I first met Kathy Halik-Herdzina a decade ago at ScotsFest in Costa Mesa, CA. I was showing my Celtic art collection, and Kathy showed me one of her Celtic knot necklaces. She had woven it from leather strips, and fashioned the strip tails into a loop-ball closure. I had never seen anything like it, and I simply had to have one!
Actually, I bought two.
I immediately suggested that Kathy apply to become an artisan at the Southern California Renaissance Pleasure Faire, which she did. What a treat awaited me at her booth. Not only did Kathy present more of her Celtic knot jewelry – both necklaces and earrings – she also had a line of lovely sketch art.
What a talent!
Over the years I have watched Kathy’s collection grow, deservedly winning award after award. Her art has such a soft, gentle touch. Her Celtic knot jewelry has a classic, yet organic, look. So, I invite you all to explore the wonders of Autumn Gypsy Studios and the sweetly inspired lady who brings these wonders to life.
RD: Hi Kathy. Let’s begin with your Celtic knot jewelry, considering that’s how we met. When did you first start making it? What attracted you to this medium?
Kathy: I started making jewelry around 2008. I saw some photos of an historical Viking burial site with woven decorative items called “posaments” and thought they were such a cool idea. I am not a seamstress, so I came up with an alternative use for my work – jewelry. I have done Renaissance Faires over the years and love the historical aspect they promote as well as the mystical side. As far as the medium, I wanted to use a medium that was historically accurate, easily manipulated, and yet lent itself to a little modern flair, which is why I use leather and the original tin thread. Leather is also a great alternative for people who have allergies to metal.
RD: How did you learn to make Celtic knot jewelry? Were you self-taught? What reference material have you discovered?
Kathy: I have always been fascinated Celtic culture. As I said, I saw the Viking posaments, which were the earliest form of Celtic knot work I could find. Originally, they were made from metal thread and used to adorn clothing. I wanted to do something a little different. At the time I could not find material akin to what the Vikings may have used, so I improvised with leather (which is also traditional). I started getting a lot of comments like, “Oh, that’s macrame!”, but it wasn’t. Look at the Uppsala Viking burial site in Sweden (527AD). This appears to be where the “Josephine Knot”, as some know it, originated.
RD: I love the way you incorporate charms into your jewelry. When did you start doing that?
Kathy: I started doing that almost immediately. I wanted to give these historical knots a little bit of a modern twist to help keep them alive. With charms and beads they can be as informal as something you can wear everyday with a nice top and jeans, to something unique and fancy to wear on an evening out.
RD: What types of cord do you use?
Kathy: I prefer to use leather since it is natural, pliable enough to bend and more authentic. On occasion I use the traditional material the Vikings used – tin thread. When I do use it, I import it directly from Sweden from a supplier that has been making it the traditional way for generations. Tin thread is an alloy of thin metal, the thickness of thread, which is coiled. This makes the tin thread similar to guitar strings, but much more flexible.
RD: You also incorporate beads into your jewelry. Isn’t that tricky? Any secrets you’d like to share?
Kathy: Yes… and no. I use mostly 1mm round leather cording so there are bead options that fit. The tricky part is that leather is a natural product and sometimes it can be larger than 1mm in sections. This can create barriers where the beads are too small to pass along the length of the cord. I need to find beads that can slide on easily, and this can be a little time consuming.
RD: Do you have any favorite pieces you’d like to feature? Why are these your favorites?
Kathy: It’s hard to choose! Everything I make is from my soul. I do not like to mass produce 500 of the same thing. While I will reproduce items that people love – I individually hand-craft each piece with something a little bit different each time. That’s why my jewelry may not always be available until I want to make another piece.
RD: So, now let explore your art. Each of your pictures has a ‘wispy’ quality. What’s your medium, and how do you achieve that wispiness?
Kathy: I love to work in lots of mediums, but my preferred is colored pencil. They have a wax or oil base that makes them great for layering rich colors. The wispy look you are referring to is with my watercolors. I use light layers and slowly build the colors to get that wispy air brush kind of feel. I basically lay down a light layer of color, let that completely dry, then I add another layer. I repeat this several times until I get the look and depth I want. In colored pencil, I go for brighter rich colors. Sometimes I combine mediums when I am looking to achieve a different look.
RD: He’s not Celtic, but I love the drawing of the Corgi puppy. What was your inspiration for that one?
Kathy: My friend has very mischievous Corgis. They are such spunky little guys, and I love their attitude. Her husband has several trophies from various sports he was in. I just imagined what mischief her corgis might get into if given access to his lovely trophies.
RD: Your Celtic Dragon is one of my favorites. There’s lots of different elements in this one, from a Celtic knot to an egg, to crystals. Tell me more about this piece.
