Kate Funk – Spotlight on a Creative

If you know me you know I like cats and I like Creatives. Therefore, it is no surprise that this week I am Spotlighting the artistic Kate Funk. She is a graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and has brought all her talents together with AC, the ultimate coworker to create a whimsical line of cards and calendars. Her pictures always put a smile on my face!


Kate Funk

1. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Kate Funk.  I’ve always had a really hard time answering the question of what I do since there are so many things.  I guess photographer is the best answer – although shooting photographs has become a very small fraction of my work week compared to the amount of time I spent making the costumes/scenes to shoot and the final products with the photographs on them.
AC as Bob Ross
2. How has your Art changed over time?
When I first went to art school for photography I did the standard black and white thing that we all do.  It really wasn’t my thing, though.  It wasn’t until I started working with color photography that I really found myself.  I did a lot of experimental work with toy cameras and polaroids, but the subject just always seemed to be how I saw color.  When I first started photographing AC I didn’t see it as art like my other photography because I was just doing something fun and using a digital camera for the first time.  It eventually dawned on me that I could put more work into the photos and turn them into something that was both fun and art.
3.What inspires you?
Color.  Humor.
4. What’s your strongest memory of childhood?
There are so many.  But I guess if it’s something in relation to what I do now the ones that come to mind are:
When I was little my family would go on vacations every summer.  I would always bring my camera along and take a million photos of every mundane thing we saw along the road.  I had this camera bag around my shoulder one year and my brother and I were walking along a trail and he stopped and looked at me and said, “You should be a photographer.  You look like you could be that.”  After that I got it stuck in my head that that would be awesome, but I assumed it wasn’t a realistic career.  It wasn’t until many years later in high school that I finally got to take my first photography class and realized it was something I really did love.  It was senior year and I had already got accepted into UW-Madison for zoology, but I immediately changed my major to photography as I realized there was nothing else I really wanted to do.
I also spent a lot of time with my grandfathers growing up since they were my babysitters.  I come from a family with lots of creative skills who like to make things rather than buy them and I remember spending a lot of time in one of my grandfather’s workshop while he would make things including wooden toys for us.  On one particular day when he was watching me we were hanging out in the workshop and he had this box of kittens in there for some reason.  I sat and played with all day while he worked.  Nothing spectacular happened, but I remember it very clearly.  It was the best day ever.
AC is the PURRfect helper when Kate makes his costumes
5. What was the first thing you ever made?
I know I must have done countless art project growing up, but the first thing I really remember making where I got to pick what I wanted to do instead of doing an assignment was a large mosaic table.  I found an image I liked of a little boy holding a bowl with a lizard in it and translated it into different colors. I rolled out all the clay, cut all the pieces for it, and glazed them all in the different colors.  My dad took an old table and made a frame around the edges to set all the tiles into and I put a dark blue grout around all of them.  It turned out beautiful and I really love it, but keep it in my parents basement for fear that anyone will use and ruin it.  Which now that I think about it is pretty sad – since no one gets to see it down there.
6. What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I’ve had countless part-time jobs since I was 15.  Mostly retail or food related such as a waitress or barista.  My favorite job was working at a camera/film store where I was in charge of the video department.  What that really meant was I got to take people’s old VHS and super 8 home movies and transfer them to DVD.  So I basically spent all day just sitting and watching peoples’ home movies.  It was amazing.  My other favorite job which actually ended up changing the course of my life was working at a local paper/gift store called Broadway Paper. I was just looking for a part-time job at the time for some extra cash and fell in love with the store – especially the greeting card section.  It was so different from all the greeting cards I had seen in the past – which were just the basic types you see at a Hallmark or Target.  It eventually became the inspiration for me to start my own greeting card line.
7. What is your dream project?
I think I’m actually doing it right now.  I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing with my life.
AC Rotten – Phone Case
8. What is the one thing in your studio you could not live without?
Liquitex spray paint.  It’s the most amazing thing and changed the way I do my backgrounds for my dioramas.  I’ve never been a huge painter with a brush and started out using mainly paper for everything which presented a lot of problems – it was hard to find larger pieces in the color I wanted and that didn’t have a sheen that would reflect my lighting in the photographs.  And most normal spray paint out there is pretty limited on colors and generally has a sheen, too (and as I’m very sensitive to chemicals I would always get sick while using it).  I finally found Liquitex spray paint which is acrylic based so it’s almost odorless and has a matte finish.  And their selection of colors is amazing.
9. Do you collect anything?
I have a huge collection of antique, polaroid, and toy cameras.  I finally had to cut myself off as I ran out of space to display them.  I have a lot of family ones in the collection, too, that mean a lot to me.  My favorite is a vintage Ricolet that my grandfather brought back with him from the Korean War.  I’ve always had sentimental attachments to family heirlooms and it means a lot to me that it ended up in my hands.
10. What is your favorite word and why?
Awesome.  I use it way too much.  It’s even ended up in the title of my book and calendar.
11. What is your favorite recipe?
I have a huge sweet tooth, but one thing I’ve always hated is chocolate.  This was a recipe my mother used to make special for me when I was little since I loved cookies, but didn’t want chocolate in them like everyone else in our house.  It’s super simple, but delicious.
Coconut Oatmeal Macaroons
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. margarine
2 eggs
2 c. quick cooking oatmeal
2 c. flour
1 c. coconut
1 c. corn flakes
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Mix ingredients together.  Drop by teaspoon onto a well greased cookie sheet.  Bake 325 degrees for 10 minutes.
12. Do you “Give Back” to any organizations?
Up until about a year ago this job was more of just a side hobby that I never thought would turn into anything so I wasn’t really in a position to be able to do anything to really give back other than donations for local shelters to help with fundraising.  Now that it’s become profitable we’re looking into doing work with a local no-kill cat shelter here in Milwaukee, but nothing is finalized at this point.
Kate and AC
To see more Kate and AC check out these links!

