Most artists are struggling artists, one way or the other, but Kat Habib struggles mostly to find the time to be an artist. When she’s actually practicing art, hey — no problem.
The Sperryville potter and florist is 33, one of Rappahannock County’s younger practicing artists. To meet the high cost of living in a magical, beautiful land where the sales of second homes nowadays outpace those of secondhand tractors, she works in a number of professions to be able to pursue the one that means most: hand-building both sculptural and functional works in clay.
So she lends a hand, or usually two, on a regular basis to create special-occasion floral arrangements with Jen Perrot at Sperryville’s Flourish Root, which to Habib is yet another form of artistic expression. She works half the week as the Headwaters Foundation’s Next Step program coordinator at the high school, plus she’s a property manager and, in the summer, assistant director at Rappahannock Nature Camp.
“Living in Rappahannock, one has to wear many hats,” she says. “I’m working constantly to support my creative practice.”
You can see Habib’s creative practice firsthand in the latest in a series of Artists of Rappahannock videos, completed in 2017 as part of a project funded by a Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund grant from the Rappahannock Association for Art and Community. (See the box below for more about the videos.)
Using coils rolled by hand, or flat sheets of raw clay, Habib builds her works at her home studio near Sperryville, where she’s lived full-time since 2013. Some of her work is functional, including bowls, mugs and tumblers, and the most impressive of which are pieces she calls “organic, abstract vessels,” larger works with a distinctly feminine energy.
“I’ve always been drawn to that working method,” she says. “The wheel is beautiful, I enjoy watching other people doing it, I enjoy thrown work . . . but for me I just feel like I’m more expressive working in hand building.”
Habib, who grew up just over the mountain in Warren County, originally focused on painting and art conservation on her way to a fine art degree at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C.
“After I graduated I was offered an assistantship and then became the ceramic studio manager for several years” at the Corcoran, recalls Habib, who started working with clay in high school and always loved it.
In her years at the Corcoran, clay was “a relaxation point, almost a break from what I considered my ‘real art’ — and being in art school with such tight deadlines and serious conceptual projects, it was nice to escape into the clay. And it was my final year at the school that I had a teacher come to me and say, ‘You’re doing beautiful work in the clay, it actually lines up with your concepts better than your painting does, why aren’t you doing this? This is real art work for you.’
“And it started to click . . .”
The Video: Kat Habib
The video on Sperryville potter Kat Habib, the sixth in a series of short videos on the Artists of Rappahannock made possible with a grant from the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and Community’s Claudia Mitchell Fund, can be found online at Synergist Media’s YouTube channel, along with five others in the series: printmaker Maggie Rogers, furniture craftsman Bob Lucking, expressionist painter Nedra Smith, stained glass artist Patricia Brennan and jazz pianist Bill Harris.