Spotlight on Katharine Gotham!

by JoAnn Frekot

This month's post features OT Artist Katharine Gotham, who joined the studio in 2022.  

JF:  How would you describe your artistic journey so far, Katharine?

KG:  I think the main theme is "adapting to change."  As I look back, I see I've taken what looks like a zigzag path.  

How so?

I began defining myself as an artist in high school, where I had a great art teacher.  I began building my portfolio and was seriously interested in attending art school after graduation.  But my father, who's had a large and wonderful influence on my life, suggested otherwise.  This was my first major "zig" on the zigzag.  So, I went to Rutgers and studied English...but spent all of my spare time in the art studio.

Rural Delivery Route, Katharine Gotham

Tell us about your college art studio experience.

One of my Freshman year sculpture pieces was of a ceramic human hand morphing into a starfish, and my professor was very encouraging.  When I walked into a ceramics class in my second year, I was crestfallen to see the studio was filled with potter's wheels. Much to my surprise, I fell in love with it and spent the next three years studying pottery.  Another "zag" on the path!

I studied with an art professor named Ka Kwong Hui, who did ceramic sculpture and was a collaborator with Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein.  He was a very demanding teacher and a man of few words.  One semester, I worked very hard and developed an entirely new body of work.  And then he gave me a B+ (laughs).

What did you do after graduating with an English degree?

My boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, where he enrolled in graduate school and I got a job as a graphic artist.  In my spare time, I worked in a shed with a kick wheel  (that my father helped me build) and continued to develop my work as a ceramicist.  

Over time, we moved to Maryland and other spots around Washington, D.C.  I got into the futon industry (as a graphic artist and other related roles) but continued doing ceramics and started selling my pots.  

What happened next?

In the summer of 1993, my husband and I were starting to think about the next phase of our life and agreed it was time for a change of scenery.  That's when we decided to embark on a cross-country road trip.  

Sounds like another sharp turn on the path.

Yes, it definitely was. We packed up our Toyota Tercel and visited everywhere, from Chicago to Yellowstone to the San Juan Islands, enjoying every moment along the way.  

Fairly early on in our trip, we arrived in Minneapolis on a perfect summer day.  It was love at first sight.  The following year, we ended up moving.  

What did you do once you arrived in the Twin Cities?

I had many connections in the futon industry and was offered a job at a futon frame manufacturing company.  The next year, I switched to a futon textile company and landed a dream job in product design and development.  I also got connected to the Northern Clay Center, which gave me access to studio space, teaching opportunities, gallery sales and grants.  

When our son was born, days became busier and life changed once again.  

How so?

I decided to leave my futon industry job and focus my time on family and ceramics.  With more time for ceramics than before, I received national recognition and had my work published in the New York Times, among many other publications. Despite my success, things started to feel routine.

I was spending more and more time on the surfaces of my ceramics and adapting the forms to accommodate them.  When I caught myself starting to refer to surfaces as my "canvases," I realized my interests had evolved.  I decided it was time for another change.  

This was about eleven years ago.  

What did you do then?

I really believe in the power of working with good teachers, so my first step was signing up for a painting class with Richard Abraham.  I still work with him today.

I also took figure drawing with Louise Gillis, portraiture with Suzanne Beck, and landscape painting with Joe Paquet.  

What was changing from ceramics to oil painting like?

It was a huge adjustment.  I realized I'd been drawing on curved surfaces up until then, so I basically had to start over learning to draw.  I also had to learn about composition, working with a new medium, color theory, and atmospheric perspective.  

It was also quite humbling.  There were times when I questioned whether I'd made the right decision.  I felt like a failure at times, and worried that my family felt disappointed in me, as in "Mom's a student instead of a teacher now."  Making this kind of change can be a blow to one's psyche.

How did you come through this?

I learned that one's ego is the enemy to learning.  I had to put my ego aside in order to move forward as an artist.  

I began applying to shows and was encouraged as I started to gain momentum as a painter.  I exhibited and sold my work at Loring Park Art Festival and was accepted into regional and national exhibitions.  

Her Story, Katharine Gotham

How did you come to join OT Artists?

I'd been renting studio space at Northrup King, but found the commute to be problematic.  And setting up studio space at home didn't work...there are too many distractions.  I heard that OT Artists had an opening and joined in September, 2022.   

I really like the setup here.  It's close to home and I enjoy talking with other artists.  Community is very important to me.

What are your thoughts about what's next on your artistic journey?

I'm going to predict there will be another "zag" along the way.

For now, I love working on still life painting in the winter, participating in landscape competitions in the summer, and figure drawing year-round.

My next painting competition is as a Featured Juried Class Artist in Red Wing Arts in June.  

I'd like to work on larger pieces.  The challenge for me is to make the subject matter of a larger piece compelling enough to command that size.  Stay tuned for my next turn in the road!

Thank you, Katharine, for sharing your story.  

If you'd like to see more of Katharine's work, her website is 



  1. Wow Katharine is incredibly talented with hand building, on the wheel and on the canvas, very impressive. Look forward to following her next zag.


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