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Kenyon-Made: An Interview with Katharine Watson ‘09

Though she’s a finalist on Martha Stewart’s “American Made” competition and hails from Hong Kong, we like to think of Katharine Watson as being Kenyon-Made. HerCampus seized the opportunity to sit down and chat with a woman who can honestly say, in her own words, that graduating with an art major from a small liberal arts school does not necessitate becoming a starving artist! I was lucky enough to meet Katharine during my awkward teenage years at summer camp in Vermont, but you lovely readers have the privilege of getting to know her right now!

Let’s start off with the basics:

Name: Katharine Watson
Hometown: Hong Kong
Where do you live now: Hyde Park, VT
Major While At Kenyon: Studio Art and International Studies double major

Favorite movie?
Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion

Favorite book?
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

When was the last time you reconnected with your Kenyon peers?
Two days ago at my roommate’s wedding, actually!

What’s the first thing you would do if you could be back at Kenyon right now?
I’d get a Thai Chicken Wrap at Middle Ground (RIP) and hang out in the living room of New Apts D-1 with all of my Kenyon friends.

What’s your favorite Kenyon memory?
I could submit a full-length novel full of my favorite Kenyon memories. Seriously you could have interviewed me on that subject alone, though I guess it’d make a pretty dull read for everyone else.

But if you had to pick one?
Probably biking on the Kokosing Trail to get ice cream.

What is your official occupation as of right now?
Artist and printmaker

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
I would love to still be running my own creative business and working as a printmaker. Things have been growing so quickly over the last two years, I can definitely see myself doing this for the long run.

That’s great! Do you have any big goals for the future?
I would love to expand my business to have more employees and evolve my position into more of a creative director!

Can you explain this Martha Stewart American Made title for which you are currently contesting?
Of course. Martha Stewart is currently hosting a competition to find the best “American Made” product or artist. Martha chose 100 finalists out of the over 2000 initial applicants, and I made the final cut!

That’s an impressive feat, why did you choose to enter?
There are some amazing prizes, including the grand prize of $10,000 and a feature in Martha Stewart Living magazine.

How did you get initially become involved in art?
I’ve been drawn to art ever since I can remember…since I first picked up a crayon, I guess you could say!

What advice do you have for art majors looking to parlay their skills learned at Kenyon into a career? (a.k.a. what’s your secret to success?)
I’m sure a lot of Kenyon students—both art majors and otherwise—are interested in the answer to this question.
You can make art into a career without starving! I think there’s this whole concept that you have to make huge sacrifices to become an artist and you’ll be living on rice and beans forever.

That’s a relief!
It definitely takes hard work and long hours, but if you really want to work as an artist you can…people want to buy art and support you. After a year of working a few different jobs (some simultaneously) after graduating to pay bills while I got everything set up, I was able to support myself entirely through my art business while still being able to afford rent, food and going out.

What gave you the courage to take the leap?
When I was at Kenyon I didn’t believe that you could support yourself through art until I sold a painting at Middle Ground. That was a real light bulb moment because I realized that I could make things and not just have them sit in my studio as I drained more resources to make more. I learned that art could actually be a self-sustaining process.

So, in summation?
In order to make it work you have to look at art as a business as well as a passion. It’s not all romantic, but it’s workable.

Who is your biggest inspiration?
Anyone who has made a career doing what they love.

How did you get started in the art business?
My friend (and fellow Kenyon alum) grabbed an application for me as we were walking through an art market one day. I signed up to participate in the market with nothing previously prepared and hastily put together some new work to show.

And it was a booming success?
Not quite. But I covered my costs and I loved the feeling of selling my work and having it on display. So I signed up for more markets and after about a year I started bringing in enough money to leave my other job and focus full time on printmaking.

Last thoughts: what advice do you have for this year’s graduating class in regards to entering the real world?
Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t succeed, and don’t feel bad if you are still serving coffee while your friends have office jobs. Everyone does such wildly different things post-graduation, you just have to follow the path that works for you (is that cheesy?)

Maybe, but it’s sure nice to hear.

P.S. Don’t forget to vote for Katharine Watson, Class of ’09 in the Martha Stewart American Made competition!  

Ally Bruschi is a senior political science major at Kenyon College. She spent this past summer interning as a writer with both The Daily Meal, a digital media group  dedicated to "all things food and drink" and The Borgen Project, a non-profit organization that partners with U.S. policymakers to alleviate global poverty. Before entering the "real world" of jobs, however, Ally spent many summers as a counselor at an all-girls summer camp in Vermont, aka the most wonderful place on earth. A good book, a jar of peanut butter, a well-crafted Spotify playlist, and a lazy dog could get her through even the worst of days.
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