Kirstin McKirdy

by Amy Marie Slocum

"I’m drawn to primitive “pagan” forms because of their minimalism and their suggestive power. They have the force of natural forms."

“I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men’s minds without their being aware of the fact.” — Claude Lévi-Strauss, Mythologiques, Volume 1 (1921)

Anthropology—the study of humankind—is one of the primary and earliest influences of Canadian-born, Paris-based ceramicist Kristin McKirdy. Beginning her academic career studying art history and cultural anthropology at UC Santa Cruz, and later earning her masters from the Sorbonne, McKirdy was primarily interested in the study of objects, and how objects can inform us about people’s lives. Having worked with ceramics since she was a teenager, the concept of the life of the object is evident when studying McKirdy’s large and thoughtful oeuvre.

Last fall, the fashion world was given a glimpse of McKirdy’s sensual, vaguely primitive forms as they were carried down the runway of the Dior Spring Summer 2016 show in Paris. Creative Director for the house, Kris van Assche—a longtime admirer of McKirdy—reached out to the artist with the view of creating a talisman that would be recognizable as “a remarkable and uncommon accessory.” In the words of McKirdy, “We spoke about the idea of a talisman and the fact that Monsieur Dior had often carried good luck charms with him. The concept of a symbolic and tactile object is right up my alley, so I went to work.”

The result of that collaboration—muted, amorphous pendants dangling from lanyards tipped brightly in the colors of the house—speak to both McKirdy’s restrained sensibilities, and the ethos of elegance and craftsmanship that is the common thread of the Dior brand.

We spoke to McKirdy about her background, her process, and paganism.

Your pendants for Dior have been called “pagan,” is that a classification that you agree with? The reference to pagan in the context of the Dior project does seem appropriate because the talisman is by definition a pagan object. In creating these pendants I endeavored to meet what I felt were the essential needs of a talisman: a sensual, therapeutic, and tactile object. The inspiration for the jewelry was drawn from usual sources: bones, seeds, tools, and artifacts.

I’m drawn to primitive “pagan” forms because of their minimalism and their suggestive power. They have the force of natural forms.

What is your studio process like?

I work alone in the studio. I light a fire, turn on my stereo, and either sketch or get back to a work in progress. Once I start, I work intensely for hours. I only stop briefly for lunch, and then again at night. It is my greatest pleasure to be working in the studio while listening to music. It is only when I am very stressed that I will work in silence.

What does a good time look like for you?

If it is in the spring and summer, I will go into my garden and dig around, in the winter, I’ll read by the fireplace. A good time is exploring flea markets, wandering aimlessly in Paris in good weather, gardening, and dancing.