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Artist Feature: Kathy Luther

With a cheerful combination of patterns, textures and colors, artist Kathy Luther brings a modern twist to an ancient art. As a retired art teacher trained in multiple art mediums, Kathy is best known for the original mosaic works she creates in her home studio from earthenware tiles.

Visitors to the artist cooperative Gallery 4, where Kathy is the longest participating member, often ask to see work by “the mosaic lady.”

“There is just something about glaze and clay that is really attractive,” Kathy said. “People are attracted to uniqueness. I’ve been a member of Gallery 4 since 1987, so when people like my work, they know exactly where to find me!” Despite being trained as an art teacher, in her chosen medium, Kathy is self-taught.

When her kids were little, Kathy was considered the “church artist” and was asked to do a series of huge panels to commemorate seasons of the church.

Originally, I was going to do different media for each panel, I started with mosaic, which I had never done before—and I just kept going and going and going. I was using broken-up bathroom tiles, which was a unique medium at the time; no one else was really doing it.”

– kathy luther

Kathy also has many commissioned art pieces to her name. Including a large tile mosaic of Fargo that hangs in the elevator atrium at the new Sanford Health hospital in Fargo.

Even her smaller works garner attention. Heart-shaped magnets or phrases on magnets made from clay are popular in Gallery 4’s Made In Fargo gift shop.

Kathy’s art has evolved over the years as she left bathroom tiles behind and experimented with other materials including stained glass. Now, while she may incorporate found objects, wood, or metal, most of her work is made using homemade tiles she creates in her backyard pottery workshop. “It’s too messy to mix with anything else—I often wish I would have chosen something neater,” Kathy laughed.

Her above-garage mosaic studio is where she brings the newly created tiles to assemble into her many mosaic works. “I start with a cartoon drawing, then put it together like a jigsaw puzzle,” she said. “I can do any texture, size, shape or color. The possibilities are limitless and that has kept me going.”

While Kathy uses a lot of stamps and tools to create a variety of textures and patterns on the tiles themselves, she also brings her love of nature directly into her work.

“I love to garden; I like to press plants into the clay to get images,” she said. “Pressed in, you notice all the little details of the plants and weeds. So now I plant things with pretty leaves that make good prints.”

While Kathy summarizes her process with cheerful simplicity—starting with a blob of clay and ending up with a mosaic—her investment and care are evident in every stage of the multi-step process. Her original tiles, unique compositions and careful choice of tile placement combine to create a style surprisingly whimsical for such a durable art.

It is oddly appropriate that Kathy has chosen a medium known to last for centuries. Lighthearted yet sturdy, organic yet classic, her style is clearly meant to stand the test of time.

Written by Brandi Malarkey

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