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Meet Katherine Dunn of Apifera Farm

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katherine Dunn.

Katherine, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I began as an illustrator in 1996 in Minneapolis. I created work for magazines, companies, gift market and editorial. At some point though, I began painting too, and that became more of my focus. I was always more of a fine art painter versus an illustrator. I moved to Portland, Oregon from Minneapolis in 2002, met my next door neighbor, got married a year later at age 43, and a year after that we moved to what had been my dream since a child-we moved to a farm in rural Oregon.

Once on my farm, I reinvented myself basically. I began to write prose and stories, and it was a time when blogs were new to the world. My blog garnered followers and it helped me revitalize a following who liked to read about the animals and life on the farm, as well as wisdom. I began taking in elderly and crippled goats, donkeys, pigs and more, and that became life-and still is-but I create books and art that are inspired by the animals, their life and deaths, and our interactions here with Nature and the land.

In 2016, we were called to Maine, I still am not sure exactly why, but it was a visceral call to move the entire farm here, and we did. We traveled 6 days and nights with 33 animals to get to our new farm in Mid Coast. We have made Apifera Farm a 501[c][3], and we still adopt old and neglected/or special needs animals, but we also share them with elderly and special needs people.

Basically, my work today merges word, photo, art, and story. I have written five books. My first book was published [“Creative Illustration Workshop”, Quarry Press, 2010] but have that, I went solo and now self-publish all my books. It is a labor of love.

Has it been a smooth road?
I got a ‘later’ start as an illustrator, I was about 38. I had worked in the ad and design agencies in marketing related jobs, but one day, I just said I was going to be a freelance illustrator. And I did! It sounds crazy, but it pretty much worked that way. Of course, I sold the place I was living and moved into a tiny, postage stamp house of 400SF so I could afford to do it, but I did, and some big jobs came my way because I had some connections from my previous work. My work was not ‘normal [in fact, one art director after seeing my portfolio told me bluntly, “You need to learn to draw, lady”] but it helped get me some juicy jobs that got me on my way.

After I moved from Mpls to Oregon, this was just after 9/11, and many illustrators literally went out of business overnight, as did reps. The entire scene changed. The editorial market almost vanished. The internet was really taking over at the time so everything was changing rapidly. I was hanging on and had wanted to paint more, so I just decided, ok, I will paint now. Again, the connections I’d found through illustration led me to connections in the fine art area, and I got by. Somewhere in there, Sundance found me, and that helped a lot.

I began selling my work in small galleries and still did illustration work if it came in. But I had begun to write. I was approached to write “Creative Illustration Workshop” in 2010 which was a good feather in my cap and showed me the process of making a ‘real’ book. After that, I knew I wanted to make more books.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I write, paint, photograph and share story. I have been able to get on a path that allows me to merge all my passions, and allows my true voice to be shared. As an illustrator, I was told what I had to focus on in a piece, but I am much more adept at sharing feeling, emotion and essence. I still paint a lot. The paintings are often incorporated into my books. Sometimes I paint specifically for a book I’m creating.

I am most proud of the fact I recognize who I am, and who I am not. I am proud of my self-publishing efforts, I create the books myself, and raise funds for them, sometimes I raise as much as $25,000 for a book and it is hard work. I used to think I wanted an agent and to be a ‘real’ author, but I don’t feel that way anymore… I’m pretty real, for one, and I have total freedom over what I do. I don’t fit into the publishing world and that is fine.

I’ve been freelancing for 22 years. I have created a world of animal, art and story. I’m proud of that.

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