Simone Kestelman speaks to Gabriel Don

Your home/ art studio in upstate New York has turned in a living art gallery, where you have built yourself a magic land, including a tree-house for yourself. Can you speak to the intersection of life, living space and art?

I think art is the physical expression of our souls at a point in time. I put my feelings and aspirations into my art. Having a living art gallery enables me continuously record my inner state, while also having the freedom to reinvent myself. 

How would you define sculpture?

Again, I see sculptures and art in general as snapshots of our mind and soul at a point in time. Sculptures in particular require the transformation of something raw, like glass or marble, into 3-D filled with meaning. Through sculptures, I can represent whatever is on my mind in a universalizing way.

How can a ceramic piece transform your space?

Nowadays, ceramic sculptures and installations transform my space by hiding or exposing feelings, dreams, secrets. My garden with 250 ceramic flowers holds secrets, both mine and those buried by my friends. The dress in a cage sparks contemplation, discussion. Other pieces simply bring beauty to the space.

What inspires you? 

I am inspired by the depths of our humanity – love, life, death, hate, sadness, ambition. These are the feelings that lead people to be their best and worse selves, to imagine a better world for themselves and those they love.

What advice do you have for people who want to be artists? 

Do art for your soul! Don’t expect any recognition.

What are your current projects?

I have three projects going on at the moment:

 “InVisible”   “I wish” and “Children’s Voice”


Toys. Fairy tales. Colors. Tenderness and innocence. We like to believe all children’s worlds are filled with such bright moments. For too many of our children, daily reality is far darker. Extreme social inequality and violence makes victims of more and more children every day.  Their lives and futures are limited or shut down by the trauma that infects their existence. Many of these children, if they survive, will become aggressive adults. And so the cycle of abuse continues. Art is a positive path for those survivors. Making art and interacting with art offers a way to understand and talk without fear or shame about the violence they see and experience. I have spent many months with kids in shelters and safe houses. I know first-hand that healing and restoration is painful. Healing requires each child to confront the trauma, the shame, and the resulting loss of self. Violence against children is one of the most repulsive acts in the contemporary world. InVisible is for all of these children. It will illuminate their suffering, as well as their damaged innocence, in the dark alleys of an unjust world. We may not you see the violence in children’s lives, but it’s still there every day. As UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Liam Neeson  wrote, “Make the invisible visible. Help us make violence against children disappear.” The visual beauty and concepts of my sculptures will cast light onto these shadowed lives, which too many people would rather ignore.

 I WISH (The secret garden)

Ceramic/Glass Flowers – rust-like metal stem

The main idea of this project is to bring art to lesser-known green spaces, parks, schools and public spaces. This will be done through a composition of gardens produced by children. The children will create temporary or permanent public art pieces. The goal is to encourage kids to discover and use urban green spaces in creative and innovative ways.  Having access to nature helps children to flourish. In fairy tales, gardens and forests are the playgrounds of princesses, fairies, witches and mythical creatures. Take a moment to step away from the everyday and wander these beautiful and dreamy garden landscapes, which evoke their wishes. Gardening requires a lot of knowledge about seeds, plants, lands, flowers and seasons.These facets of gardening can be exploited in the classroom and expanded to the school environment. The students will research the development of flowers when creating their pieces. Works of art facilitate the globalization of issues.  Gardening offers a fun and enchanting way for children and parents to connect with nature. They not only bring together multiple forms of knowledge. A work of art is not only the object of aesthetic appreciation, but also the result of a lifetime of experience unveiled by the artist’s creative process and the work of the sign system. Artists, at the time of creation, are interpreters, thus living their art, creating and recreating the work. Creating art gardens with children means involving the kids in the design and evolution of the garden, working together to produce something unique. Nature facilitates more creative and imaginative play and creates a capacity for learning. More and more children today have less and less contact with the natural world. And this is having a huge impact on their health and development.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

 Albert Einstein

 Children’s Voice

For this project, I am gathering sentences from girls between the ages of 6 to 14 . In order to collect the sentences, I have been visiting shelters for children, especially those who have been victims of violence.

I have also been talking to groups of children from different cultures and social backgrounds. The name of the project is Children’s Voices and it will be made up of 4000 tags, that will be hang on a chain link-fence. There will be two types of tags. One made of paper and the other made of glass. The children will write on the paper tag. After that I will choose the most powerful silent screens to be eternalized on glass. (Some of them are very powerful.) I am trying to bring attention to children’s cries for help. Every child has dreams, and Children’s Voices gives them a space to write down their experiences, desires, observation and hopes.

Art enables children to positively deal with their emotions, which is an essential step in the process of breaking the chain of violence so as a safeguard for future generations. This project will be presented alongside Women Caucus for Art’s exhibition at the United Nations in 2015.

The questions for the children to answer are:

  1. What are your dreams ?
  2. What would you change in the world  to make your future better?
  3. In case a child cannot easily understand any of these questions, there will be a third option: Draw or write a sentence about something that comes from deep inside your heart.

Could you share a favourite line from a poem? 

I don’t have a favorite line from a poem, but I do have one from a book: You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.

What does a unicorn represent to you?

Purity, beauty and magic. 

How are women positioned within the creative industries? 

Women have access to a different pool of experiences to draw from when making art. These different experiences allow us to see the world through a different, though not completely different, set of lenses. That is how work that truly speaks to the human experience gets created.

In what ways does enchantment and femininity play a part in your work?

A lot of my work is concerned with how women use their femininity to enchant, deceive and stand up for themselves. 

Your work is very technical, you have even damaged tendons doing this labor, how did you develop this skill set and could you describe techniques you employ when working?

I am primarily self-taught in both ceramics and glass techniques, but have also taken a few courses to sharpen my skills. Some of the techniques I use include painting on glass, printing, and setting glass powder. Making glass sculptures is a very technical process, and yes, injuries are a possibility. In fact, I have spent the past year recovering from tendinitis in both elbows, caused by buffering.

In your opinion, what is your most important artistic achievement? 

My exhibit Wonders was was definitely my biggest achievement. There are no words to describe the feeling of making art that blind people can see.
Visit Simone Kestelman at her website.
See a preview of her upcoming show at the Shiva Gallery