As a child in rural Appalachia, I sought out the best sensations my small world had to offer: the sun on my back, mud between my toes, and flying down hills on my bike. My five siblings and I made big messes often, which has been a freedom and skill I’ve held on to. We had a small school, a big yard, a small understanding, and big curiosities. I have always been incredibly inclined to touch and feel. Material interest and a curiosity towards tangible ideas introduced me to making. In Southwest Virginia, exceptional craftsmanship can be seen despite economic disparities. Rural people understand the essence of the design principle, form follows function; as well as the escapism and community building possibilities of creative practice.
I continue to make big messes often, but I carefully curate my chaos through labor and play. I use clay, wood, and fiber to create objects people can live with. My works are furniture, interactive installations, and play objects with functional roots and atypical additions. I ask myself to consider the tactile implications objects hold as we dwell with and handle them time and again. Each piece ignites a longing for a gesture, one that rewards and recognizes the hand. I observe these intuitions in myself and others as the work is explored in outdoor and indoor spaces. My audience are those who are willing to reach out, touch, and activate the curiosity I have embedded in my pieces. The work rolls and squishes and swings in reply.
Kristen Wheatley (she/her) is an artist and designer working primarily with wood, fiber, and clay. She makes functional furniture, play objects and interactive sculpture. She uses traditional woodworking joinery, bent lamination, and woodturning techniques to actualize her work. Kristen grew up in rural Southwest Virginia along with her five siblings. She recently returned to Appalachia to complete an internship in the Wood Studio at Chestnut Creek School of the Arts. She is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Fine Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University with a concentration in Craft and Material Studies. In 2022, She received the Windgate University Fellowship at Arrowmont School of Arts and Craft, the Cynthia Bringle and Edwina Bringle Scholarship at Penland School of Crafts, and the Schooner Foundation Scholarship at the Furniture Society 2022: Working Together Conference. She has recently exhibited work in Vitamin C at the Murray N. Depillars Gallery and Fake News at the Anderson in Richmond, VA.