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.

Abbie Adams: a there from here interview


I first met Abbie when I started my undergraduate studies at Goshen college.  She was one of my brothers friends, but more importantly, exasperatingly good at whatever she did.  I ran across Abbie again when I moved to Pittsburgh PA to participate in a program called PULSE,  where Abbie was a second year fellow. Since then I have stopped following her from town to town and keep up with her work online. Abbie currently resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her partner Ben.

In the past year Abbie took the leap to make herself a bad-ass boss.  She now spends a significant part of her work week doing drawing and design work as a freelancer.   You can find Abbie's work on Etsy, check out her website, and make sure to follow her on instagram @abbieaadams.

All Photos are courtesy of Abbie Adams


What were you doing before making art your "day job"?

I was working at a local arts and community non-profit here in Pittsburgh. My main job was acting as the Space Rental Coordinator, as well as coordinating some community arts programming. Because my job was so people-oriented, I made many connections over my two and a half years there. Some of those people have become clients of mine, and it connected me to a great community of artists and creative minds! 

How did you fit art in and around your life?

I was a participant of Pittsburgh Urban Leadership and Service Experience (PULSE) the first year I moved to Pittsburgh. During that time I was working on a lot of projects just for fun during the evenings and weekends. When ended up doing a second year of PULSE I was able to use the five hours of seminar time during the workweek to work on projects. I was getting more commissions, so that time filled up very quickly. I have also always worked out of where I live, so it makes it easier to drop in and out of work as needed.

What prompted you to shift your focus to making art for a living?

There were a number of factors at my job that were turning me into a constant ball of stress. When I started thinking about changing my situation, this was a possibility. More and more of my time was being filled with projects for clients and I thought I could grow those opportunities even more. Freelancing was something I knew I wanted to try at some point, especially while living in Pittsburgh because this city makes it possible. So I sat down and wrote out a budget for the year. Between my husband, Ben, and I, we figured out how it could work financially so I went for it!



What does a day in the life of your job look like?

Every day is different, although I have found that it is best to keep my days structured. I try and tackle emails in the morning. My tasks typically come out of emails-if it isn’t written down, it doesn’t exist! I keep a chalkboard by my desk so I have a visual working list for what is in the works. I assign a deadline to everything even if it doesn’t require one, so those set the course of my work. Little things help like always getting dressed and taking breaks while eating.

What kind of schedule do you keep?

Ben is convinced I work more now than I did before I left my full time job, which is probably true! I really try to take one full day off a week-typically Sunday. And during non-busy seasons I try to not work in the evenings. The nice part of freelancing is that I do have some flexibility in my schedule, so I can adjust my time with whatever is going on.

I have learned that setting boundaries is important-when I’m not a work, work is off-limits. But it also goes the other way...when I am working, it’s not time for chores or errands just because I am at home!  On days when I am working from home and haven’t left the house I try to make it a point to go on a walk, run errands, or see friends in the evening.

I also have a part time job that is entirely unrelated to any of the work I do. I am there 2 or 3 days a keeps me connected to people, and it gives the week a structure for my schedule.

What physical space do you have to make your work?

I work from our apartment. I have a corner in the dining room with my computer, desk, and supplies. There are also so many things stashed away all over our house in whatever corner or drawer I can find! When I’m working I often expand onto the dining room table, but because our place is small I try and clean up at the end of each day. It is a nice way to transition out of work, and keeps both of us sane in our living space!



How do you come up with projects, or decide which one to do next?

This past year I did a lot of what came my way-I was open to working on almost anything. I rotated between graphic design, my online shop, and commissions. I did a few projects that were motivated out of my own interest, but more of my time is now oriented around working for and with others. I was never at a loss for what to do next, but am excited to start honing in and pursuing work that truly interests, excites, and challenges me this year!

What do you do when feeling creative block?

