We had the good fortune of connecting with Katalin Ehling and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katalin, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Actually, I never thought of it as a business. I was schooled for two full years in commercial art at the American Academy of art in Chicago. Then for one year, I lived at home and worked nearby at a research center on the campus of the University of Chicago. This to fund my one year trip to live and continue art school in Paris. All came about as planned. After that fabulous year, I returned to Chicago. Because I was broke, I found a well paying full time job on Michigan Avenue. During that time, I met my husband to be. We married in 1966, then moved to Arizona one year later. In tow was our six month old daughter. Once there, I took up drawing and painting on my own. Since we lived close to Phoenix college, I continued night art classes. Friends and neighbors bought my oils of still lives. Next came a trip to San Francisco. We naturally did the museums and galleries. That is where I discovered batik, in a small gallery on Maiden Lane. The art work in the window caught my eye, it was so unusual. My curiosity paid off: that is when and where I discovered batik and got hooked. The two of us clicked and before I knew it, I was creating and selling batiks as fast as I could. It lasted for decades and I never looked at it as my “business”. It was a gift which opened doors for me to many galleries in the southwest and elsewhere, International Batik Conferences in Belgium, Germany, Boston, etc. Since I worked many hours of the day, often ’til midnight, the wax fumes started to affect me. Then I would take weeklong or more breaks and turned to watercolor, original print making (serigraphs and stone lithographs), mixed media, straightforward drawing and autobiographical collages. I did continue to batik but mainly using the less demanding batiks on paper. Now that I am in my 79th year, I can look back and honestly say I never looked at any of these successes as business, but more of a blessing. The best part has been the close connection with my myriad of collectors. The best gift of all has been the long lasting and close friendships of my sisterhood and brotherhood of artists.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally? What sorts of challenges are you facing?
This has more or less been covered by the previous question. Was it easy? Overall: yes. But more of a challenge creating art and being a full time mom. My blessing was that my studio was part of the house and I was always there for the kids. Fortunately, they were and still are quite self sufficient and are extremely creative in their own ways.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Depending on the time of the year, hang out in the backyard by the pool. Road trips near and far, sketchbook always at hand, to share the wonders of Arizona. Depending from where they are visiting, we love introducing guests from far and wide to our Southwest cultures and foods. If from overseas, the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Monument Valley, Lake Powel, Sedona. For the foods of the southwest, we like to take our European guests to the local ones in the Cave Creek and Carefree surroundings. Without question, the art scene in the Valley is always a must, especially visits to the nearby Musical Instruments Museum, Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost, my husband Helmut Ehling. Being a full time engineer, he also became my full time “art boy”. He became an expert framer/packer/shipper. Second, the blessing of two understanding and self sufficient children, who turned turned out to also grow up to be very talented individuals. Then all the galleries who carried my work for decades not only here in Arizona but in many parts of the country. The European batik community really changed my perspective on the possibilities of the art. Finally, nothing could be more special than my Monday morning ART/TALK buddies. We have met weekly almost non-stop since spring of 1997. Two of us started this weeky gathering of local artists, to show and share our works with critiques given when asked, sharing how we make our art, sharing thoughts and ideas, sharing art books, articles, etc.
Other: I am active in FB and somewhat on INSTAGRAM. but I don’t have the links info for either.