Catherine Allen

Artist Biography

Catherine Allen has a BSc from Dalhousie University (1995), Jewellery Arts Diploma (2000), George Brown College, Toronto, ON and an MFA from NSCAD University (2007). She is passionate about sharing the transformative experience of art and making and has taught jewellery at OCAD (Toronto, ON) and at NSCAD University as well as through community arts courses.

In her practice, Catherine experiments with themes of growth and development both conceptually and technically, exploring the dialogue between art and biology. Her current body of work looks at how air affects growth with an examination of how objects and
people can be metaphorical and physically inflated.

Catherine predominately uses electroforming, a method for growing layers of metal or “skin” are grown over an original wax substrate in an electrochemical solution to create her work. The wax is removed once the metal layer reaches the appropriate thickness
allowing her to create organic hollow metal forms that could not be achieved with any other method. She constructs jewellery pieces that are a marriage between art and science – making them feel real and alive.

Exhibition Statement

Inflate is a body of work that captures the unbounded imaginations of children’s early
representations of themselves and their families. Children’s drawings have been ‘inflated’ to create three-dimensional jewellery objects. Utilizing traditional jewellery making techniques, the jewellery becomes a celebration of childhood innocence and
commemorates early expressions of personal identity.

Over the past two years I have collaborated with children between the ages of three and seven, running two art projects: This is my Family and This is Me, in which children represented themselves and their families through drawing and experimented with screen-printing and basic jewellery-making techniques. I collected images of over 150 drawings which informed the sculptural development of the jewellery pieces in inflate.

Through the process of electroforming, the two-dimensional, drawn images were ‘inflated’ to create three-dimensional jewellery forms. Electroforming is an extension of the biological metaphors reminiscent of childhood growth and development. Layers of copper
were “grown” over an original wax sculpture of the drawing. The wax was then removed to create a hollow form which was enamelled, emphasizing the bright colours of imagination.

Each pendant has either a silver inflation nozzle incorporated into the piece or a detail of a balloon end suggesting the illusion of fabrication and adding and to the context and humour of the pieces.

Looking at hands as a communication tool and extension of thought and expression, I developed bubble wands based on the various forms of hands depicted in the drawings. The installation captures the childhood memory of blowing bubbles and is a continuation of the theme of inflate and childhood play.

Thank you to the children at Needham Preschool and Day care and to the primary classes of Mme Lipsit and Mme Casey as well as the grade one class of Mme Purdy (2016-2017) at
St. Joseph’s-Alexander McKay Elementary school in Halifax NS. Their drawings have delighted and inspired me in the journey of realizing the imaginative possibilities of children’s self-expression.

Following the exhibition, the work will be donated to participating
families to keep as heirlooms signifying a unique phase in their child’s development.


Published ©2021 by the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. All photography courtesy of the artist unless otherwise stated.