From Silversmith, Glasswork, and Stone carving to Eternity

Kate Semple tells Sue and Johnny – Everything and Anything that her creative career has taken some twists and turns. Art school at sixteen and four years of studying to become a silversmith.  However, it was a traditional industry, and she couldn’t see herself making silver tableware for the rest of her life.

‘What I did know was that I loved working with my hands and making things,’ says Kate.

 All quite different from her parents’ career choices, a doctor and a teacher.  Her brother was a General in the British Army.  From the outset, Kate was searching for something more.

She changed course and enrolled in a degree specialising in glass making. Still, like all traditional industries in the late 1980s, there were few job opportunities in a time of retraction and unemployment.  A two-year stint with the VSO in Nigeria, a life-changing experience working in a small rural school changed her perspective.  When she returned, and by chance, she enrolled in a stone mason’s course.  After a year, she took a job with a large stone mason company and learned the hard way.  It was a challenging environment, and establishing herself was a slog.

‘I’m a plodder, and working with stone suits me.  You can’t rush stone,’ she laughs.

But she had finally found the medium that best expressed her artistic side.  Kate works with Portland stone and believes that working with indigenous stone is the only option for her art and business.

            ‘I love working with stone, and it was on a visit to the Western Isles of Scotland, where I saw these small circular cemeteries, offering respite from the weather that inspired me.  These memorials were carved from local stone and seemed united with the landscape and the community.’

Kate moved on and graduated to making fireplaces and architectural pieces, giving her enough time to rent a small cellar in a friend’s house to experiment with her stone carvings.  She branched into sculpture, attending exhibitions and selling her pieces through these outlets.  However, when the economy enters a recession, this type of art seems to be the first to be affected.  

‘It’s either famine or feast,’ says Kate, adding, ’that’s when I decided to create Elysium Memorials.

This company is dedicated to offering an alternative to traditional options to commemorate a life. Kate collaborates with other artisans to create works of art to be placed in a garden or an open space.  She sees this remembrance as a more tangible way of creating a special place for a loved one. 

‘I like working to commission, listening to the client’s story. Nothing has ever given me greater satisfaction than producing memorials for Elysium,’ Kate says, ‘no artwork could ever have more meaning than representing the life and personality of someone who has died. It is a privilege to make them and to deal with the families involved.’

Tune into Sue and Johnny – Everything and Anything next week as she discusses her teaching and her love of poetry and reads one of her poems.