Rowena Katigbak

July 5, 2023


Rowena Katigbak

Pronouns: She/Them
Identity: Queer Non-Binary POC

Introduce Yourself:

My journey has led me through various media and disciplines such as jewelry making, encaustic painting, kinetic sculpture and carving. My practice has now circled back to jewelry making and carving to honor the memory of my ancestors.

Currently my work centers around concepts of identity, empowerment, and sustainability within the context of an earth-based spirituality grounded in ancestral veneration. I am committed to creating pieces that are designed with ethically sourced local materials from indigenous and community-centered companies. I create handmade, carved objects that honor, nurture and support people on their journey.

Tell us about your work:

Progress invites viewers to play with interactive kinetic sculptures. In connecting with each sculpture, viewers’ perspectives shift from spectator to participant to co-creator. It’s play as a form of rebellion against archetypes and outdated patriarchal thinking. In contrasting the two words, “play” and “rebellion,” I’m seeking to shift people’s thinking about how we perceive these words. Play can be fun, purposeful and rebellious. These sculptures encourage us to rise above obsolete patriarchy & colonized thinking and fly into the future with hope, joy and love. 

Come Fly With Me – Kinetic sculpture with an elegantly clad witch balancing on a steel ball as part of a variation of a Newton’s Cradle, 19 1/4″ l. x 26 1/8″ h. x 13 1/8″ w, wood, steel, acrylic mirror, mixed media, upcycled toy parts and materials, magic – assembled by hand

How did you start your metalsmithing/materialsmithing/adornment journey?

I was gifted a toolbox and tools from my brother and his family. I tinkered around with things but it wasn’t until I came across an issue of Metalsmith magazine that inspired me to get into silversmithing. I began forging silver with these super basic tools, a rock and the barest soldering set up. I have the toolbox and still use a lot of those tools and the rock in my practice. 

How does your identity relate to your work? If at all?

My identity and my work are absolutely interrelated. Centuries of colonization has sought to erase a huge part of my identity as a queer non-binary witch. Growing up as a female-presenting Filipinx settler here on Turtle Island (Canada) in a rampantly cis-heteronormative culture meant that I had to reflect deeply on who I truly am, my relationship with the land, and interrelationships with people. I constantly work to recognize how much patriarchal and colonized thinking I’ve assimilated and continue my process of decolonization by reconnecting with my ancestry, especially with my Pacific Islander / Austronesian roots (pre-colonization). As a result, my art constantly evolves as a syncretic one with many designs inspired by ancestral patterns, historical references, and experiences within my community.  I try to create from this place of truth. It’s a personal reflection and celebration of my explorations and a physical manifestation of my truth which cannot be erased.

Hats Off! – Automaton of a witch popping out from behind an older gentleman tipping his hat up, 10″ l. x 19″ h. x 14″ w, wood, household paint, Quartz crystal, mixed media, upcycled toy parts and materials, magic – assembled by hand

If you feel comfortable discussing your queer identity, what is something you would like share? 

My identity is constantly evolving but there is one constant that grounds me. “Pagkikipagkapwa” –  Pagkikipagkapwa is a Filipinx term which means we all share a kinship, a deep interconnectedness with each other and everything around us. For me, that connection is rooted in Love. Love is Love and we should be free to express this love in all its forms without shame. Once I recognized this truth, I was able to clear away a lot of fears and doubts about myself and to try to connect with others in a more meaningful way – to appreciate our similarities and differences. It took me a long time (decades really) to stand within this space and celebrate who I am. I hope that I can create work that celebrates and empowers people no matter how they identify so that we may all walk freely in love.

What are the main concepts in your work?

My work centers around concepts of identity, empowerment, connection and sustainability within the context of an earth-based spirituality grounded in ancestral veneration.

High Flyer – automaton of a witch flying around two patriarchal figures set on a black base . 5.5″ l. x 28″ h. x 5.5″ w, wood, mixed media, upcycled parts, magic

Can you share a bit about your conceptual development?

It varies from project to project. I usually go for walks to clear my head and work through some concepts. I also do lots of research, poke around on the internet, go over a folder of inspiration photos, sketch and ideate, then I look at materials. Usually something about an object, image, or material sparks something. At that point, I get out of my head and into my hands. I start to play around with things. In some cases, I’ll do a rough draft of technical drawings like elevations and sections or details.  I love getting into the details like how things connect and move; or how it can be changeable. I challenge myself to create something different but which may not be obvious like how I connected the fishing line to the metal hoops for my sculpture, Come Fly With Me, so that it seemed invisible. Adding these hidden details brings me joy. 

How do you take a break and reset?

It really depends on where I am in the creative process. 

After a particularly intense work session or project completion, I go for walks, take naps, binge watch tv,  visit with friends and family or whatever else I feel I need to do to nurture myself. Being near or on the water paddling also restores me. Being active in some way lights me up. And, of course, my spiritual practice grounds me.

Usually when I’m struggling with a creative block or starting a project, I’ll go for a walk, hang out in the garden, or read something like a book, a research article or go on Instagram. Sometimes just poking around on the internet sparks something in me that I want to explore. Other times I’ll go in my studio and play with different materials or sketch things out. Music helps me too. 

I’ll be honest. There are times in the creative process where I get stuck no matter what I do. It can be super frustrating. That’s when I remind myself to lean into the process and take a break from pushing myself. That’s usually when inspiration comes. Maybe it doesn’t come right away but it always shows up.

What is your favorite tool, material, or process? 

Hands down, my favourite tool is my Iwatani torch. I use it every day in the studio and around the house; from lighting candles and incense to annealing metal. I have other favourite tools but I have a special relationship with this one.

What is something no one has ever asked you that you would like to answer?

This is a tough question. I love connecting with people and I tend to be open about things so I don’t think there’s anything that people haven’t asked me.

What do you want to see in the field in order for it to be more supportive?

I’d love to see the following for our BIPOC LGBTQIA2S+ community:
1. More visibility and representation in the media
2. Artists getting paid equitably
3. More access to resources and funding
4. More opportunities for exhibition for younger and new designers
5. Mentorship opportunities
6. Opportunities for cross-discipline collaborations, i.e. ceramics, metalsmithing, textile and fiber arts, tech, etc.
7. Opportunities for community collaborations and outreach
8. Opportunities for accessible continuing education within the field

*** All interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity


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