Kathy Robinson is a batik artist who works with silk, velvet, and wool. She hand-paints jackets, scarves, wraps, purses, ties and other accessories. Kathy creates feminine, bohemian and eclectic pieces, all done using the traditional batik tjanting to outline the designs before they are painted. They are then waxed and dyed several times. Her designs are carried in galleries and shops across the country.
I have known Kathy for many years. Our sons went to school together back in the early 90’s. I always loved her work. It is so elegant and creative. It is always fun to see someone wearing a piece of art. Thank you Kathy for doing this interview with me!
Kathy, I read in your bio about your recent trip to Italy and the Florence Academy of Art. What was your experience like. What exactly were you doing at the Academy of Art?
- I have traveled to Italy several times in the last 5 years-my last trip in October I spent time sketching and photographing ancient ruins of Pompeii, Venice, Lucca and the very colorful island of Burano off the coast of Venice- this as a matter -of-fact was the inspiration for my latest batik wearables collection. The time before that I did an intensive summer program at the Florence Academy of Art taking classes in the Academic method of Figure Drawing- learning the Renaissance Sight-Size technique and working from casts (plaster casts of antique statues) to render proportion correctly and model the effects of light and shadow. These were techniques that I had not learned in design school and were quite a challenge for me since I am used to doing my batik technique from my imagination and not from what I see in front of me. Art history tours of the Accademia and the Uffizi and just soaking in the sculpture, architecture and layers of history made a deep impression on my work
What’s the best thing for you about being an artist?
- I find one of the best things about being an artist is the way that you can look and take notice of the patterns and colors of nature and then create something from that inspiration. It is a way of “seeing” even when you are not conscious of doing it. When the ideas are flowing, I want nothing more than to be in my studio, absorbed by creating. Also, seeing one of my customers put on a piece of my wearable art and lighting up and feeling glamorous for that special occasion is always a pleasure for me.
What’s the worst thing about being an artist?
- One of the worst things about being an artist is that your income can be very hard to predict and base a budget on. Another difficult part is having to deal with rejection when applying to shows and having your work turned down.
What is batik tjanting?
- The batik “tjanting” is a metal tool w/ a spout and wooden handle used since ancient times in Indonesia and Africa. It is dipped into a pot of simmering wax and then the melted wax flows through the spout to coat the fabric and create outlines.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
- It takes a dogged persistence and belief in what you are doing to succeed as a craft artist- you have to wear so many different hats-promoting yourself, continually coming up with new designs, producing, staying in touch with customers and/or galleries-up-dating your website etc.- it definitely helps to have some background in business also.
You have been doing this for a long time. Did you ever feel like giving up?
- Sometimes when there have been periods in my life that I have not felt inspired to create that can be very difficult especially when your income depends on it.
Could you tell me a little bit about “Artista“?
- Artista was created with myself and two other craft artists as a means of showcasing our own work along with that of other artists- with a focus on local talent. Having a gallery in Mount Airy, a neighborhood in Philadelphia that I have lived in for 22 years, and being able to participate in the community is very important to me. It is a very exciting time to be here and watch the growth. Many of the artists that we show are right in the neighborhood and my own studio is just a few blocks away. Some of the things that we do at Artista are: feature different artists every First Friday and have fundraising events for local organizations to benefit those in need in our community several times a year.