It’s been an unusual year for me so far, with many changes. It’s strange, I know, that I haven’t written or spoken since January (or technically since June) but there have been circumstances. If you haven’t heard from me, rest assured, almost no one has.

Even now, it feels risky and personal to speak. I don’t want to. But I also don’t want to make a habit of silence; this time has closed my voice, drawn me inward.

photo Ryan Anas kate mckinnon lying in the MIT chapel

So much has happened. It all really started up, this new strand of my life, when in fall of 2014, four of us (and two cats) went to live in Boston for a half-year’s academic sabbatical at MIT. It was everything that I always thought it would be to live as a family in that alive, happening place, and to be surrounded by people walking, thinking and doing. It was especially sweet for me after 24 years of the family being based in St. Louis, a place that was only ever meant to be temporary. Even Bill never meant or wanted to stay. It just … happened.

At a personal level, my work was so sparked by the experience of being at MIT and in Boston that it leapt off of the table and whinnied. I was in a cosmic and happening place, I met new collaborators everywhere I went, and man, did I go everywhere. Each of us in the family reflected our surroundings, and it was lovely, lively.

After the five months of the fall semester, the time was up. I wanted to stay. We could have done it, but there were circumstances, as ever; Liam was finishing high school in summer of 2015, Evan would finish in summer of ’16. Bill and I said, “we can move when Evan fledges”. This didn’t get us back to living as a family in a happening place, but the future was something we could move toward as two human beings in the third phase of life.

We went back to our rhythm of two houses, intersecting lives, monthly visits. Evan turned 18. I got lonelier. I contemplated, as I had for 24, then 25 years, the ideas of acceptance, the practice of waiting for the Future. The Future, as it turns out, does not actually exist. I’ve had some time to think that over.

Liam, Evan and Bill McKinnon, Christmas 2012

We have only the moments of the present, strung together like jewels.

If I was waiting, I spent my time well, I think- I worked on my books, I kept my projects hopping, I went back to MIT three times, and I even taught at the January 2016 term, which was a dream come true. I found my own academic home there, I found that I could stay if I wanted to. I felt welcome, valuable, valued in a place that was one of the best in the world. I felt at home.

It really all seemed divine. The timing was perfect; the kids were grown, Bill was of retirement age (but still had lots of juice and a towering stack of chewy Pluto, Europa and other work that he could do anywhere). And so in January I asked him to get ready to move to Boston. Oddly, against all expectation, he refused to leave St. Louis, then or possibly ever.

Leaving my marriage was a really difficult thing to do, especially over something we actually agreed on. How surreal is that? Quite recently, in an equally strange circumstance, he accepted a visiting position at JPL in Pasadena. He can work on All Of The Things, he can teach at CalTech. It’s marvelous, but the timing is hard for us to understand. In a way, we felt (and still feel) played by the play, as if we were performing the process of a kind of separation we were incapable of making without a prop.

I haven’t known how speak of what happened to our marriage without seeming to place the responsibility on Bill for reneging on the deal to move; this isn’t right, because that’s not how I feel, it’s not real. What happened was mysterious, and my desire to be moving in the world was just as much in play as his refusal to move, as was the feel of water moving, inevitability. Just as when we met.

I am convinced, as is Bill, that we played/were played by the Fates. I don’t think about destiny, but I do believe in work, and I think and trust that we have work to do that we could not have done if we had remained bound in that system, in that place. For me, it has already started in a flow that cannot be stopped; ideas stream out of me, they move into a fertile bed of minds in physics, in engineering, in the world of art, we are a sussuration of bees; we are creating work individually and together that we hope will stand over time. Soon, maybe, the wind-fall I’ve been dreaming will stand in the Cambridge skyline. I think so.

I say to Bill, when we ache together over what is lost (and we do) our separation may be as holy as our union. With Bri by our side, stalwart elf, we brought the two boys into the world, we lived a deep luck and love, and we have our family forever in our hearts. My love has no end, it wraps through time in all directions, love begins and ends and never ends in a hot flow through my heart and mind, I feel as close to the center of the Universe as I can stand and survive. I meditate every morning, and when I do, I run film of every person that I love, and I fill those images with as much joy as they can hold, like filling cups until they flow over.

And yes, love is everything, but I’ve had to come to a real grip with the idea that loving someone unconditionally doesn’t mean that you spend the human time-string of your life waiting for them to take actions. The neutral mind, the path of acceptance, these are beautiful ideas, but in practice neutral behavior contributes little more to the Universe than the existence of a tree, or a field of flowers. In fact, the tree does it better. Much better.

Anyway: sometimes the only way a person who is stuck can even take an action is if another person calls game. I understand being a forcing function, but in this context I am surprised to be the spanner in the works.

Bill and Evan in the Pear Tent

I’ve struggled somewhat this year professionally as the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork work (which I expected to publish in spring) exploded into arenas that I am still working academically (mathematically, in engineering and in physics) to understand; I am nearly a year behind my publication schedule, yet this is as I always have been and probably always will be. This is my life, this is who I am, this is consistent. I have to be thorough, I need to do my work in the way I do my work.