Jon and Mary – Spotlight on a Creative

The oldest piece of steel is approximately 4000 years old and there have been found treasures from Sparta, China, East Africa and more. What most see as a cold heavy ore, Jon and Mary, the husband and wife creative team behind WATTO have turned into an art. This talented duo has a studio in Tucson, Arizona and they kindly took time to answer some questions for me to share with you.


1. Who are you and what do you do?

“Jon WATTO Watson & Mary Spencer- We are a husband and wife team and have several things going on. We started with “The Metal Gardener.” www.themetalgadener.com which is functional and custom metal sculptures. We then began WATTO Distinctive Metal Wear with metal accessories www.wattoonline.etsy.com. Outlaw Kritters www.outlawkritters.com developed due to the success of our animal icons. Mary also has an assembled jewelry line called WATTO’s Wife.”

2. How has your Art changed over time?

“The Metal Gardener began in 2007 with metal sculptures based on nature and organic shapes. In 2009 we started WATTO Distinctive Metal Wear with belt buckles based on the tattoo and music culture. We were doing a lot of art shows then and to make our items more accessible price wise we added key chains and money clips. We thought we were designing for guys, but woman liked the rugged look too and soon Mary was adding bling and making jewelry for WATTO as well. WATTO’s Wife developed as an outlet for Mary to have a little creativity on her own.”

Slide 1

3. What inspires you?

“Nature, motorcycles (Jon), animals (our two dogs Nipper and Tucker), raw materials like metal and wood, tattoo imagery and fashion.”

4. What’s your strongest memory of childhood?

“Jon- Playing hide-and-seek in the cornfield.”

“Mary- spending hours reading, painting or drawing and making things. I enjoyed spent a lot of time alone.”

WATTO's wife  collage


Wattos Wife Jewelry

5.What was the first thing you ever made?

“Jon- Made his bicycle into a chopper by extending the forks and added a big sissy bar and whip flag. Even then he loved motorcycles.”


“Mary- Can’t remember that far back as I was making things and drawing like most children from the time I was a toddler. I took private drawing and painting classes in high school and I made miniatures such as mini framed paintings and baked goods with tiny little grocery sacks which I sold at a local miniature store.”

6. What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

“Jon worked on helicopter weapon systems in the army for 4 years then worked as a Graphic designer for many years. Finally he apprenticed at a metal shop while working as an exhibit tech at the Children’s Museum before creating our own company.”

“Mary worked as a product planner for several social expression, puzzle and craft companies as well as a prop artist and floral designer.

7. What is your dream project?

“Jon-Working on custom Japanese sport bikes.”

“Mary-Not really any one project, but I would love to have indefinite time and funds to work more on developing my painting skills and other creations.”


8. What is the one thing in your studio you could not live without?

“Jon- Angle grinder I use it for cutting grinding and sanding.”

“Mary- My computer as it has all of my files for the business.”

9. Do you collect anything?

“Jon- No”

“Mary- Mexican pottery- I love the decorative paint and the handmade nature.”

10. What is your favorite word and why?

“Jon- ‘Yes.’ Love it when people say yes to me.”

“Mary- chocolate! – Need I explain?!”

11. What is your favorite recipe?

“Jon-Pancakes we eat Pamela gluten-free with agave syrup.”

“Mary- chocolate chip cookies made with Garbanzo beans, nut butter, honey and “Enjoy” brand chocolate chips. I am gluten free so these are my indulgence.”


Craving 4 More Chickpea Cookies

12. Do you “Give Back” to any organizations?

“We have several organizations that we give to annually including Seeing Eye Dogs and The Elephant Sanctuary. We have also donated many of our items to charity events over the years. We are particularly interested in animal welfare causes. Through our new website Outlawkritters.com we will be donating to a different animal welfare organization every quarter.”


Tucker, Nipper, Mary and Jon

Jon and Mary have so much going on and I think it is all terrific! Please check out the links below to see more of their work!


