Written by Kevin Coyle
Deciding to dedicate your life to happiness is a fantastic idea, but it can be absolutely terrifying. I say this because I left my job in marketing research to pursue my passions for the arts about six months ago. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into Moore’s MFA program as a Studio Art candidate. This is where I met Kathy Bachofer.
Kathy is a fabric artist who knows all about that terrifying aspect of the pursuit of happiness. She has a demanding full time job for a tech company and is a mother to a 10-year-old. She also recently finished an accelerated six-week semester at Moore College of Art & Design.
It was an intense semester. We had 10-11 hour days in lectures and studio, followed by several hours of homework. I felt like my head was spinning everyday, I can’t imagine how Kathy was able to do it.
While Kathy was amidst this chaos, she still found time to work and spend time with her family. It’s safe to say Kathy is a badass. I wasn’t able to focus on anything but school for those six weeks, and Kathy did it all with grace and success.
You’ve found great success in your life as a computer programmer, and now you’re pursuing your dreams as an MFA in Studio Art candidate at Moore College of Art & Design. Was there a specific moment when you decided to go for your MFA despite having a fruitful career in computer science?My background is in computer science although now I’m more of a product manager. I have a great boss and work for a good company. I’ve had a good career but realized this isn’t something I want to do for another 20+ years.
There wasn’t a specific moment that pushed me to want to get my MFA. When I first went back to school to get my Art degree, I didn’t think it would lead to an MFA. The more I get involved in the art world though, the more I feel like it is where I belong. I’m a firm believer in following your dreams and this is part of the journey for me.
Computer programming is a male dominated industry, so how does being a woman in that industry inform your work as an artist?
In college and at some points in my career I’ve been one of only a few girls in a group. This never really phased me as growing up I always had more guy friends than girlfriends. I’ve always been comfortable just being who I am in the situation.
I’m not sure being a woman from the computer industry informs my work as much as just that I come from that world. By the very nature of the programming, product, and project management roles I’ve had, I tend to be very structured in everything I do. You can definitely see this in my work – both in process and finished form.
How do you juggle being a mother, artist and working a full-time job ALL while going back to school?It’s a challenge and can be quite stressful sometimes. I have a very supportive family and some flexibility with my work. I find a just need to structure my time very efficiently and plan ahead for everything. I do doubt myself sometimes, but I remind myself I’m following my dreams and that it will all work out. It helps that my son is 10 now and brings me caffeine when I get cranky.
You went to Japan to prepare for the first semester at Moore; can you elaborate on that trip and how it helped you grow as an artist?
Japanese architecture and gardens have been a source of inspiration for me for a while. The balance between man-made and nature found there is inspiring. I’m also interested in Zen philosophies.
Last fall I spent 10 days in Kyoto – 5 days with a tour group and 5 on my own. I spent the majority of time in Buddhist temples and gardens. It was a time for me to just be present, to experience the Japanese culture and sites. I spent a lot of time looking, listening, thinking, and just as importantly – not thinking. It’s hard for me to turn off my brain sometimes – to find experience in just being in a place. In Japan I was able to do that.
Visually I have over 1000 pictures from the trip to serve as inspiration and help direct my work. I want my work to give a glimpse of that moment of balance, of being – a glimpse of something more.
After one semester, how do you feel about being an MFA candidate while working a full time job?During the summer term I only worked part time. I’m a little nervous about juggling everything this year and I’m going to look into going part time for the second year. I wish I could focus just on my MFA work, but financially I need to work. I think this is a reality for a lot of people though. Pursuing a career in art is a dream-come-true for me so I’ll do what it takes to make it work.
Can you talk about some female artists who inspire you?
There are many female artists that inspire me. I’ll note two in particular though – Nancy Crow and Jayne Willoughby Scott.
I’ve studied with Nancy Crow over the last several years. I owe a lot to her. She is an amazing quilt maker, artist, and individual. Her quilts hold an energy that mirrors her personality and her craftsmanship is unsurpassed. Nancy introduced me to the world of art. She has a way of teaching that encourages you to figure things out on your own through struggle to only realize that she has already given you all the tools you need. She is one of the most generous individuals I’ve ever met and has a wonderful way of knowing exactly what a student needs to grow. It’s always amazing looking at her career as well. She is constantly pushing herself in new directions while staying true to who she is.
I have admired Jayne Willoughby’s quilts for quite some time. She works in different mediums but her quilts have always amazed me. The delicate yet chaotic elements on subtly shifting backgrounds draw one in to even finer detail. Jayne is also a life coach. I worked with her for a few months as I was struggling in a few aspects of my life and needed extra support. She has a way of knowing just what to ask and suggest to help me look at things in a newer, deeper way.