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Fair to foundry

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

From failing art student to exhibiting alongside the greats. Kayla Upton tells Annie Keig about her artistic journey.

Kayla Upton, "Sun", image courtesy of the artist

Kayla Upton failed her arts diploma studies first time round. "It was a massive blow to my ego. Within a month I had sold off my art gear and thrown out or given away my art. Then I packed up and joined the Gypsy Fair, doing caricatures for a living," she says.

A chance encounter with a former tutor, who encouraged her to learn how to sculpt and cast in bronze, led her to return to her studies at the Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki. "We built a foundry from scratch. We mixed our own blend of wax. We did everything from the ground up."

Upton’s current work combines the mythological and historical components of tarot cards. The tense expression of Sun suggests a catalyst for change and a force of destruction and evolution. She explains that her sun is mouthing the Hebrew letter "resh", meaning "head" and usually read as a beginning. The tarot sun "taught me to rise again", she says, "refined by my struggles and with a clarity of purpose."

Now with a Diploma in Creative Technologies and "a mountain of failures", under her belt, Upton recently exhibited alongside work by one of the world’s most famous sculptors. Three of her works were on display alongside Rodin’s "Eve" at the Percy Thompson Gallery in Stratford as part of Te Papa's touring Rodin exhibition.

Remembering Rodin is currently on the last leg of it's tour, at Waikato Museum in Hamilton until 6 December.


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