Facebook WATTO: https://www.facebook.com/wattoonline

Facebook Outlaw Krtitters: https://www.facebook.com/OutlawKritters

Pinterest WATTO: http://www.pinterest.com/wattoonline/

Pinterest Outlaw Kritters: http://www.pinterest.com/outlawkritters/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wattoonline

Instagram: http://instagram.com/wattoonline



Watto Apparel




Jacob Fisher – Spotlight on a Creative

Welcome to my first Spotlight on a Creative! I am so thrilled to be launching this new series!

I will be introducing and showcasing one wonderfully creative, artistic soul each week for you to discover, be inspired by, share and learn more about.

Please meet my premier Creative – Jacob Fisher, of the amazing design team at .retool a terrific line of “simple, elegant and functional” vegan bags, cases and wallets. Jacob graciously answered my questions and provided some great photos for you!


Jacob – one half of the design team at .retool.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

“I’m Jacob, one half of the .retool. team. We design and make vegan  accessories – wallets, bags, cases, and more!  We place an emphasis on function and style and we love using repurposed materials and factory remnants.  Our goal is to make it easy for vegans (and non-vegans) to find quality accessories with the features they need and the colors they want.”


Jacob starts with these . . .


and finishes with these Messenger Bags

“In my spare time I draw, paint, and make collages out of tiny pieces of magazine pages.  Here’s a photo of my most recent piece, based on a drawing by Paul Cadmus. This collage is made up of literally thousands of pieces.”


Jacob Fisher Collage

2. How has your Art changed over time?

“Well, for one thing, my skills have improved.  There are things I can make now that I wouldn’t have been able to make four or five years ago.  As an artist, I have always loved working in series and my work with .retool. has certainly followed that trend.”

“We started off making wallets and we have now expanded into bags, cases, and even belts.  We work primarily with seatbelt webbing and the more we work with it, the more different ideas we have about about how to use it.”

“In the beginning, we had one billfold wallet design and one card holder design.  We’ve been tweaking the designs ever since and adding a bunch of variations with different features and carrying capacities. For example, we now have six different credit card wallet styles and seven different billfold styles with various features including ID wallets, coin pocket wallets, and grommet holes for adding a chain.”

3. What inspires you?

“Our customers actually provide a great deal of inspiration.  We get a lot of custom requests and on more than one occasion we’ve turned a custom request into a standard .retool. offering. The latest example of that is our minimalist credit card holder with center cash slot.  We added the center slot for folks who wanted a separate compartment dedicated to cash.”


4.     What’s your strongest memory of childhood?

“I read a lot as a kid and one of my favorite books was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.  I think I must have gotten it for Christmas because I have a vivid memory of reading the book while sipping hot chocolate and eating candy canes.  For some reason, I thought it would be a great idea to dip the candy cane into the hot chocolate. This led to sticky, chocolatey fingers as evidenced by this photo:”


5. What was the first thing you ever made?

“That’s a tough one.  I remember taking burned out lightbulbs and adding clay to them to make hair and faces.  I didn’t break any bulbs, but it probably wasn’t the safest thing…”

6. What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

“Before starting .retool., I worked primarily in technical training and instructional design.”

7. What is your dream project?

“I have so many dream projects!

One of my current favorites is to start a cult brand of awesome vegan bags. The idea would be to have a very small production run of high-end bags with pockets in all the right places.”

8. What is the one thing in your studio you could not live without?

“Natural light.”

9. Do you collect anything?

“Sewing machines! So far the .retool. fleet includes 2 Kenmores (each over 20 years old), a beautiful vintage Husqvarna Viking, a newer Husqvarna, an industrial zigzag machine, and the pride of the fleet, an industrial straight stitch Adler sewing machine.  The next addition will likely be a serger.”

10. What is your favorite word and why?

“I love words. I like how they sound and even how they look. Staphylococcus is pretty high on the list, mostly because of how the ‘dictionary lady’ says it:”


11.   What is your favorite recipe?

“My favorite recipe is for homemade cranberry sauce.  I love fresh ginger and I’m not a big fan of sweets, so my version is spicy and extra tart.  The flavors get stronger overnight. [Note: the maple syrup and ginger can be adjusted to taste.]”

4 Cups fresh cranberries

1/3 Cup maple syrup

1/2 Cup orange juice

1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger (most people might find this an excessive amount of ginger, feel free to use less… or more!)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Wash and drain the cranberries. Toss everything together in a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat.  Stir often.  It’s finished when the cranberries have popped and the sauce is thick, usually around 10 – 15 minutes.

12. Do you “Give Back” to any organizations?

“I support a number of non-profits mostly focussed on social justice and environmental issues.”

Jacob Fisher – .retool.

Thank you Jacob for being here!

If you want to see more fabulous items from .retool. please check out the following:

Blog:     http://retoolsf.com/

Shop:    https://www.etsy.com/shop/retoolsf

facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/retoolsf

twitter:    https://twitter.com/retoolsf

pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/retoolsf/

instagram: http://instagram.com/retool