“Her work is precise and meticulous but has the biggest heart at its centre”
– Lisa Evans, Cardiff Life Magazine
Canton-based artist Katherine Jones uses her work to help others connect with the people, lost loved ones, places and moments they cherish. She does this in many ways – from crafting bespoke memory boxes filled with curated collections of your treasured objects, to creating intricately detailed drawings. Inspired by her experience as an architect, her work is precise and meticulous but has the biggest heart at its centre. Here we chat…
You specialise in object art, and your memory box creations have aided many to overcome the grief of loved ones. Where did the idea come from?
After returning from a five month trip to Central America with a rucksack full of tiny souvenirs, I crafted myself a wooden memory box to house them all. The box brought back so many fond memories, so I started making them for others too. They all feature curated collections of people’s treasured objects – there’s been everything from a 17th century coin, to a rare beer can, and babies’ teeth to a grandma’s curlers.
Each handcrafted box and its compartments hold a curated collection of cherished items that give people a unique way to remember a person, place or time that matters most to them. In 2020, one of my customers wrote on Twitter about her memory box – which she had commissioned to remember her late grandmother – and it was amazing to see over 25,000 people engage with my work online.
You are an architect by trade, how does this inspire your work?
After 11 years of architectural drawing and bringing buildings to life in my career as an architect, I realised I could help people connect with places in a new way. Taking inspiration from my architecture experience, I started creating meticulously detailed drawings of properties and landscapes that had meaning for people. Finding beauty in small details is one of the things I am most proud of, my artwork of Cardiff City Hall involved drawing 2520 individual lines – and that’s just the windows alone.
I use my pens, inks and watercolours to draw universities, first homes, wedding venues, cities and landmarks. I’m proud to say that my artwork now hangs on hundreds of walls and evokes precious memories for people all over the world.
When did you set up in business as an artist?
After I returned from travelling, I found a part-time architecture job so I could develop my artwork. I then worked all evenings and weekends, selling at loads of markets to establish myself. When the time came and I felt like I could support myself, I left the architecture job, in 2019. Covid struck halfway through my full first year of being self-employed, which was a challenge to say the least, particularly because I wasn’t initially eligible for any government funding.
Are you still an architect?
Yes, I’m a self-employed architect and I’m a regular guest tutor at the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University.
Tell us about your artistic highlights so far…
I’ve featured on BBC Radio 4 and have been commissioned by the likes of the National Trust, the National Museum of Wales, and Microsoft. I also had a supersized version of my Porthcawl drawing displayed on Porthcawl Pavilion over the summer as part of an initiative run by the Anwen Cultural Trust. And, last year, I was asked to create a huge 6m-long bespoke piece of art – featuring three storks, which was an opportunity to raise awareness of the successful reintroduction of the birds in the UK – that is now displayed on the walls of the maternity ward at The Grange hospital in Cwmbran.
You won our Arts award at the Cardiff Life Awards 2022, how did that feel?
Well, what a night! I was up against some amazing organizations, so still can’t quite believe they chose little old me! A huge congratulations to all the finalists and winners. The judge’s remarks were absolutely lovely and I’m so pleased that they specifically commented on the memory boxes.
Have you done any collaborations with other local businesses?
I am a member of Cardiff Indie Collective – a fantastic group that champions small businesses in Cardiff. I also teamed up with Run4Wales to produce the official Cardiff Half Marathon artwork 2022 to celebrate the landmarks along the route.
And your work has been selected to appear at the brand-new Yellow TSE eco store in Cardiff?
Yes! It’s a social enterprise department store in Morgan Arcade, which is introducing a new sustainable way of shopping and promoting small, independent businesses. I’m incredibly proud to be one of their concessions.
Is there any good news you wish to share?
I work closely with wildlife charities; since September 2020, I’ve partnered with Hedgehog Helpline Cymru, the WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation) and Rewilding Britain. I’ve created drawings for each charity and I donate 40% of every item sold. During my time off, I can be found rescuing bats, bathing hedgehogs and hand-feeding rabbits at my local wildlife centre.
I have recently been commissioned by Tower Bridge to create a detailed drawing of the bridge itself. Tower Bridge has stocked my London prints since last summer, but this will be something different!
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I’m an artist who creates beautiful memory boxes and intricate ink drawings to help you connect with the people and places you love.