Kathryn Bondy knew she was creative at a very young age. She now creates realistic botanical art with amazing attention to the details. From flowers to butterflies and ladybugs, these beautiful arrangements don’t need to be watered!
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path creating amazing botanical art? Always an artist, or was there a “moment”? What is your artist origin story?
I’m definitely one of those people who say they have been an artist their whole life.
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As a kid I loved to draw and make crafts out of anything I could get my hands on, and I loved the TV show Art Attack. My favourite game to play as a kid was pretending I hosted my own show just like Art Attack. I would narrate my process out loud (in a bad British accent) while making all sorts of things out of every material imaginable: plasticine, bits of styrofoam, cotton balls, cardboard, envelopes, anything we had around the house.
Art has always been a part of me, and often it was refuge when things were scary or unstable at home. Now it is a way for me to connect with others, and to feel that I’m a part of something bigger than myself.
When was the first time that you remember realizing that you are a creative person?
I’ve always known I was a creative person, but what made that first realisation memorable was when I noticed the effect that my artwork could have on others.
In elementary school I remember drawing a very detailed tree for a project. It had curving branches, shading in the bark so that it looked textured, and layered shades of green to suggest the depth of leaves in the tree’s canopy. I remember how amazed my friends were with what I’d drawn, as if together we were both seeing trees in a new way. And because of that, I could see myself in a new way too.
To see something I had created have such a positive effect on someone made me feel so good about myself, and I didn’t feel like an outsider anymore. Making art helped me to shed so many worries I had, too many for a little kid, and it allowed me to feel into a new capacity for who I was.
Do you feel that you chose your “passion,” or did it choose you?
Both! Golden Age initially began as a two person project, recreating elements of classical still life painting into objects of home decor. I needed a push to leave a former full time creative job and focus on creating my own work, and getting the idea for Golden Age was it.
Since then it has evolved quite a bit, and in the 8 years that I have been working on it, Golden Age now feels like something much more resonant that draws from a very different pool of inspiration.
It feels like I keep choosing this passion because it keeps choosing me. This work is constantly revealing new things to me, and showing me what I am really capable of doing.
The transformation of simple materials like paper and wire through the art of paying close attention is astonishing, and many times I am left baffled by the things I make. Exploring themes like interconnection and the magic of the small and everyday through paper botanicals has opened up so many possibilities and ways of seeing the world and our place in it. To develop and share that with others is truly amazing.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
My signature shows itself in two ways: both practically and conceptually. My use of mixed media and my curiosity to explore new materials and expressions is where my signature is most evident, and my commitment to fine craftsmanship and realism.
But if you dig a little deeper I think I have a few conceptual signatures too, in themes that seem to reveal themselves consistently. A sensitivity to interconnectivity, a hope for re-enchantment, and the transformational power in telling our stories in new ways are all contained in the paper botanicals I make. Nature has become my mentor in many ways, revealing gifts to me that I then get to share with others.
What motivates you artistically?
Exploring new materials is always so exciting!
I love the early phases of testing something new to see how it could render a particular natural element. Nature itself, and learning about people’s connections to nature – everyone from our grandparents to writers to ethnobotanists – help me to see the work I make more clearly, and to understand what it might have to offer us.
I also love hearing people’s stories about flowers and their connections to them. When they choose me and my work to tell their stories in a new way, it fills me with energy!
What different creative media do you use in your work?
Various weights of crepe paper, paper covered wire, acrylic paint and media and pencil crayons are my main materials.
I also use different types of air dry clay, cotton balls, yarn, plaster, joint compound, foam insulation, bbq skewers…once I used the plastic window of a package of KN95 masks to make a bee’s wings! I also use a lot of different tools meant for other creative disciplines. Paint brushes and pencil crayons are on my desk, but also tools for clay and bookbinding.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I’ve had a few different shared studio spaces, and right now I’m working from home until I can find the next studio space that’s just right for me and how I like to work.
Keeping my space tidy and organised helps me to think clearly, as the nature of my work requires deep focus and concentration so I try to keep distractions to a minimum. I work on a large vintage desk and I store most of my supplies in a cabinet that was handmade by my great-grandfather, and work in front of a large window in my living room that lets in plenty of natural light.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
My sketchbook is more of a record of my process and techniques, where I document all the steps involved in creating a particular plant or insect. It’s also part of my calendar, where I write down my tasks for the month so that I get to cross them off with pencil on paper because that’s very satisfying!
I don’t find sketching that helpful unless I’m communicating with a client. Working in three dimensions means that starting in two doesn’t help me much, but I do create what could be considered as sketches or studies in the form of a materials testing process.
Colouring techniques will be tried out using the same paper I’ll be using to create the petals of a finished flower, or I will test out a few different materials for the centre of a flower or the wings of an insect. As I’m constructing a piece I always make a bit more than what I need, considering that as part of the sketching or draft process, and then choose the best of the best for the finished piece.
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered on your creative journey? What did you learn from it?
The biggest challenge is also an ongoing one, and it’s coming to accept how long this practice has taken to develop to the point where it can sustain me. I initially gave myself one year to develop Golden Age into something that could replace my income from a full-time job, and now at 8 years later I’m only about halfway there.
The myth of an overnight success is exactly that: a myth. But the more time I spend refining my techniques and pieces, the more they resonate with others, which is ultimately the point of making art.
Is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you feel compelled to achieve in the future?
I would love to write a book one day, a combination of tutorials and longer form writings on art and creativity and nature.
This creative practice doesn’t stop at the pieces themselves, if anything they are like doorways that open to bigger thoughts and themes. I’d also like to teach and lecture more, and travel too, teaching workshops in beautiful places around the world.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I have a few online courses available, with more being developed. I am also beginning to teach in-person workshops now that the global pandemic is being managed a bit more safely, which is very exciting!
I would love to lecture as well, about creativity and our connection to nature, which I’m hoping to develop more soon. Any inquiries can be directed to my website, under the Learn section.
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website is an ongoing experiment in an artist doing something that they should be paying an expert to do instead! It’s where my entire creative practice lives outside of my desk, in addition to my newsletter.
Part portfolio, part shop and part book, by visiting goldenagebotanicals.com I hope that people will find what they’re looking for – whether that’s the inspiration to look at the world around them with more sensitivity to what usually goes unnoticed, to learn more about my creative practice, or to find the exact right flower to buy for themselves or for a loved one.
Interview posted September 2023
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