Kathy: This is one of my favorites. While in Kilkenny Ireland, we visited Dunmore Cave, which was recently discovered. It was the scene of a massacre, where Vikings trapped the local Irish villagers in this cave. Archeologists have found several gold coins that fell from Vikings’ beards. The cave had beautiful formations that reminded me of crystals. With the gold coins and rock formations, I could picture a dragon living here, but I wanted my dragon to guard something more precious than gold – a new baby dragon.
RD: The Celtic Kestral has a lovely Celtic knot “wings” design. What were your thoughts when creating it?
Kathy: I wanted something Celtic/Tribal just to be a hint in the background. I wanted to have my Kestrel stand out. The colors I chose were by design. Blue is opposite on the color wheel from orange. If done correctly, it complements the main color. Since it was for part of my Celtic Zodiac series, I wanted to have a more “spirit animal” feel for this piece.
RD: Your Celtic Warrior Woman has a stylized look rather than a true-life look. She’d make a great animated character. Tell me more about her.
Kathy: I was kind of inspired by the Films Brave and Lord of the Rings. I wanted a more forest dwelling elvish tomboy look. The feathers in her hair and the horse head background connect her to nature, as if she was a strong warrior maiden – perhaps related to the people of Rohan. Her red hair and green eyes are related to the Celts, and she is a strong-willed, fiery warrior.
RD: Your Celtic Fox is so cute. He’s part of your Celtic Zodiac collection. Why the butterflies?
Kathy: I love foxes! They are hunters, but they have a very playful side to them. Butterflies are such free creatures. The way they move is so fun and peaceful to watch. I wanted to give a very playful look to this piece. A bit of bright color added playfulness as well.
RD: Have you completed your Celtic Zodiac collection? How many animals do you have thus far?
Kathy: My zodiac series is not yet complete. I have 4 left to create. They seem to be the trickier ones. The designs have not, per say, spoken to me yet. One that is calling out is the Cat. Sneak peek – I am planning on doing the Scottish Tiger or Scottish Highland Wild Cat. This is an endangered species which is associated with the Clan Chattan (Clan of Cats) that is a group made up of 12 different clans which use the cat in their crest – McBain, Mackintosh, MacGillivray and more. Here’s a link if readers want to learn more about this endangered wild cat – https://clanchattan.org.uk/scottish-wildcat.
RD: Your Clan Frasier Santa is a fun fellow. Why Clan Frasier? Are you related?
Kathy: We are honorary members of the Clan Fraser (of Lovat) Association for California (CFAC). We are the ‘bards’ of the group. We usually perform at any of their ceilidhs, singing both traditional Scottish and Irish songs. I was inspired to do my own Christmas card to send to our Scottish Fraser friends. I decide to do a more Father Christmas type of Santa.
RD: Your Celtic Moon Goddess has an Art Nouveau look. To me, she looks passionate and longing. What do you want folks to know about this piece?
Kathy: The full moon has a lot of places in history. One legend has it that a full moon is when you should accept a marriage proposal. The full moon is associated with romance. Research suggests that a full moon has a significant effect on women biologically. This feminine connection to the moon can heighten our levels of intimacy and connection. I think as women we need to connect to ourselves, accept that we are sexual beings, and understand that we are connected to the natural world.
RD: Where is your collection going in 2022? Are there any particular pieces on which you’re focusing?
Kathy: The pandemic has been hard on artists both creatively and financially. I have been focusing on my Esty shop and de-stressing by focusing on nature drawings. Artist block is real, but with everything starting to open up again my creative juices are once again flowing. My next piece is Celtic in theme and will incorporate Nature and Celtic essences. My goal is to build my Celtic catalog of art, and do more shows. I miss meeting people from all walks of life at my shows.
RD: Do you have an upcoming show schedule? Will fans be able to see you again at the So. Cal Pleasure Faire?
Kathy: Yes, I will be at the So. California Pleasure Faire. I am really excited, since we have not been able to participate in faires for a while. I am also looking to add more events this year. I am going to try adding a few Scottish events as well. I will know more as things open up.
RD: Do you have any parting words for our readers? Any words of inspiration you might like to share?
Kathy: Yes, follow your bliss! Everyone has a talent for something. Our talent/bliss is what makes us unique. When we follow our bliss, we are being true to ourselves, and it feeds our spirits. My bliss happens to be art in many forms. I am happy creating. I am an inspired by nature and the mythical past.
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Ravensdaughter is the art name for Erin Rado, editor of Celtic Nations Magazine. When in her creative space, Ravensdaughter – an homage to the warrior goddess, Morrigan, expresses Erin’s true soul.