Shot and edited by Tadin Brego.
Below are a selection of writings I have done over the years for artists statements, bios, and what have you. They are in chronological order, the approximate date following the text. I hope you enjoy.
My eyes follow the straight shot of a steel ladder, bolted directly to the granite piling blocks of the wharf. Above the tide line the metal is galvanized a dull grey, but as the rails extend downward this is quickly overtaken by rust. First in color then cragged texture as well. Beneath the waters surface the ladder extends further, seeming to sway, its human geometry untethered by tricks of the light passing through the gentle waves.
. . . . . .
It’s chilly but clear outside. I bicycle across town, out Washington Ave., & over the causeway to Mackworth Island. Crouched on a small boulder I reach down into the water, watch my hand so pale & abstracted beneath the rippling surface, feel the tooth of the sand and the tumbling of pebbles as I trace my fingertips along the bottom.
Jewelry designer Cat Bates is best known for his use of metal casting and sailor knotting to create unisex designs which exemplify durability, ease of wear, and understated beauty. By working almost exclusively in multiples, utilizing industrial manufacturing services, and celebrating tool marks as elements of design, he strikes a rare balance between artistry & economic accessibility. Cat is represented by boutiques across the United States & collected internationally.
A friend of a friend lent me a pair of highest quality hiking boots, which miraculously were a perfect fit. After the better part of a day trudging over gravel and loose boulders, I was profoundly aware of their support.
It had snowed around midday. A dusting, quickly melted into the wet landscape. Now the air is clear as we tramp toward the edge of the plateau. The two huskies rush ahead, then circle back and re-join us. We stop just shy of where the ground ends. A steep jumble of reddish-brown rocks inclines to the green of the valley floor, which itself slopes lower still until it is met by the rippling lead & gold of the afternoon sea. At the water's edge sit four substantial buildings accompanied by various detritus, rust complementing the lush moss which seems to cover every surface.
Later, after traversing around to a more manageable accent, the three of us are sprawled on the concrete steps of the westernmost structure. Among the rooms we found a nursery, defined by a chipped mural of cartoon animals painted over the cast concrete walls. Piotrek makes us instant coffee and distributes squares of chocolate and handfuls of almonds. The peaks of roofs and black squares of empty windows contrast elegantly with the mountains across the fjord, dancing with surreal finality, glaciers draped round them like diamond collars. The wind sings softly while the lapping of the ocean keeps time.
It’s chilly but clear outside. I bicycle across town, out Washington Ave., over the causeway to Mackworth Island. Crouched on a small boulder I reach down into the water, watch my hand so pale beneath the surface, feel the tooth of the sand as I trace my fingertips over the bottom.
The way a predator’s teeth fit together.
Sitting barefoot on a concrete stoop, gripping the edge of the second step down with my toes.
Hand-sawing a gear from brass sheet.
The sheen of bone on a bed of pine needles.
Foreign stones brought to this shore as ballast.
The near-plumb walls of a quarry rising through trees and brush.
The economy of materials within skeletal design.
A plateau of stone some fifty yards from the shore, revealed when the tide is low.
The dexterity required to maneuver a graver.
A reflective method of constant forward motion.
Building a fire ring in the light of dusk.
I find a distinct beauty in utilitarian objects, and often notice that through use such objects become more beautiful still. I think of a bronze oarlock, its exterior caked with oxide from exposure to salt spray, its interior buffed to a warm luster by the rubbing of a dinghies wooden oars. It excites me to see that the metal has been worn smooth, and to know that if use continues the metal will eventually wear thin, will eventually no longer serve its function; that the use of an object will eventually lead to its end.
I design jewelry that will last long enough for use to compound its beauty. If you wear one of my pieces, I hope that you will take pleasure in knowing that you are part of what makes it beautiful.
To whom it may concern,
For more than ten years I have been making and selling jewelry under the title Barbarian Enterprises. As I have grown as an artist and business person Barbarian Enterprises has grown as well. Barbarian Enterprises (B. E.) products are currently available for purchase at six retail locations, spread across the United States. I am so thankful for all of the support that Barbarian Enterprises has received from vendors, direct customers, and most of all friends and family. After much consideration I have decided that for the sake of my own artistic growth and for the growth of the business I will begin using my own name in place of B.E.. My name is Cat Bates.
