expo ’88 site. I had no idea what I was doing but slowly, and I mean very slowly I started to see the world of shapes differently. This has been a very long process. Off and on for, something like 30 years. I’ve had elements of creativity along the way but I used my more, technical skills which involved the discipline of patternmaking rather than the free form required for many art components. In recent months things have changed significantly.

One of two cast aluminium jelly fish for a children’s playground.

Earlier last year I was asked to sculpt a 2m jelly fish. Nothing too difficult, a hemisphere with some detail in it. The issue with creating something like an organic hemisphere is, it’s too easy to make it perfect and miss the nuances of an organic form. It has to be made smooth, even, balanced and imperfect. Getting it just ‘wrong’ enough that it’s right is challenging and I managed that with considerable ease. Confidence Level One; – achieved! Continue reading

Thank You Steve Jobs


I may well not be here but for Steve and Apple

Yes, that may sound like a big statement that Apple and in particular the personality of Steve Jobs and the way that it was embedded into the very DNA of Apple could have that much of an affect on me but I think it’s correct.

Just some of the Apple products that brought me here

I first became aware of personal computers in about 1980, then missed an opportunity to us a Fairlight CMI in 1983 only to eventually buy an IBM clone 286 in 1992. All of them, as enticing as they were, couldn’t capture me. It was really simple! I’m not a geek and all the things that geeks love, (you know the beauty of code and getting under the hood of the computers), never appealed to me. I just wanted something that did the things that I wanted it to do. Unfortunately up until the advent of podcasting I hadn’t found that “thing”, that enamored me.

Once I found podcasting the next thing was to engage with it and learn. If it hadn’t been for Apple products guided by Steve and the knock on innovations of their computers that they brought to all of us I don’t think I would have been able to get over the initial steep learning curve and understand the technology enough to be able to become a podcaster.

Thanks Steve 🙂 (mp3) Continue reading

Film Production, Incompotence or Cunning?

I think I’m now unemployable

I recently finished on another film. This one was actually a television series called Terra Nova . The first four episodes are approved to go ahead and if successful they’ll continue to produce an entire series. It’s a sci-fi about a dystopian future that is dangerous to live in so they transport (time travel) some people to the past. Basically it’s cars, guns and dinosaurs. Plenty of action but no real substance and I think it’ll probably be a success for many reasons. One of them is the production that I saw happening and what I’ve continued to realise from my previous post about the addiction of work.

As usual the standard of work that we were all doing was outstanding. I mean everyone, all the technicians on the ground and what they were managing to achieve says a great deal about the professionalism and expertise of the person on the shop floor who puts all the stuff together for the shoot crew to work with. It’s the reason that the work is of such a high standard that I find it interesting that dispute the difficulties, the job still gets done and the production gets what it wants.

Stage 7 Roadshow Studios

Different to as it appears

Now my caveat – I only know my one little section in the art department and I don’t have the big picture so this is just from one of the grunts in the trenches. The reason such great things are done is:

  • Excellent high base skills
  • Dedication and pride to producing quality
  • Love of working in a creative industry
  • Desire to be called onto the next project
  • Camaraderie and working as a team
  • Relatively high income and matching standard of living

At first glance these all seem motivating and good attributes but there is a dark side.

I’m still not sure which way to feel about this and it seems that it may be becoming the standard these days within the industry as the Australian dollar strengthens and production moves away from our shores to cheaper countries but either production companies are incompetent or shrewd, in the way they manage their workforce.

Instead of planning an appropriate timeline and budget, the standard seems to be to have no time, no money but expect outstanding work as would normally be expected with proper preparation, planning and funding.

What has happened of late is we have a third of the prep time and no money to set up workshops or buy materials but production wants all the whiz-bangery that they can think of – So… “Go and make it happen, Oh, and if you have any gear at home you want to bring in feel free as you’ll need it to do your job but we won’t reimburse you as it’s what you need, thanks very much.”

The workshops are makeshift without the proper infrastructure to work efficiently and safely and no preparation or stocking of the most basic materials to create things from. Often the sheds are poorly ventilated, lit and without the necessary equipment but it’s still expected that the work is performed by the deadlines. On this production I saw some of the worst working connotations that I’ve ever seen in all my time in the industry with people performing tasks that will shorten their lives due to dust and chemicals, maybe not today or even this year but it’s accumulative and these technicians were working 12 and 16 hour days for weeks at a time. Reports of people falling asleep driving home were mentioned to me. Production wouldn’t care if someone died (and in productions overseas they have), it would just be that’s a tragic accident but the show must go on, now back to work and keep cracking the whip. The whole project is driven by the accountants with no regard for the greater cost.

The real question is “Why do the workers in the film industry put up with it?”

It’s the same list as above but instead of looking at those points as positive attributes they are actually the shackles that bind people to the production company as wage slaves. Continue reading

Society Fast – The Experiment Continues

Its been a long time now, as a matter of fact it’s been 16  months since I decided on an experiment, just for one week.

Back in a previous post I mentioned that I wanted to try something, to see how it might go,  just for the hell of it.  To just opt out somewhat from the expectations of society.  I called it a society fast, to not buy into the things that society says that you have to do.

Well that week back in March of last year went okay and my world didn’t end. I still did what needed to be done when things needed to be done and I was able to do whatever I wanted to do as I felt inspired.  So I kept doing it, the society fast.  Doing what I wanted to do as I wanted to do it.

Hanging with Friends in Buenos Aires

And guess what?  I haven’t stopped.  I haven’t found the need or desire to buy back into what society says that I’m supposed to do.  What am I talking about I hear you say?

I’m taking about how our Western Society says that we have to do certain things, like relationships, work,  income, career, worry and stress about tomorrow and how it’s going to be when I’m old and I don’t have enough money in my retirement fund, how at my time of life I should be in this certain type of lifestyle, all of that sort of thing.

That’s why I started the society fast to have a break for just one week away from that and see what would happen and I haven’t stopped.  That was 16 months ago and it has been some of the best times of my life because I’m living in the moment and just doing what is right for now and it keeps working.

Now before you think I have it easy, that’s not my point.  In the last 16 months I have worked for income in an employed situation for only 6 weeks and earned $12,000.  I’ve additionally done a little audio and video recording and editing work and earned another couple of thousand dollars but that is all.  I have been leaning on my credit card and I’m slowly going backwards at about $1000/mth but I’m fine with that.  I live a very lean life and I have everything I need and desire little more.

For a long time I was looking for something to put my attention to, some strong focus and direction that society says that you have to have to be a member of this society.  That was causing me grief and one of the reason for starting this society fast, to have some chill time away from that stress. Continue reading