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Genue Inc.
July 14, 2017

Genuinely You: Kat Lee

Kat Lee is a Philadelphia-based potter and art teacher who lives with her husband and dog in their newly purchased home. I first saw Kat’s gorgeous ceramic cups and bowls on display in the halls of Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, and I’ve been hooked on her work ever since! Read on to hear Kat’s go-to spot when she’s feeling stressed, what she’s learned about art from teaching students with learning differences, and her favorite thing about being a potter…

 

View More: http://haleyrichter.pass.us/katkyle

 

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

My name is Kat Lee. I grew up in Philadelphia and am currently living with my husband, dog, and two cats in Germantown. I went to Tyler School of Art and graduated in 2014 with a BFA in ceramics and a teaching certification. I am currently a functional potter and full-time middle and upper school art teacher. I just finished my third year teaching students with learning differences. I have a studio set up in my house that I am so eager to use (just finished setting it up!). When I was younger I took a lot of inspiration for creativity and problem solving from my parents and my brother. We are all artists in some fashion. My mother is a poet, my father dabbles with pretty much anything he can get his hands on but an interest in building furniture with wood, and my brother is an architect in Texas. My family has always been very supportive of my passion for the arts.

 

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How did you get started with ceramics?

To be very honest… I liked the people in that department at my art school the most! I touched clay for the first time my freshman year of college in foundations. When it was time to choose a major in college I wanted to be in a department I could learn more than techniques from. I loved the energy and kind nature of the ceramics program at Tyler. So, I chose ceramics. It was only coincidence that I fell in love with the material.

 

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Where have your creative endeavors taken you since graduation?

After graduating from Tyler I was immediately awarded the Windgate Fellowship. This fellowship set me up for my next journey as an artist. I traveled to Amsterdam and London to visit museums and gather inspiration for surfaces and interior spaces. I have been making work off my collective studies in college and as an artist. I have been selling more that showing. I really enjoy knowing my pieces are being used. I would sell through flea markets, museum gift shops, and boutiques in Philadelphia and Dehli, New York. I was a participant in the Small Favors show a year ago at The Clay Studio. My focus has been on making mostly.

 

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Can you tell me a little bit more about your experience as a Windgate Fellow?

The Windgate fellowship is an annual fellowship given to 10 graduating undergraduates in the crafts field. This fellowship is national and requires a prerequisite of support. Each university nominates 2 candidates. Those two candidates, with the help of a mentor, write up a grant proposal for how they would spend the allotted $15,000.00 to further their work. My mentor was Nick Kripal. He was so supportive and guided with patience. After being chosen for the award, I traveled for two weeks. My favorite place was Amsterdam for sure! My sources for inspiration were really surprising—it wasn’t the museums I had asked to visit but the walks around the neighborhood and pace of living.

 

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What’s it like being an art teacher for students with learning differences?

When I was student teaching I knew I wanted to work with a different population of students. I don’t know what pulled me in that direction but I just knew that was where I wanted to be. When it became real that I would be teaching at a school with students who have learning differences, I was honestly VERY nervous. More than the student population I was slotted to work with, I think I was most nervous because I realized I was taking a job as a real adult where I’d have to put my degree to work! Once those “adulthood” nerves settled, I fell into my position as the art teacher for these students—I should say, artists. My experience of being a teacher to these artists has been an adventure. It’s not an easy position but it has pushed me to think deeper, care more, prepare for the best and the worst, and empathize for all kinds of human differences.  These students have given me a look into every type of creative mind. This position as a teacher has helped me become a more open-minded artist, and in becoming a more open-minded artist, I have become a better art teacher.

 

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How do you balance being an artist and a teacher?

During the school year I juggle teaching with my personal studio practice. And it is HARD! I would dedicate a few hours or minutes to the studio during the week and on weekends. During the summer I work in the studio almost as if it was a shift (8-5) This schedule allows me to keep making a fun event for me, not a job. This way my pieces come out better as a result of a positive energy in the studio.

 

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Your days/life/schedule seems so busy! Do you have any go-to’s or rituals for when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed?

I actually love walking my dog with my husband around our new beautiful neighborhood or hanging out with friends outside. I found that the best way to unwind is to vent, then forget. I have the most supportive husband, family, and friends around! My most private way of unwinding is actually walking around Ikea. I love all the patterns and vignette rooms – it calms my mind to be around organization and structure.

 

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Besides IKEA, what do you do or where do you go if you want to feel inspired?

This is a hard question. I think that I draw inspiration from all aspects of my life. From patterns on curtains and rugs or gallery visits. However, I did realize that it hits me the hardest when I see industrial (geometric) patterns in nature. For example, a sewer grate in the Wissahickon or the lines that make up a design on tree bark.

 

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What’s your favorite thing about what you do?

As a potter, I love being able to make something with my hands. You physically change a blob of mush into a functional and purposeful object. It also allows me to zone out. The repetitive patterns actually calm me down. At the end of the day, I love that someone can use it. It lives with people day to day in their routine of drinking coffee out of a mug or picking flowers to put in a vase.

 

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Photograph by Haley Ritcher

 

What is your overall design or maker philosophy?

As a maker: try to maintain its playfulness and don’t turn this strictly into a job.

As a designer: a candid hand drawn line is more beautiful, in its look and intent, than one created with force. A line will be the line it wants to be.

 

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Genue celebrates designers, makers and creatives that are unabashedly themselves. What does it mean to be “genuinely you”?

Being genuinely myself means balancing all of my passions, interests, duties, and curiosities at once, while still doing the laundry in a timely manner. I want to do it all while color coordinating my accessories. I always overbook my passions but I think that is okay. I always get told that I’m doing too much, to slow down or take a year break from my thoughts (haha!) but this is the only way I run 🙂 Oh well!

 

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Photograph by Haley Ritcher

 

Thanks so much, Kat! Tune in at the month for our next feature!

 

 

 

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