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People often ask me, "Where do your ideas come from?" I feel that part of my job as an artist is to pay attention, and so for 30 years I have been paying attention to the stages in my life and those of women around me, to the lives of women in exotic places where I've lived, and now to the quiet life I live and the natural world around me. The imagery of my work comes form taking a deep look at my life, responding to it, and expressing it so that it strikes a chord in someone else too, encouraging them to pay attention.

In my past work, I've tried to put emotion and thought into the female face on each purse making it a beautiful object so that someone desires to pick it up and become engaged with it. I've also sometimes included biblical scripture on the back of the purse, usually from the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible, which is relevant to the face expression and can give the wearer something meaningful to think about when the party gets boring.

More recently, I've been paying attention to the shapes, color shifts, and repetition of the small mundane elements in the woods, such as seed pods, buds, moss, grasses, leaves, sticks and stones. Then I strive to make a beautiful object based on what I find so that someone again desires to pick it up and become engaged with it. My hope is that it causes someone to pay attention to a tiny seed pod or to the repetition of grass under ones feet, to pay attention to the small mundane things (and maybe even people) in one's life.

I am often also asked, "Why purses? Why don´t you make figurines or sculptures?" The reason is because a figurine or sculpture just sits there collecting dust. You aren´t supposed to touch it. But because these purses are functional, you are supposed to touch them, caress them and examine them. Your life is enhanced because it´s wonderful to carry beautiful things around with you and use them. And that is what I want my creations to do.

zinniabud purse


Kathleen is originally from the sand dunes of western Michigan, where she loved watching sunsets over Lake Michigan, dreamed of becoming a jazz pianist and traveling overseas, and studiously ignored her mother´s advice that she should become an artist. She majored in mathematics at Hope College, in Holland, Michigan, where she jumped at the opportunity to spend her junior university year abroad in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1972. There she was introduced to a colored polymer clay product from Germany.

Currently living in New Hampshire, Kathleen Dustin has enjoyed a somewhat nomadic lifestyle primarily because of her husband´s business career which enabled them to live in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Washington, D.C., Houston, and to travel extensively throughout the Mediterranean and Russia. She earned the Master of Fine Arts degree, in ceramics and sculpture, from Arizona State University in 1979, and has been a professional artist ever since.

Kathleen´s ability to travel to and live in exotic places required that she work in a 3-D medium more easily transportable than ceramics, and colored polymer clay became her primary artistic mode. She has been working with polymer clay since the early 1980s and had to develop many of her own techniques because it was a material with no history as a fine art or fine craft medium. She is a juried member and juror of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, the oldest professional craft organization in the U.S., and has been a juror for numerous national shows. Kathleen maintains a busy juried show schedule throughout the year and teaches workshops around the U.S. and in Europe.


Born: 1951, Evergreen Park, Illinois.

Education: BA, Mathematics, Hope College, 1973.
MFA, Ceramics, Arizona State University, 1979.

Recent shows and awards:


"Gold Award," Smithsonian Craft Show, Washington, DC
"Best Of Show," CraftWear, League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Annual Show, Mt. Sunapee, N.H.
"Remarkable Women of 2012," one of seven women profiled in New Hampshire Magazine, May 2012.
"Extraordinary Exhibition Of Uniquely Shaped Handbags," Tassenmuseum, Amsterdam


"Best Of Show," CraftBoston Spring Show, Boston, Mass.
"Terra Nova: Polymer Art At the Crossroads," Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin


"Their World: Kathleen Dustin and Cynthia Tollefsrud," River Gallery, Chattanooga, Tennessee
"Off the Wall: The Art Of Adornment," Prescott College Art Gallery, Prescott, Arizona
"Past Forward: Kathleen Dustin, Barbara Rachko, Anne Laddon, Joyce Zipperer," Target Gallery, Torpedo Factory Art Center, Alexandria, Virginia


"Kathleen Dustin: Sculptural Evening Bags From the Plant World," Snyderman-Works Gallery, Philadelphia, Penn.


"Best Of Show," Living with Craft, League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Annual Show, Mt. Sunapee, N.H.
"Excellence In Design Of the Future Award," Smithsonian Craft Show, Washington, D.C.


"Purses By Artists," Kathleen Dustin and Michelle Lalonde, Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wisconsin

Kathleen Dustin shows and sells regularly at the best juried fine craft shows in the United States and is represented by Julie: Artisan's Gallery, New York City, Bellagio, Asheville, North Carolina, and Spiegelgasse 8, Vienna, Austria.

Curator and juror:
"Sculpting Color: Works in Polymer Clay", Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, Mass., August - November, 2009. Curator.

"Progress and Possibilities", Annual Competitive Show of the International Polymer Clay Association, 2007. Juror.

League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, Juror.

Torpedo Factory Art Center, Alexandria, Va., 2002. Juror.

Museum Collections:
Tassenmuseum (Museum of Purses and Handbags), Amsterdam
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston, Mass.
Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Penn.
Racine Art Museum, Racine, Wis.
Wenham Art Museum, Wenham, Mass.
Newark Museum, Newark, N.J.
Mingei International Museum, San Diego, Calif.
League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Permanent Collection

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