Meet JDK the sculptor turned street artist making her mark in London

We are surrounded by mothers and babies!  The Chesterfield coffee shop on the corner of the Grove and Roman roads has a playpen at the back, wifi and filter coffee. It seems the ideal place to meet an artist whose work we’ve admired for a while, the sculptor turned street artist Jennifer Dickson-Katori, also known as JDK, after all “It also has the one of the best baby change units” she tells me.

It’s not hard to see why such an environment is important to Jennifer, her bonny five-month old Kai is with her and having somewhere to go with other mothers and babies like this is a social release especially when it comes with a clean baby change.

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JDK at Femme Fierce.  Photo by Lewis Phillips

JDK is an artist whose work we’ve noticed for a while here on Inspiring City.  First coming to our attention in 2015, she had just moved to London from Chicago and suddenly found herself painting at the all-female street art festival ‘Femme Fierce’.  It was quite an entrance onto the street art scene for an artist whose primary interest is sculpture and who had just moved to the city.

Since then we’ve noticed her smaller paste-ups appearing on the streets of the East End particularly around Brick Lane.  These are generally black and white humanoid figures with no discernible features placed in unobtrusive locations ready for the unsuspecting street art spotter to stumble upon.

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Intertwined figures

These figures represent JDK’s return to illustration.  A public sculptor in the US she hasn’t yet been able to have any of her works commissioned for a London audience. Street art therefore is her release and she went through an active period whilst pregnant with Kai creating a number of hand drawn paste ups to then blend into the streets.  Since then it’s been a bit quieter, being a full time mum means that attention has needed to be directed away from the art and towards bringing up baby.

We decide to move from the Chesterfield and into a quieter location closer to home in a pub called the Morgan Arms.  I’m planning on recording an interview for download and the sound of babies mingled with background music runs the risk of drowning it out.  There, I also get a first-hand peek at the ambidextrous skills that nursing a newborn and being an artist can give you.  With Kai rocking in one arm she sketches in my black book in the other, to say that she claims not to have drawn for a while the result is impressive and I can see one of those recognisable black and white images taking shape.

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Family grouping in the East End

We speak about sculpture, she was inspired on an Alternative London street art tour when she first moved to the city by the works of Jonesy.  His little figurines can be seen dotted around the East End and form a delightful little surprise for tourists as the tour guides suddenly reveal them sitting atop some of the local road signs.  We’ve featured Jonesy a few times here on Inspiring City including an interview here, it’s not hard for us to see why JDK would be inspired by his work.

JDK’s thoughts turn to what next, her art requires solitude which is difficult to manage as a nursing mum with a five-month year old.  It’s the peace and quiet which gives her the inspiration she needs which is a precious commodity at the moment.  She has ambitions to get out there a bit more when she is able to dedicate the time.

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JDK art with additional UFO (artist unknown)

She tells me about what inspires her, I make the connection that a lot of her street pieces seem to be quite maternal, nurturing even.  It’s an observation well made it seems as a lot of those would have been drawn whilst pregnant.  JDK’s art is clearly shaped by her environment “I can see Kai sneaking in there at some point” she says hinting that the further evolution of her work might well see inspiration coming from her son.

JDK is not your traditional street artist.  Hers is an evolution born out of circumstance. The move to the UK and having a baby has led her to re-discover art forms from earlier in her career before she made her name as a sculptor in Chicago.  Living in the East End of London it’s not hard to see how that release resulted in paste ups on the street.  All original drawings created in order to give pleasure to passers by, mixing it with the city’s rich diversity of street art talent.

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Mother and Child on Cheshire Street

“There is just so much talent here” she laughs when we talk about mixing it with the street art locals.  At the moment even her big pieces are paste ups, she confesses that she is wedded to pens and ink and so using spray paint would an as yet unfamiliar medium but yet one that she seems willing to try.

We’ll see what comes next for JDK.  Her work on the street caught our imagination and we’ll be looking forward to seeing how that evolves whether through the design of images, the use of spray or even a move back into sculpture, the London scene can no doubt be an exciting canvas for the sculptor from Chicago.

JDK was interviewed on 3 March 2017 in the Chesterfield cafe bar and the Morgan Arms in Bow, East London.   Her instagram account can be followed here and her facebook page is here.  For more pictures of JDK’s work on the street check out this article from Hookedblog here.

JDK Gallery

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Mother and Child paste up

femme fierce JDK

Working in the Leake Street tunnel for Femme Fierce 2015

JDK Femme Fierce

In the tunnel for Femme Fierce 2016

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Black book sketch

For more Inspiring City articles featuring sculpture check out:

Street Art Sculptures on show at the Unit 5 Gallery

Sculpture in the City 2016 lands in London and brings public art to the centre of the city

Interview with Patrick Colhoun as he brings ‘Solitary’ his contemporary sculpture show to London

Alex Chinneck creates giant upside down electricity pylon sticking out of the ground in Greenwich

Studio Interview with Jonesy, the environmental artist who places bronze sculptures around the City

Ten top abstract sculptures in the City of London