I take deep breaths, I visualize the whole set of books (I am working on three at once, because I am mad) finished, sparkling, correct. I see them riding out, as they always do, bound and clean and beautiful and into hands, minds.

I’m regretful that I disappeared for so long, but I didn’t know (and I still don’t know) what to say. I’ve really felt (regarding my personal life) that I should wait to speak until the dust settled and until each of us in our family had a chance to breathe and process the changes. And so here we are, here I am.

Moving forward.

Kate and Bill at John Waters in Boston 2014

Bill and Bri in the early morning

442 Bill and Evan web

Bill and Kate at Ricardo Cat
Bill McKinnon with tiny fall leaves and the Aqua Building

So much love under the bridge, and more yet to come.

boys walking me to steamy train

Bri and Kate under the Longfellow Bridge photo by Kyle Cassidy

“I wish you joyous and mysterious eruptions
of profound gratification and gratitude.
I wish you fluid insights and revelations that lead
to cathartic integrations on a regular basis.
I wish you the ripening of lucky trends you’ve worked hard to earn,
resulting in the kind of healing that allows your generosity to flow.
I wish you captivating yet relaxing adventures
that enable you to weave together diverse threads of your experience,
inspiring you to feel at home in the world.”

Rob Breszny


Until we meet again

Remembering Gwen; a post from the past on the anniversary of her death in 2013.

Kate McKinnon

My beloved friend Gwen Gibson passed away yesterday.  She was at home, surrounded by people who loved her, peaceful, accepting. As these things go, it was ideal.

Gwen in the kitchen at La Cascade

Gwen, in the kitchen of La Cascade, Durfort, France

I met Gwen when I went for the first time to the South of France and stayed in her lovely old house in the town of Durfort. The house is named La Cascade, and this is the street. The water down the center of the road is the old quench stream for the metalsmiths who created the copperwork that Durfort was famous for.


To quote Gwen, about how it came to be that she should own a house in the South of France,

“An appetite for fresh experience and the need to keep moving take me places I would never have imagined beforehand. Because I find the unknown tempting, I’m often drawn to projects…

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spheres of activity

It’s been fantastic to have Henry Segerman (OSU, mathematics and mathematical art) in town. He brought his Ricoh Theta spherical camera, and we loved it. Getting one of my own will really improve my ability to make searchable records of inaccessible sites; these huge images are zoomable, flyable, beautiful records of location. Not only that, if you record a talk with one, you can get the whole room.

Spherical Henry on MIT54 June 2016

If you had the stereo image, and the Ricoh Theta viewer, you could fly around this one, taken by Henry off of the edge of MIT54.

I have a couple of days to myself this weekend to get things in order for about 20 guests (scientists, engineers, and artists) and this is nuts but it’s going to be beautiful. We have three apartments, an auditorium, and a lot of energy. I’ll keep you posted.

Forward Motion at MIT

Work on practical ideas to take the Green Building at MIT energy-zero (and to do it beautifully) is rocketing forward. We should hear this month as to whether or not we’ve made the next wave of the Fuller Challenge; and if we have, we will be pleased to conduct our team interviews with our hard hats on, as we’ve already begun the work.

Arriving in about a week are a steady stream of engineers, students, artists and scientists, including senior program managers from Sandia Labs, Lockheed Martin, the Army and Navy science offices, NASA, DARPA and UTEP. Next week, before they all come in, our job is to gather as much data as we can on our site, our building, and its energy needs and usage.

Pei skyscraper at MIT.jpg

As you can see, the blank river side of the building is ripe for 20 slender stories of wind-eating. One of our most exciting teams (involving engineers from the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works and wind artist Ned Kahn) is dreaming up a wall of delicate turbines, something that blends seamlessly with the structure and generates big power.

The Pei is a historical building, so anything we propose for it must make sense architecturally and be almost transparent visually; this is an intriguing challenge and our success with that will determine our chances of approval. Frankly, only the boldest and most astonishing ideas stand a chance, and conveniently that’s exactly what we plan to deliver.

The idea of using beauty like these installations to generate power is compelling.

The principles of spontaneous cooperation are holding solid for our group. People who want to work with us know it immediately, and those who aren’t involved in the work seem to also know that intuitively. It’s interesting; I’ve never seen such a clear middle before. We experience the usual sort of pushback on a daily basis (this is unavoidable when you are working with disruptive ideas) but none of it seems particularly real or solid.

MIT has been extremely generous with access and support, and in addition to an access pass for the EAPS building (and the roof) the registrar’s office has given us full use of the gorgeous, vintage auditorium in the Green (below) and their Drama department has given us enough furnishings, costumes and props to turn both the auditorium and the empty palace we’ve heisted for our students (photo of the entry at the end of this post) into warm spaces.

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Although it’s unlikely that we would need a 250-seat auditorium for our own meeting space (our working group will rarely be more than 25 people) the setting will be perfect for filming interviews, talks, and for filling the blackboards with morphing lists of topics, tasks, and daily schedules. More soon.

