Thursday, February 21, 2008

Artist In Depth~ Katie Runnels

All photos copyright Katie Runnels
I came across Katie Runnels blog The Constant Gatherer a few months ago. I was intrigued with her unique style and her creative way of putting together natural and vintage elements. I fell in love with her yarn wreaths and nests. I wanted to know more about her creative journey and her work, so we "sat down" for a chat. I thought you'd enjoy what she had to say...

AM: What is your art background?

KR: I went to graduate school for painting at Savannah College of Art and Design. It was hard for me to situate myself in the Fine Art department as I have always been a crafty girl at heart. I came to find out that there was a movement in art towards craft and I particularly became interested in creating art about women and their handicrafts and other issues. I read one artist who said, “All d├ęcor has subtext” and that was my Oprah aha moment! If I just look at all the things we women do and have done to create our homes, our world, and make it a better and more comfortable place for our families and ourselves-there is endless fodder for examination. I know that for myself, and most women I know, that our environment plays a huge role in our emotional and physical well-being. Our “nesting” instinct is very real and the creativity that ensues can be just as amazing as it can sometimes be wacky. I’m especially inspired by the “Gee’s Bend” quilters, who through amazing hardships, persevered in their homes by decorating the walls with any magazine pages they could find and by sewing extraordinary quilts from whatever scraps were scavenged or leftover after years of wear and tear.

AM: Your work contains lots of vintage and found objects. Tell us more about how these things inspire you.

KR: I think my use of the bell jar came from a love of creating dioramas or little environments- not much different from the ones I made for my Barbies or dolls when I was little. I also hate to draw and have always struggled with it- so tracing, collage and assemblage became my methods. My mother influenced my collecting instinct. I used to accompany her, begrudgingly, to many an antique store and our home was always warm with her artistic and decorating efforts. She is a fantastic painter-her style somewhat like the Russian Impressionists-and she continues to produce work that is becoming highly sought after! (We kids try to steal the works she hides or wants throw away!) I think I most admire my mother’s perseverance. She continually strives to learn and practice more, even though she could easily teach classes of her own!

AM: You have a blog, an etsy shop and now your own shop. How has that progression gone?

KR: I began shopSCAD with my best friend, Amy Zurcher after I graduated SCAD. I was married last October, which brought me to Columbia, South Carolina and in search of a new place to work. I ventured out into the country outside Columbia, to a quaint little town thirty miles north called, Newberry. Much like Mayberry, Newberry has a Main St. filled with charming mom & pop shops and restaurants. I settled into my new studio on Main Street where I had more than enough space to set up a studio. I decided to try to become part of the community by opening the front portion of my space with its original glass display windows as a small gallery/shop. Also- to help pay the rent I began a little online shop at Etsy which between that, and blogging, has opened up a huge new world of artist friends and connections.

AM: Your blog is The Constant Gatherer, that seems so fitting, how did it come about?

KR: I wish I could say I thought of “The Constant Gatherer” but I have a fondness for always being on the lookout for fantastic shop names- and this name was the title of an article in one of my magazines that I clipped. I’m afraid I don’t remember which one.
I thought the name pretty much summed up what I do in this life. I think most people can relate to it as well! I began my blog after being so impressed with Design*Sponge, Poppytalk and especially artist’s blogs like Housemartin, Wee Wonderfuls, and Posie Gets Cozy. Before that, I though blogs were only for the self-obsessed, my-space kind of person- whom I, of course, was not! But these blogs became addictive! I thought that it would be the perfect means for me to continue communicating with friends, family, and clients that I have had to leave behind. I have always fantasized about being involved in magazine publishing, and I think this sort of plays on that as well. Blogs are fantastic for me too because I used to collect magazines, off the rack, like a drug-fix, and I really cannot afford it. My favorite blogs keep me in touch with the design world-and I don’t have to buy special storage containers to house them!

AM: What impact has blogging had for you?

KR: I think blogging helps me get my day going. When I discover all the inspiring things that artists are doing, and that women are building, it puts a fire under my butt to get busy! I think all the eye-candy on the internet truly is addictive!

AM: Your home was featured in the November 2006 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. That must have been a great experience. How was that?

KR: Better Homes and Gardens featured me back in November, 2006. I was completely broadsided when a friend of mine and shop-owner in Savannah, Alicia Minton, told me she was going to tell her friend, an editor for BH&G, to scout my house for the magazine. I wasn’t even finished moving in at the time and looking back at the spec photos she took- I am amazed they gave me the chance! It was very fun but nervewracking! I didn’t have much money and there were still wires hanging out from the kitchen walls where my friend Amy and I had done some “remodeling”. It was the nicest my place ever looked-as it was usually a wreck littered with 12,000 diet coke cans, clutter, and dog hair.

AM: Who are your favorite artists?

