Katrina Niswander - fine artist, interior designer and coach
Toledo, OH / United States
Katrina, you are a fine artist and interior designer. Can you tell us all about your journey into the art world (brief bio/history/backstory)?
I fell in love with artmaking at a very young age. It was a safe space for self-expression and adventure in my young life! Art has been an important part of my life ever since those early days coloring on the floor (I still like to work on the floor sometimes!)
I found myself enamored with old photographs and began collecting them for my work while in college after going through my own family photos. The photos of those family members who I didn’t know fascinated me, and I found myself reaching for their portraits feeling an odd connection and wondering about their lives and their stories. Shortly after I began expanding what feels like my little extended family by collecting and working with found vintage photos!
Old photographs are the main focus of your work as an artist. Could you please describe your art process?
I collect old photos from wherever I can find them. I buy them online, at flea markets, antique shops, and garage sales, and sometimes copies are even given to me!! I then carefully scan the photos for reference. Sometimes, I simply use the photo as a reference and create a piece completely by hand and other times I paint directly on top of archival inkjet copies - as a way to interact directly with the person in the photo. The choice is intuitive and the process is often a little different with each series. Sometimes, I pick images that come together or fit a certain theme - like my most recent “Snapshots of Childhood” collection, or the female portraits over decades in my “Past Lives'' collection - and create a series of images in coordinating color schemes and motifs that speak to each other. Other times, I pick random photos that I am called to and sit with each photo separately and let the photo speak to me, creating a new graphic world specifically for the characters in the frame. Many times a single one of these “conversations” can spark a whole series.
(If anyone has any photos they would like to send my way for open-ended use in my art - please contact me at email@example.com).
How is your art practice and the process different to your practice as an interior designer. Do you combine your two passions?
Art and design are very much related. I’m fascinated by the psychological effects of both! It’s all so very personal - the art we connect with and the way we can design our spaces to support and inspire us every day! It’s all so very impactful!
I find that many of the skills I have learned as an artist serve me as well when working in spaces!
Each interior design client’s project is highly individualized - but my favorite moments are often picking color palettes, textiles, local art, and even working with the client on custom DIY or Interactive art projects for their spaces. I am incredibly inspired by the effect that powerful art in our spaces can have on us - and I make sure to encourage incorporating art, and artful living ideas into every project.
What inspires you the most?
I think I was born a hungry child. I find myself constantly inspired by all the sensual deliciousness that the world has to offer. I always found myself drawn to celebrating the beauty and making things more beautiful in my world. What started with my art supplies as a child quickly morphed into a fascination with all forms of aesthetics, human expression, and a passion for all of the beauty life has to offer. Sometimes the most productive thing I can do is step out of the studio and recharge that creative battery by exploring that beauty in the world around me. Often that involves time outdoors or hunting for vintage treasures for myself and my clients - Discovering small roadside museums and attractions, and delicious stops for food along the way!
Truly, I am the most inspired by all the beautiful people I see around me living fully authentic, unapologetic, color-filled, artful lives.
You are also a life coach. You offer Interior Design Consultations. How does it work and what are some of the most common areas you address during these consultations?
With my interior design work, I work with individuals one on one to help them design uniquely personalized supportive spaces. This process always starts with a discovery call/ meeting - usual on Zoom! I want to make sure each client understands what I do and make sure we are a good fit! I am not your average interior designer - I do things a little differently! The process is very hands-on and very much about the client and what will uniquely serve them, support them, and inspire them in their space. I’ve had clients call it “design therapy” because we go DEEP!! As such, I often work in spaces that are deeply personal and often multifunctional - bedrooms, living areas, and working areas.
Over the last year, I’ve moved completely remote in my work and it’s been quite eye-opening! It’s been beautiful working with clients in different areas and seeing how empowering it can be for them to be so hands-on in the process. It’s an honor to guide and assist them!
Life coaching came along as an extension of my interior design coaching work. One of my greatest gifts is my ability to truly be attentive, listen, and to truly see someone. My design work is different because it goes deeper. My life coaching work is taking that even further. It is self-worth and mindfulness focused and informed by my own personal healing journey - and also highly personalized! This work can often include some work on spaces (what we surround ourselves with has an impact of course!!) but takes additional time to guide and assist the client in the non-spatial realm! It’s about helping the client take that time to deeply get to know themselves and love themselves while learning practices that support developing high unshakeable self-worth!
You’ve also created a Facebook group called Your Authentic Space. What’s the purpose of this group and who can join?
My dream for Your Authentic Space is for it to be a unique safe space for like-minded individuals to share ideas, concerns, and tips for their spaces and their lives! This is a place for people who want to truly live their best lives and are interested in all the juicy delicious details! I share tips and tricks weekly, and it’s a great place to ask for advice in your space and share your own tips! Anyone is free to join!!
What's the message behind your art?
I create visual love letters between past and present by rescuing discarded photos & creating new lives for these found figures. I search high and low for once treasured and now discarded photographic relics and create work that gives them a second life on the wall. I use mixed media to blend textures and surfaces – often working directly on top of photographic reproductions to create graphic new environments for these paper doll characters. The art lives to celebrate the small moments in our lives that seem to pass by with little weight yet stick with us as fond memories forever. Many of us have lofty expectations for our lives – but in the end, it is those small simple moments we share with one another that make each of our lives beautiful. This work serves as a playful reminder to always make time to truly be present and enjoy these special moments. It functions as a totem of our past and of our growth as we move towards even more beautiful futures.
What does your art do for you?
My art is an integral part of who I am. When I don’t create I truly feel like a piece of me is missing. I can't stay away from the studio for long. It allows me to connect to the past, our shared ancestors, and to open up myself to others in a way I maybe never would have otherwise. Time seems to slow down when I am creating - both looking at art and creating it has a uniquely magical way of grounding us in the present moment that cannot be matched!
The connections that I have made with both collectors and other creators through this work are some of my life’s greatest treasures!
What are your dreams, plans and goals?
My past dreams involved simply being able to create art and share it with the world - so simple. In the Midwest where I was raised being an artist was considered a far fetched dream! I love where I live but I find there is a lot of scarcity mindset that I have had to overcome that is deeply embedded in the culture. I am so grateful for that dream and so proud to call myself an artist.
As I grow I am learning to dream bigger and bigger. My biggest dreams involve opening more and more eyes to the power and beauty art and design bring to our lives! I want to connect and share with more and more people and place art in more and more homes around the world! Building the “Your Authentic Space” community and sharing my gifts and knowledge with others is a huge part of that. I am open to wherever this journey takes me!
In my studio, I am currently working on more offerings involving personal photos such as workshops and interactive commissions, and a new series that will drop late this summer!
I have also been putting lots of time into collecting all the knowledge that I put into my coaching work to translate it into more offerings as a way to serve more people, particularly us women! Stay tuned!!
What is your advice to fellow artists who want to work with old photographs?
Follow your heart and know that no one can create quite as you can. I’ve been immensely inspired by all the wonderful artists out there who are working and creating with vintage photographs - and all in their own unique way! Don’t be discouraged if you run into anyone who doesn’t seem to “get it.” Nothing is for everyone. Know that there are plenty of us who do - as a matter of fact, I have two beautiful friends who have created a magazine and a community for just those people: it’s called Photo Trouvée Magazine. Check it out for lots of inspiration!