Gallery 323

Kat Luginbuhl: a there from here interview

Kat Luginbuhl

There from Here: conversations with practicing artists.

I met Kat in the Art building at Goshen college when she was a senior and I was a freshman.  We had a jewelry class together and I was fascinated by her use of found objects and recycled materials in her work.  In particular I remember a pendant (pictured below) Kat made using pop bottle caps and bright orange tin from a can.  Kat continues to use her keen design sense to create captivating pieces of jewelry.  

You can follow Kat on instagram @katluginbuhl


How did you fit art in and around you life?
I come from a lineage of artists and art has always been a part of my life. From a very young age I was encouraged to draw, play, and experience art. Art was always my favorite subject in school which, sure enough, led me to major in Art and Graphic Design at Goshen College. 

Do your goals involve making art and jewelry your main source of income?
Yes! My 2017 goals are to continue making more engagement rings and wedding bands, to create more variety of jewelry items offered on my Etsy site, to enter my work in Art/Craft shows, and to expand my client base for Graphic Design freelance work.

Do you have a ‘day job’ in addition to your artistic pursuits?
I recently moved from Nashville where I worked full-time as a Graphic Designer at a custom t-shirt design/print shop. Now I am in Ohio and I run an art gallery (Gallery 323) that my late father had started in 2014. The gallery features local artists’ work for sale.


What does a day in the life of your job look like--do you keep a schedule?
My day can look different depending on what projects I have. Typically I set a goal for each day to complete all or part of a task. I always have a physical list for the day. There is nothing more satisfying than crossing something off the list. I don’t do well sitting for long periods so I go on a walk or run sometime during the day. I also like to mix up my mediums and work part of the day on jewelry and the other part on graphic design. I run the gallery Wed-Sat for 4 hours each day and this has been an excellent schedule for me to work at the same time.

What physical space do you have to make your work?
Gallery 323 is actually in a house where there is a gallery space in front, and a studio work space room connected to it where I work. Then Jeff and I live upstairs in a tiny apartment. The studio is approximately 12’ x 16’. It’s a huge space for me considering my medium which is tiny wearable art. It is also the space where my Dad made ceramics in his retirement. It’s a sacred space for me where I can feel connected to my Dad while I make art.

What does success look like to you right now?  Having time in the studio, meeting other makers, selling work, coming up with new designs, etc. ?
Success to me right now means allowing myself to be an artist full time so I can live up to my full potential! I had a full time art job in Nashville, but it didn’t allow much time for me to work in my jewelry studio. Now I am in a new space with a lot more freedom pursue my jewelry work alongside my graphic design work.


How do you come up with projects, or decide which one to do next?
I’ve been lucky to have fairly steady commission work lately for both jewelry and graphic design. I have a daily task list along with a master list of all of my projects. On the master list I have the approximate deadline written down for each project. Even if there isn’t necessarily a hard deadline for a project I assign it one to keep myself moving on it. My project flow moves by due date deadline.

What do you do when feeling creative block?
I usually either end up staring into space for awhile or I go outside on the porch. It’s too easy to aimlessly scroll through social media sites during these blocks so I try really hard to avoid the internet for inspiration. I find that occasional blocks are good (not in the moment) because they can result in you eventually reaching that exciting “aha!” moment.

What project are you most excited about right now?
Right now I am commissioned through Blanchard Valley Hospital. They’re opening up a new Women’s Center in Bluffton and I am making enamel butterfly necklace charms as part of a fundraiser/Mother’s Day gift package. The campaign will continue through the year so I will make charms as orders come in.



Have you ever done commission work--if so, what is your approach to working with clients?
Yep! I do my best to communicate effectively. I think it looks good to a client to provide regular follow-ups and updates on how a project is moving along. I mostly communicate with clients through email. It’s the best way to keep track of communication and to be able to go back and review information. But if I am working with a client face-to-face I write everything down. 

For jewelry projects, the specifics I nail down right away with a client are timeline and price points. The next important pieces of information are materials and aesthetics. For example, I make engagement rings—I like to allow about a month for completion. Some people want it to be a complete surprise. Others like to get their significant other involved in the design process and then make the surprise part the question pop! Either way I try to get some idea of aesthetic preferences by having the client send me pictures of other jewelry they wear or examples from google. It’s an exciting process!

What revisions have you made to this process through experience?
In my t-shirt graphic design job I learned how effective email communication can be. When there was an error on the t-shirt design the only way to figure out who was in the wrong was to go back and review the information provided in the emails. Since that experience I’ve always preferred communicating through email over phone, mainly when receiving important data information. 

Another major lesson learned is to discuss price and payment details right away in the first discussion. It’s so important to lay out expectations on both ends from the beginning.

How do you price your work?
I give myself an hourly rate and then add on material costs to that. Once I’ve priced one pair of earrings I generally give the next similar pair of earrings the same price if they’re about the same size. It’s tough because sometimes creative blocks take up chunks of time so it can feel like a project took longer than it actually did to create.

Where do you sell your work?
I sell my work in the Bluffton gallery that I run (Gallery 323) and Etsy.


What have been some proud moments for you through this process?
Since I come from a lineage of artists I’ve had a lot of built in connections to other makers over the years who knew and respected my Dad and Grandpa’s work which in turn gave me a leg up—and I’m certainly not complaining about this. :) Though I’ve always appreciated this it’s put me on a critique cushion. My first really proud moment came when I moved to Asheville, North Carolina right after college where I had zero family connections. I brought my art to a gallery to try to sell/display it there and I received incredible feedback and criticism of my work. It was so refreshing to hear from someone who didn’t know anything about me personally! 

What do you do for self-care as an artist?
Making jewelry is surprisingly physically taxing on the shoulders, back, elbows, hands and fingers. I try to get massages every now and then and doing yoga helps.

I allow myself Sunday (and usually Monday) to take a break from art and do other tasks like gardening, cleaning, and relaxing!

Who have been some influential people you have met along your way to becoming an artist?
As mentioned above my Dad and Grandpa have been the most influential artists in my life—they were both Ceramics professors. Another influential person was Judy Wenig-Horswell at Goshen College. I took my first jewelry class from her, which was metal casting, and I fell in love with the medium! Then Kristi Glick helped me continue to love it and she guided me through my senior show. A 2017 goal is to attend workshops to learn new skills and meet other fabulous makers!


Tell us a fact we might not know about you.
I am a pretty stellar ping pong player. :)

Do you have any book, movie, or podcast suggestions (art related or otherwise?)
Lately I’ve been watching a show on Netflix called Abstract: The Art of Design. Each episode looks inside the daily life and career of a big-time designer.