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Camera Obscura Santa Monica

Momentum is the thing.

I study it, I try to maintain it. I figure that if I always keep moving I always have a store of it to draw on; I have something to convert to whatever might suddenly be required to keep a ship afloat, an idea alive, plates spinning, my trains on track.

Unbelievably, summer is here and I am on my way back to MIT. I seem to be slotting myself into their system between terms; there is no real reason for this except that I fit better. There is less competition for lecture halls, a smaller quotient of frenzy in the corridors. I’m doing a lot of different things there, but the first is architecture, the second is a gathering. If you are curious,  you can read an update here.

MIT Planetary Building.jpg

The tall building circled above is one of my first targets. It was built by I.M. Pei (as were many buildings on the MIT campus) and it’s problematic, iconic. Its problems come from the wind, which is insane off of the river. Maybe wind is easy to solve these days; a bit of aero kung-fu and what was once a problem can become a food source.

I am intensely interested in the wind at the edges of things. It’s ridgy, blade-like, and really really fast.

On the Roof IV by Josh

As ever and always, though, the real fact of the matter is that I want to play with the roof. I love it up there, and the structures are badly in need of maintenance, some are no longer safe to climb. Our engineering team is strong in fabrication, and I have taken a mania to replace the radomes (the big white radar balls, the largest one seen in the photo above) on the roof with 3D-printed wonders, gorgeous glorious things.

Of course I also want to take that big old radome off and put it on the roof of the Cambridge 7 (they are game for this) and use it as my own office, treehouse, lurk space. I want to broadcast messages from it if I feel like it, or have a pirate radio station. I want to live in it like a billboard, sleep in it like a nest, make a porthole in it to see the sky. I want to float it so it spins. I want to be assumed into it, like an old-school assumption into heaven.

It’s basically just a fiberglass Tuff-Shed on a stick, and it looks like this inside, as you may know if you have followed my various Roof Adventures. Currently it’s stuffed with old radar equipment.

radar ball header

Inside The Ball low res

Sometimes the light is orange, sometimes golden, sometimes bright red inside. It’s all about the time of day, the quality of the daylight. My Roof Dreams may not happen for me, true, but if not it won’t be for lack of effort. Anyway, ANY excuse to get up on the roof of 54 is a good one.


I could say so much more; it seems that everything in my life is in flux. I have deep wells of feeling about it all, and yet my energy is spoken for. I am unsure as to how to comport myself in written form beyond crafting the two books on the way to the press for the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork project. That work alone is enough to occupy anyone; to add in a discussion of my circumstances or feelings seems impossible.

For the time being, though, all I can do is keep moving forward and doing my very best at fulfilling each task I have devised, breathed life into, and committed my energy to completing. There is nothing in my life or on my dish (as Riccardo DiSalva says) that I did not create or ask to be born.

So for now, I am head-down, working, and in that is everything; and everything must be enough. But I can see a time that is open, like the light streaming through an oculus, and I am moving toward it.

Oculus 2 MIT Chapel

a wave of metalwork is coming…

I’m on my way to Tucson soon for the last Seed Bead Summit before the publication of the upcoming Pattern Book for the Contemporary Geometric Beadwork project. In the last few months, I’ve been gathering material, illustrations, ideas and examples into a glittering pile, and we’re ready for the final push to the press.

I’ve decided to make some metal components to go with the beadwork (this is always a desire of mine, and I rarely take time to fulfill it) and while I am doing that, I am going to make another series of rings and chains. YES. RINGS AND CHAINS. I just have a few categories up in the Shop now, but as I’m sure of what I am making, I will add more.


joined fine silver chain

Some of the rings are going to be skyscraper and Dali Summerhome rings, and some meditation bowls, and those are the ones that cost the most to make, so I’m taking orders for those. I’ll make 24 skyscrapers and 24 meditation bowls. Would you like one? If so, please order it now, or send me an email asking me to reserve one for you.

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For the chains, I’ll do a variety; sculpted, invisibly cut and joined, fused, forged… I’ll have a variety to choose from. What they will all have in common is pure fine silver, no solder, and a hand-forged clasp. I think I’ll make a dozen… there might be more, but I can’t promise –  if you want a chain, please let me know now.

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sculpted chain

I appreciate your support of these pieces, as their sale will fund the exploration of the new clasps and connection elements that will accompany the Pattern Book to the press. I can’t wait to show my new ideas for closures and morphing captures.

Goldberg Skyscrapers, fine silver, Kate McKinnon

To see piles of photos of metalwork I’ve made, just Google “Kate McKinnon Chains” (or substitute rings, metal, clasps or beads for the word “chains”). I’m going to make a little of everything, and especially toggle bars. I miss my toggle bars, don’t you? No one seems to do them quite like me.

And yes, of course there will be earrings. How could there not be?
Delivery May 15 for all the metal.
hugs! and thanks for your support.


Dapped earrings by kate mckinnon, fine silver, 2010

meditation bowl earrings

excellent fine silver and sterling earrings, kate mckinnon 2010

pinned bowl earrings