Profiling Bibliographers bring subject-specific expertise in their book-in-hand evaluation of titles. Kathleen Dustin profiles Art and Religion.
by Amy Fournier, YBP Library Services
Michigan native Kathleen Dustin has been an artist since she was three years old. Well, that's what her mother would tell you.
"I was always making something when I was little, and my mother told me that I was an artist," recalls Kathleen. "In my teens, however, I thought art was dumb. Art was something that you took in high school to get an easy A."
So Kathleen decided to study mathematics at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, instead. There an inborn wanderlust brought her to the American University of Beirut for her junior year from where she traveled throughout much of the Middle East. At Hope she met her future husband, David, and after graduating Magna Cum Laude, taught math to GED students. In 1973, her career took another turn when she took a job as a computer programmer, working with a huge IBM 360 mainframe computer.
Her mother continued to encourage her artistic talents, and at age 27 Kathleen listened. She took some art classes, began to build a portfolio, and in 1979 earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in ceramics from Arizona State University.
Kathleen's husband's job as a government contractor maintaining U.S. Air Force bases abroad landed them in Saudi Arabia in 1980, where they lived for three years. "As a self-employed artist, I was able to bring my work with me."
Kathleen was heavily influenced by her time in Saudi Arabia. She took some graduate courses in Islamic art and architecture, which shaped her early work. The culture's traditional use of intricate geometrical patterns tied into her background in mathematics and became a key component of her art.
The Dustins lived in the Washington, D.C. area and then in 1990 moved to Turkey. "Travelling led me to a change in materials necessitated by the difficulty of transporting ceramics equipment," Kathleen says. She began working with polymer clay, a relatively new material in the art world. Polymer clay, or polyvinyl chloride--the stuff of PVC pipes--is a clay-like material that comes in many colors and is not fired in a kiln, but rather baked in a standard oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
Kathleen took techniques from her experience working with ceramics and glass and brought them to her work with polymer clay. She has since invented new techniques that cannot be achieved with ceramic or glass, and is on the cutting edge of this new artistic material.
She is widely regarded as a pioneer in the medium, and is credited with taking it far beyond the hobbies and crafts arena. She has been featured in publications including Ceramics Monthly, Ornament and The Boston Globe, and was one of 10 contemporary artists profiled by Smithsonian magazine in May, 2000. She has also authored several articles about polymer clay.
Since 1975, Kathleen has been the sole proprietor of Kathleen Dustin Design, a successful studio art business, and her work is held in private collections around the world as well as in permanent museum collections in Massachusetts and Wisconsin. She and her husband have also raised two daughters--the older graduated from her parents' alma mater and is now in graduate school at the University of Michigan. Her younger daughter also currently attends Hope College and is majoring in art.
Kathleen joined YBP Library Services in 2000 as a Profiling Bibliographer, after moving to New Hampshire with her husband, whose family originally hails from the state. At YBP, her background makes her an expert evaluator of books dealing with art. In addition, her time abroad combined with her experience leading a Bible study group have given her the perspective needed to review books in religion and theology.
She continues her art, and today shows her work at two or three shows per year, up and down the East Coast. For the last five years, her focus has been on polymer evening bags. "It's about making something beautiful," she says. "Not just something that hangs on the wall and collects dust, but something functional. It's wearable art." Her evening bags feature intricate designs and patterns, from Islamic influences, and many incorporate female faces and features. "My work is pretty personal, almost autobiographical. It's about what I'm feeling at that moment."
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