By Bailey Blaker
Artist Katharine Watson ’09 shared her story of success with a roomful of receptive students and faculty in Horvitz Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 16. Watson came armed with a bundle of her own crimson-stamped stationery, a staple of her independent printmaking business.
Watson was an international studies major at Kenyon and studied abroad in India during her junior year, when she came into contact with many of the floral patterns that inspired her later work. “Seeing the way different cultures have different artistic traditions has been really helpful,” Watson said in an in an interview with the Collegian.
Watson also found inspiration closer to home. During her senior exercise exhibit at Kenyon, she found that “focusing heavily on just one thing” allowed her to “get into the mindset for [life] after college.” Indeed, Watson’s postgrad mindset does seems to focus on one thing: work.
Today, as an independent printmaker, Watson fills wholesale orders for her prints that can total up to 25,000 cards. All of her cards are either hand-pressed or fed through a printing press dating back to the turn of the century.
In the last five years, Watson has gone from working two jobs and printing on her kitchen counter to making art full time in her own studio in Vermont. Her journey from the humble art tents of Washington, D.C. to the much larger stage of the National Stationery Show in New York has been paved with hard work and persistence. She has spent many nights hand-printing cards and traveling from show to show, sharing her story with as many customers as she can.
Watson began her artistic journey in Associate Professor of Art Read Baldwin’s printmaking class. There, she immediately felt an affinity for linoleum cuts — an affinity that Baldwin shares. “[Linoleum] seems to have a bold or essentialized way of communicating information,” Baldwin said. “To see the instant of ‘love at first sight’ between a person and a process is a very exciting thing.”
Watson “always had a plan,” according to Professor of Art Karen Snouffer. She was always “very balanced in her attitude toward her work,” Snouffer said. Watson was receptive to constructive criticism never questioned suggestions about her art, according to Snouffer.
During her presentation, Watson urged the audience to work hard, even in the face of “art block,” or the artistic version of writer’s block. She advocated being present in the studio even if you aren’t actively making art. Watson said that the Pablo Picasso quote, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working,” serves as her motto.
Find what you’re good at, be consistent and find your story; these were the three themes Watson touched on as her presentation came to a close. She emphasized the importance of being true to your own personal style of art and the need to develop an online presence. Watson has both a personal website and an Etsy shop she uses to sell her merchandise online. She also licenses with other companies to cut back on production costs.
For Peter Wear ’16, Watson’s presentation acted as an “interesting wake up call.” Wear is currently in Baldwin’s printmaking class, and as someone who has entertained the idea of an art career, Wear found that seeing “what it is like for artists in a professional setting” helped him make sense of the practical applications of art.
With a range of products including greeting cards, calendars, personal stationery and custom party invitations, Watson has created a line of merchandise with broad appeal. To see her work, go to www.katharinewatson.com or stop by her Etsy shop, etsy.com/shop/shopkatharinewatson.
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