ADAA 2015 Faculty Profile: Kat Lees

I first ran across Kat on Face Book when I joined the Cloth Doll Artistry group.  Kat is a prolific artist and the part owner and moderator, along with her friend Connie Johnson, of the online doll club Cloth Doll Artistry.  Through this club, Kat and Connie offer regular challenges  and encouragement to cloth doll artists of different types and skill levels.  Kat has been teaching online for years, and I’m pleased that she is taking the plunge into in-person teaching at ADAA 2015!  Kat is a member of ODACA and the International Art Doll Registry.  Her work has been published in “Soft Dolls and Animals” and “Australian Dolls and Bears”.  Her work has previously been exhibited in Virginia and now is viewable through her website and the CDA group on Face Book.

Kat is teaching all three days at ADAA, with a 1-day class, The Pumpkin Coach, that can be combined with her 2-day class, Halloween Witch and Stanley the Cat.

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Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Hi Kat!  Describe for me what kind of dolls you create and what draws you to this type of sculpture?  Do you focus on realistic figures, fantasy figures, cartoons, caricatures or some other unique type of figure?

Kat:  I started creating about 35 years ago, during the cabbage patch craze, when I couldn’t get a doll for my daughter, so I took a class and made one.  Then I made 100’s for quite a few years.  That began my doll journey! 

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I wanted to be a cartoonist growing up, but it wasn’t in the cards.  My love for this style shows in my earlier work.  I enjoy creating fantasy and whimsy dolls because there are no limitations.  I started working my way into the clay world the past 13 years or so.  At this point, my clay of choice is paper clay.  I cannot make friends with polymer clay to save my life!

I am very inspired by glitzy, blingy, theater costume type styles and would like to do more of that in the future.  My strong points are portraiture, embellishment, and details no matter the style.

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Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Where did you start your artistic journey?  Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

Kat:  As I mentioned, my daughter wanted a cabbage patch doll.  I had always played with paper dolls, made houses, etc.  My two passions are painting and interior design.  I have been drawing from comics since grade school!  Even though I didn’t get to art school, I didn’t let the dream die.  I have succeeded in using my talent in my doll making.  I have always known I wanted to be an artist, but at the same time have been a creative DIYer!

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Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Are you a full time artist or do you have a day job?

Kat:  I am full-time when life doesn’t get in the way.  I was full-time in-between jobs, but I have been a full time artist, oh, for about the last 12 years, I would say.

Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Where do you find artistic inspiration?  Do you keep an idea book or journal?

Kat:  Everywhere! Going out to dinner, lunch, people-watching, television, plays, toys… especially toys for me!  From artists’ works I admire and will never do.  So many things can trigger an idea.  My biggest and best come from just brainstorming with someone – pure magic!  I keep several notebooks and sketch pads going at the same time.

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Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Describe your process for starting a new piece.  Do you know exactly how your pieces will turn out before you start sculpting/painting or do you allow your creation to develop as you work?

Kat:  It depends on what it is, if it’s for a challenge then the subject matter is decided ahead of time.  I get an idea, but creativity lends itself to letting my pieces evolve.   I have to say I never know how the piece will turn out, but I sure do have a lot of lucky finishes! 

If I am developing a pattern or online class, then my mind goes in a completely different direction.  In this case, I’m teaching technique, design and encouragement.

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Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Do you believe you have a muse?  If so, how does your muse express his/herself?  What happens when you attempt to ignore your muse?

Kat:  I’m not sure I would say I have a muse.  If I do, it’s brainstorming with someone.  The ideas just flow, the triggers that touch a note of inspiration are amazing.  I absolutely love doing graphics, logos, cards, invitations, etc.  Just give me one word or an idea and I can run with it completely… things just pop into my head.

Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Describe a day in your studio, when you have no other obligations.

Kat:  A day in the studio without obligations is gold.  As I have aged, I am finding I do not want to multi-task, I want to do one thing at a time.  So, If I am in the studio, I do nothing else… no interruptions, thank you very much!  I am not a fast worker.  I do admire fellow artists who just crank out 3 and 4 pieces a week.  I spend too much time on the details, love the details.  If I have other obligations, then very little gets done if anything.

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Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Describe an idea that you have that is yet to be born.  What is keeping you from starting?

Kat:  For 13 years now, I have wanted to do this piece in my head I call “Mommy, can I keep him?”.  I love giraffes, and in a dream, this piece came to me.  A little girl sitting on a baby giraffe, hugging him around his long neck.  I can see this piece so clearly.  What is keeping me from beginning?  I had to give myself time to learn how to create an animal the way I see it.  I needed to grow in skills.

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Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Do you participate in a regular art gathering, crit group, or other face to face meeting for the purpose of discussing your sculpture or creating it?

Kat:  I belonged to a fantastic doll club, “The Stitchin Sister” up until two years ago with Rose (Kat is friends with Rose Portman, another of our ADAA 2015 teachers).  This was a very active club which was so fantastic for 8 years.  After our friend passed on, the club folded.

Now a local United Federated Doll Club I attend at times.  I used to collect, now I collect only very special pieces from fellow artists.

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Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  What advice would you give someone thinking of trying to start up or find such a group.

Kat:  I would say go for it, just do it.  I was a leader of a club my friend and I started in Virginia for 10 years.  Here are some things to think about before starting:

  • IMPORTANT – LEARN TO DELEGATE RIGHT OUT OF THE STARTING GATE!
  • Decide what type of doll group you want ahead of time.
  • Take an ad out in the local newspaper, a blurb about the first meeting which includes:
    • The date and time you are having the meeting
    • The location
  • Pick a neutral place to have the meeting, we chose the local library
  • Be open to change of venue in the discussion as to what you want as a group.
  • Your first meeting will weed out the ones that are not serious right away.
  • The serious ladies that want your type of club will stay.
  • Decide if you want a formal club with dues or a relaxed club.  (Here in Florida, our dues were $60.00 a year and every year the club had a teacher come and members dues paid for the class.)
  • Decide if the club wants to include lunch.  Do you want to bring a bag lunch, or go out to eat or order in. This would be based on how long your meetings are held.
  • Decide on the frequency you are going to meet, once a month or more often.
  • Board members – even if it is an informal club, you need someone to take notes, if you collect dues, you needs someone trustworthy to do the banking.
  • Decide on programs, do you want to be active each month creating, or do you just want show and tell and a have a speaker or lecturer come.
  • It’s not hard to run a club, but it does need structure.

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Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Thanks for being so thorough with that question Kat!  You have some great pointers.  My last question is:  What is your favorite part of teaching?

Kat:  It has to be my fellow artists.  I absolutely love people, everyone has a story to tell and it is so interesting.  I love watching the joy in the artist’s face when they achieve that finished doll in class!

Amy, AnLiNa Designs:  Thanks so much Kat!

Kat Lees is teaching The Pumpkin Coach and the Witch and Stanley the Cat.  These two classes can be taken together for a complete project or you can take one or the other.

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