B.E. was originally founded in 1974 by my father Daniel Bates. He used the title for his goat cheese business, and various other entrepreneurial undertakings over the years. During that period of his life he was living year-round on Monhegan Island. It was there that he met my mother, and there that I spent my early years, and many summers since then. Looking back, the childhood which my parents provided to my siblings and me was the greatest blessing I have ever received. They taught us to respect nature with love and caution, to be resourceful, and to appreciate the people around us. They taught us much more, but these three lessons have had a particularly strong influence on my development as an artist, particularly when paired with the incredible landscape of Monhegan Island.
These lessons and experiences continue to influence me in a profound way but I am ardent to grown in new directions, with recognition of my past but untethered from it. Using my name as title I will be able to more clearly express what inspires me and why I make the things I do. The concepts of Barbarian Enterprises are still a treasured part of me, but Cat Bates is who I am. I sincerely hope that you will continue your support of my work as this transition takes place.
Portland Maine jewelry company Barbarian Enterprises is known for durable products with a subdued, quasi-industrial aesthetic. The works are diverse in appearance but conceptually connected by a curiosity in the way that we as humans fit with the world; our fostering of technology’s evolution, the complexity of our social interactions, and most importantly our animal existence, the flesh and bones that tangibly mark us as beasts however unique our capabilities.
I was home for Christmas. Over the week prior I had meandered up the coast from Philadelphia where I was living at the time, stopping along the way to visit friends. It felt good to be home, and to be back in a familiar place. The big city had not grown on me much in the months that I had spent there. Now, my father and I each sitting with a beer in hand, in the dim light of winter evening, he mentioned his intention to slaughter a goat the next day.
We led Moe, an older male with a black pelt and white markings, out of the pasture and across the yard to the base of a tree from which a hoist was suspended. Grain was dumped on the ground, and as he ate I pressed the barrel of the .45 to his head and squeezed the trigger. The angle of the shot was not perfect, but the effect absolute. His body crumpled, a complex assemble of meat, bones, sinew, gut, and fascia. Twitching but not breathing. We worked quickly now, before rigor mortis set, slitting the throat to drain the blood and tying the rear legs to a bar coming down from the hoist.
My father opened the body cavity and we carefully removed the intestines, then went to work skinning the carcass. Conversation was sparse, as our labor required concentration, but I remember telling him of my frustrations with love, and him listening well. It was perhaps our most intimate interaction in years. We continued through the afternoon to break down the body, and dinner that evening was delicious.
I grew up spending my summers on Monhegan Island and my winters in Palermo, Maine. Those winters were a little archaic. The cabin we lived in was unfinished, and for a few years there wasn’t really electricity or running water. A wood stove and two-burner propane heater warmed the house.
We kept a herd of angora goats for meat. They were an unruly bunch. I once watched in terror as a buck, named Captain Piss-Gums Junior, launched my father into the air for attempting to trim the beast’s hooves. On another occasion a young goat’s fur froze to the ground on a bitterly cold night. I did not see the execution performed, but my mother left the house with a kitchen knife and we ate fresh meat for supper.
The brutality of nature was never concealed from my siblings and me, but we were shown nature’s beauty as well. On a cold day in early winter my father led me into the woods to show me a mound of dirt. Its surface was unremarkable at first, but he encouraged me to look closer and I saw that a willowy column of ice supported each particle of earth.
About seven years ago I returned to Monhegan for my first extended stay since childhood. I made jewelry and worked as a chef, climbed on the cliffs and foraged for mushrooms. For the next four summers I lived on the island. During this period I started to notice the ways in which technology augments my physical capabilities, and to regard culture and technology as elements of nature rather than as constructs separate from it. My current perspective is one of awe in the variety and beauty of all nature’s biological, cultural, geological, and technological creations. Within art making I resolutely strive to further my understanding of nature’s scope, and my place within it.
Thank you. Much love.