Member Spotlight - September
Robin grew up in Wisconsin where her parents made the arts a part of every day life in her home. Robin’s grandfather was an architect and an artist, and many of Robin’s relatives were artists. Her mother was an artist as well and also sewed Robin and her sisters’ clothing. She repurposed and recycled objects and furniture that was used as furniture and furnishings in the house. Under her mother’s guidance, Robin learned to sew at a young age. Her mother often used patterns, and then added her own touch and always used excellent craftsmanship to make unique garments.
When Robin’s family moved to Illinois, she became interested community service opportunities. Robin was one of 3 students involved with the founding of the Naperville Recycling Center and she served on the Center’s Board. She also had an internship in ceramics. After high school, Robin pursued her interest in art and enrolled in the School of Art at Northern Illinois University. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Fine Arts with an emphasis in jewelry/metals. After graduation, Robin managed a restaurant and met her future husband Louie. They settled down in the DeKalb area and raised four children. Their children are accomplished visual artists and two are also musicians.
When first married, Robin started working at a So-Fro store. Eventually she was able to put her sewing skills to use and taught sewing classes at a sewing machine dealer’s store. Robin continued her mother’s legacy of sewing garments for her children. Her daughter Rachel told Robin that the “display” garments that she made for her sewing classes and brought home after a class ended, were her daughter’s favorite hand-me-downs. Of course, it was probably not a coincidence that Robin conveniently made the display items in her daughter’ size!
When Robin was unable to find the fabric that she wanted for a project, she found her way to Fine Line and took one of Denise Kavanagh’s weaving classes where she learned to make her own fabric. Because she had her mother’s loom to inspire her, she continued to take classes so she could learn about the “structure” of weaving. Eventually, Robin began teaching weaving at Fine Line after Denise passed away and found that she enjoyed teaching. Robin continues to take workshops at various locations to develop her weaving skills and bring new ideas to her classes.
Over the years, Robin added enameling to her teaching repertoire, returning to her roots in metals at NIU. She feels enameling, along with weaving, allows her to explore shapes, colors and patterns. She still enjoys spinning, which she says is very satisfying but less messy than ceramics. She also works with fabric collage, which she can “step into” at any time since she usually has several projects in progress. Drawing is something she wishes she had more time for because of the discipline and practice required. Robin enjoys the “figuring out” stage of artwork, which is why her favorite part of weaving is the designing or “setting up” stage.
When asked what she would like to see at Fine Line, Robin said she would like to see more diversity at Fine Line. She said there are many populations that Fine Line can reach out to, including young adults, who would benefit from the opportunity to participate in classes, workshops and activities on campus.
Robin has this advice for students and visitors to Fine Line: “Make time for what is important to you.” This philosophy also mirrors what Denise Kavanagh encouraged in her students, saying you can find time for things you really want to do.
Robin maintains a Little Free Library in front of her house. Her son Alan made her library box and a bench that provides a place for passersby to stop and read a book. According to Wikipedia, the Little Free Library program is a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 that now has 90.000 registered LFLs in over 91 countries. The motto of these neighborhood book exchanges is: “Take a Book – Leave a Book”.
You can find Robin’s work in the Dempsey Gallery in the Fine Line Barn. She has also had her work included in the annual Uncommon Threads wearable art show / boutique and in the 2019 Fine Line / Water Street Anniversary Show in the Norris Cultural Arts Center. Robin is a member of the Handweavers Guild of America.
Kathi was born on a farm in Nebraska and moved with her family to Colorado when she was young. While attending Colorado State University, she loved painting the scenery and flowers but also painted other subject matter as well. After college she pursued her painting in a model studio in Venice, California.
When she married, she moved to the Fox Valley area with her husband and raised her two children here. She had the opportunity to take her first class using watercolors at the West Dundee Library. It was when she had her children that she switched from oils to watercolors. At first it was for practicality: she painted in the dining room, and watercolors were quicker to clean up when the children were up from their naps. Eventually she found she loved the watery effect that she got from watercolors and the ability to go back and include small details.
After Kathi retired from the FermiLab Human Resource Department, she has continued to paint in watercolors and is able to spend more time perfecting her craft. She has found herself particularly drawn to flowers and nature. Over time she has painted house flowers to prairie flowers, but is especially fond of painting orchids, all colors and types.
After seeing the work of several artists studying at the Morton Arboretum and being impressed with their work, Kathi enrolled in their certification program, earning her Watercolor and Illustration Certificate in 2015. She credits many of the students she met in those studies with having a positive influence on her painting. During her classes there, she also began expanding her repertoire to include pen and ink and colored pencils. During this time she began working again in oil but with water-soluble oils since they were easier for cleaning up.
Kathi continues to paint and has spent much of the time during the Covid 19 quarantine pursuing her craft. She estimates that she has completed an 11 X 14 piece every few weeks. But her artwork does not stop at painting. She makes jewelry by inserting miniature prints of her paintings into cabochon pendants, embellishing them and adding vintage-like charms. She also likes making up-cycled silk scarves with wool felting, a technique she learned at Fine Line with Cynthia Boudreau and has found a great love of needle felting.
Kathi has memberships in many art related organizations including the Fine Line, Gallery 200, Natures Artist Guild, Du Page Art League, Geneva Art Guild, Water Street Studio and St. Charles Arts Council.
Her artwork has been displayed at Gallery 200, Natures Artist Guild shows, Du Page Art League, Norris Cultural Arts Center, St. Charles Arts Council, Fine Line, Batavia Public Library, Greater Geneva Studio Tour, West Chicago Public Library, Water Street Studio, and the Fermi Lab Employees’ Art Show. Her newest places to display her work are at Gia Bella in Batavia, West Chicago’s City Hall, and starting in September at the Rustic Fox in North Aurora.
There are many places where you can find Kathi’s work. (You may have seen some of Kathi’s earlier work as a student and artist as Kathi Schmick and Kathi Luedemann.) She has her work at the Fine Line Christmas Show. She has her work at the Vintage Market in North Aurora. She is at http://kathikuchlerart.artspan.com
(Vida provides opportunities for persons in Pakistan and India to participate in the making of garments and accessories using a person’s art with proceeds going towards their education.)