On my good days I walk away. I can typically gain perspective on what I need to do when I come back and I try to be as rational as possible. On my not so good days, I keep working until I am even more frustrated than I was (never good) and then I look at other people’s work (almost always never good) and then complain about it (always bad). Typically I am just experiencing a block on one piece or project, so I go to work on something else until I can come back to it. The projects that I have blocks on almost always turn out to be the best ones because I have to spend more time working through it.

What project are you most excited about right now?

I have some collaborative projects coming up with other artists. It is a nice change of pace to work with others, and collaborations often push my limits as far as skills, mediums, and visual vocabulary!

I am also working on ways to better connect my passion for girls and women’s issues into my artwork. I love making work simply for the aesthetic, but I have found that I am most excited about and challenged by using my artwork as a platform to visually talk about these things.



You have done some commission work, what is your approach to working with clients?  

A large portion of my income is commissions and most of my clients come through recommendations. Aftering doing them for a handful of years, I just streamlined my process this holiday season which is making a huge difference in how smoothly everything runs for both me and the client!

As an example, I do a lot of house portraits. Once a client has approached me I walk them through what their options are for the final piece. Additionally I ask for specific types of photos, give them payment options, and set timeline expectations. Clear communication upfront is key to keeping the back and forth conversation and revisions limited!

What revisions have you made to this process through experience?

I keep all client conversations on email so that everything is documented and easy for me to review. I also now ask for payment upfront-not because anything has happened to me personally but I have learned from other people’s stories!

How do you price your work?

For commissions I have created a pricing matrix. I factor in size, complexity, time, and materials and can give the client a very good idea right away of what the piece will be. I have a sliding scale for prints and other paper goods. Typically when I need to come up with a price for something, I throw out a number and live with it for a little bit. After a day I can typically feel if it is too low or high. I also look at what else I offer to make sure everything is scaled correctly. I am always looking at what others are selling their work for-I have a few artists that I follow closely and have a similar pricing model to.

Where do you sell your work?

Right now I am just online through my own Etsy site. A 2017 goal is to start selling in shops!



What surprises have you encountered in your first year?

One of the biggest surprises is how quickly circumstances can change. There are days where you are questioning if you should be doing this work, and then next day you are offered an amazing project, commission, or opportunity. There are projects that fall apart with pieces that can later be salvaged for another, more successful project.

What have been some proud moments for you through this process?

I was unexpectedly featured on a few different blogs and websites this past year. That always elicits a happy dance from me! When you are working alone, recognition from others can be a big boost.

How did you respond to situations that did not go as planned?

I have had both situations that unexpectedly succeeded, as well as failed. In both cases, I am learning to ask for help. The successes I have experienced are not just my own-they happen because of the support and often time of others helping me to get work out the door! And the failures happen too-I have learned it is good to ask for advice in those situations from people doing the same work. Failure is not uncommon in this line of work, but I have found a great community of people to share knowledge with and those are the times when I learned my biggest lessons!



Tell us a fact we might not know about you.

I play the piano! I have been begging for one for our house, and love to practice whenever I have a chance.

Do you have any book, movie, or podcast suggestions (art related or otherwise?)

Right now I listen to a lot of 99% Invisible, a podcast about all of the things we experience but often don’t think about in design. My favorite podcast this year was There Goes the Neighborhood-a series about gentrification in Brooklyn. I am also a huge fan of Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings and will read or listen to anything she posts.


There From Here: a series of artist interviews

There from Here

There is a saying attributed to people from Maine that goes "You can't get there from here".  Maine is infamous for having convoluted road systems and getting directions can be quite complicated.  The saying insinuates that the directions to get from one place to another are too involved to explain to the person asking.  I often feel that asking artists how they got started elicits the same response, you can't get there from here.  

This year I am starting a new series of blog posts documenting emerging artist's transitions to making art their full time gig. I want to demystify the various paths that people have taken.  As an emerging artist myself I hope to answer, through the example of those a few steps ahead of me, how to get there from here.