KR: My all-time favorite list of artists and designers: Christian Boltanski, Joseph Cornell, Marlene Dumas, Frida Kahlo, Anselm Keifer, Eva Hesse, Cezanne, Rebecca Purcell, Alabama Chanin, Julie Heffernan, Justine Vranian, Tamar Mogendorff, Bettina Speckner, Tara Donovan, Trish Andersen, Monica Cook, Lauren McIntosh, Brian Slagle, Nathalie Lete, Colette Calascione, Lyndie Dourthe, Jill Schwartz, Denyse Schmidt, Giselle Potter, Manon Gignoux, Todd Oldham, Amy Zurcher, my mother-Bonnie Runnels, and Denise Falk (my mentor at SCAD)-and lucky for you I know I am forgetting some!
AM: As far as your art being very nature-oriented. Has that always been a common theme in your art?

KR: I think that the natural element in my work is something I came into after school. I primarily identified with "girlie" things- e.g. paper dolls, doll clothes, fabric, needlework, and crafts.As I got older and had a home of my own I started caring about the yard and creating a garden and caring more about the animals. I think it spilled over into my work. My parents garden is a huge part of their life, as was their parents, and I only recently started to appreciate the hard work that went into them. My grandmother was very much a bird enthusiast, as was her mother. I inherited a collage my great-grandmother made sometime in the thirties with flowers, leaves, birds and photos of her family. It is one of my most prized possessions.

AM: Where do you find your goodies? Do you go to estate sales..antique shops…flea markets?

KR: Yes- I'm always on the lookout for pieces to use in my work. Sometimes I'll realize that something I've had for awhileis the impetus for a new work. I like to go to antique malls: the dingier, the better! I only recently started really going to auctions and antique fairs. It takes a lot of stamina! My favorite fair is Metrolina in Charlotte, NC. I also comb Ebay everyday and rely on saved searches and my favorite seller lists.
AM: I noticed on your flickr that you also paint. Do you find your moving more into that…or away from that…or is it just on a whim?

KR: I go back and forth between painting and mixed media assemblage. I thank Robert Raushenberg who invented the 'combine' painting which allows me to do both!I realized in my art classes that there needs to be content behind which method I use. Sometimes, an image can be translated best for my story by painting it, other times the original image can stand on its own. It all depends on the story I'm telling or my reasoning for using the image-or truthfully-if I can paint it or not!
Katie's Contact Info: Katie Runnels-1202 Main St. Newberry, SC


Thanks so much for all the inspiration, Katie!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful interview, artsy mama. Stay warm in your corner of the twin cities.

Suz from Saint Paul

Anonymous said...

I am always impressed with your "interview" posts! Thanks for sharing another beauty with us.

I hope you will be able to join in my March 1 Spring Fling Tutorial Challenge...I know anything you would come up with would be a great addition to our spring decorating party!

The book looks like it is going to be a real winner and I can't wait to get a hold of a copy when it comes were one of my earliest blog discoveries and still one of my favorites!

Jessi Nagy said...

awesome interview.
im off to go check it out a little more.

Anonymous said...

great interview. i love her work!

Tara said...

my son attends art college in NYC. I am going to forward your interview ti him--lots to learn here!

Jeanne said...

Another great interview Kari. Katie's work is quite inspirational and it's always fun to learn about new artist's.
xo jeanne

Anonymous said...

I loved this interview. It was so interesting to read about her background. I had to laugh about the diet coke cans :) Now, I need to go visit her!!

Linda said...

Thank you so much for introducing Katie, I have just been over to her blog, wow is she amazing. Great interview.
Cheers Linda

Sandy said...

Thank you for introducing this artist! I love her work and your interview posts rock!

Alison Gibbs said...

Kari that was a great interview and fabulous work by Katie.

biscuits said...

I have always been a fan of Katies. I also enjoy your blog. How can we look at some of her mothers paintings.

Mom O Matic said...

What beautiful work! Thank you for sharing this artist.

Our Hands For Hope said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for always providing inspiring eye candy for all of us addicted to art, crafts and blogging!
I check for new posts by you almost everyday! yikes!


AmyB said...

Great interview! Thanks for introducing me to this artist! - Amy Buer

Monica said...

Great interview. Thanks for sharing!
Have a great weekend Kari!

Whitney Johnson said...

That was the first blog interview I've read! How fun. Thanks - and I am loving your site - I've added it to my list of favorites on my blog!

Laume said...

Thanks for introducing me to a wonderful new artist.

lindaharre said...

Great Post! Thank you! Isn't it fun to find out about what makes other artists "tick"? Love it!!!!1

shopSCAD said...

Wonderful interview! You really showed the Katie I know and love and in that all the magic that she makes. Thank you for bringing such attention to such loveliness!

Amy Z.

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I totally agree with the article.