Who would have guessed that a mother, or in this case, Kathleen Dustin’s mother, would know just what her daughter needed to pursue in life? Despite her mother’s recommendation to major in art, Kathleen Dustin followed a very different path into mathematics. It wasn’t until she was 28 that she realized her mother was right: she needed to follow her dreams and her passion for the arts.
While still working at her “real” job, Kathleen set up a ceramics studio in her parents’ basement. She also went back to school and received her MFA in ceramics from Arizona State University. While in grad school, she took a metalsmithing course, but realized it wasn’t for her. She preferred a medium that was “laid back,” as she says, something that allowed her to create what she wanted without the resistance of sawing, hammering, or filing. This is what drew her to ceramics.
For a ceramicist, it is quite difficult to create work away from the studio and while traveling. Kathleen and her husband traveled overseas for a few years due to his job, which made it difficult for her to pursue her art. That’s when she discovered Fimo, a German brand of polymer clay, which was not only wonderful to work with, but also highly portable. She eventually quit ceramics to focus on working in polymer clay.
When she came back to the United States, Kathleen was introduced to a small network of artists working with polymer clay. Alongside them, Kathleen became one of the pioneers of the polymer clay movement. Since polymer clay was such a new medium, the group did a lot of things themselves: they invented polymer clay millefiori and created their own techniques, tools, and ways of connecting.