As Katie Mulder grew increasingly inspired by the concept of home and what it meant for her family, the Kansas City-based fine artist and busy mom of two applied to be a vendor at Spring at the Silos earlier this year. And now, just a few months later, her beautiful work is featured across Magnolia.
We recently connected with Katie to hear her story, learn what her creative process looks like, and why she believes in home.
Magnolia: How did you get your start? Walk us through your journey as an artist.
Katie Mulder: I call myself an accidental artist. The last art class I took was in middle school, so I am very much self-taught. I’d always had an entrepreneurial bug and dreamed about owning my own business. I’m naturally creative and constantly thinking about the space I’m in. I ended up starting a business right when my son was born, which was about five years ago, and I got my foot in the door of the artistic world. We had just moved for a temporary work assignment for my husband’s job. I had a newborn baby and was grinding it out trying to get my business off the ground—I was incredibly homesick. I ended up just doing a quick watercolor illustration of our home we had left back in Kansas City, and I posted it on my Instagram.
Within 24 hours, my business had changed entirely. I suddenly had months’ worth of requests of people wanting me to illustrate their homes! I painted because it meant something, and I think that’s why it caught traction. I captured something that was really in my gut—and people connected with that and wanted it too.
How has being a self-taught artist allowed you freedom to explore?
Absolutely, but it also brings challenges. A lot of times, I can see something in my head that I don’t quite know how to do, so it is a lot of experimentation. But I think people connect with that because I bring them along through that process. I think it’s unique in the fine arts space to explore and play, and people resonate with that.
Where do you draw inspiration?
Interior design has always been my first love, so I am very drawn to creating spaces that people live and interact with. When I think about art, I’m inspired by how it’s actually going to live with people. I focus on how it plays into the overall space—not just the aesthetic, but the story.
Recently, I’ve also been doing collections based off of poetry I write. I’ll write a piece of poetry that captures an emotion, experience, or feeling. Then, I’ll take apart the stanzas and process through them on a canvas. I’m also very drawn to texture, and a lot of my work is done on raw canvas—which is unique. People don’t typically paint on raw canvas because it soaks in the paint, absorbing and staining as opposed to just sitting on top. But I love that. I love that you can see any mistake that I make because it’s permanently stained the canvas.
Where does your belief in home stem from? What do you love most about home?
I think, as I became a mom, I became increasingly aware of the power home culture has on a family. We talk a lot about creating a culture of belonging and the power that has in people’s lives. If you feel like you belong, and you’re known, and you're seen, and you're celebrated—that has ripple effects. People who have that kind of security are able to go out, do good, live bravely, and do creative work. I have really become passionate about what that looks like for our family.
What does the creative process look like for you?
I turn into a mad scientist woman when I’m in painting mode. I tend to fixate on things, so I’ve had to learn how to ebb and flow out of full creative mode. If I’m in full creative mode all the time, I get tapped out, and everything that comes out is garbage. I’ve had to learn how to nourish my soul and come back to step into a creative space.
Usually, it starts with an idea. As I begin processing my thoughts, the poetry starts coming. I start building the story around what an experience, word, or idea means to me. Then, it’s almost like I have nothing left except to cover myself in paint, pull everything out onto the floor, and go to town. My space often looks like a pile of paint, tape, and scraps. I fully immerse myself and just work at it until it becomes something beautiful. An artist is someone who has a concept and the bravery to keep at it until it comes to life. There is no one who has it nailed the first time. You have to have the tenacity to stay with it in the messy middle.
What makes art beautiful to you?
Art is the least functional thing in a room. All it is is pure instinct—like instinct on a wall. It’s you proclaiming I find beauty in this. I think we live in a world that doesn’t celebrate beauty enough. We celebrate functionality and efficiency, but celebrating beauty for the sake of proclaiming heart connection is really powerful. It’s incredibly personal, and I am very honored when people choose to collect my work because I value how much they personally connect with it enough to hang in their home. That’s what makes art mean something to me—that instinct. It’s an intuitive part of who we are, to declare something is beautiful.
Which love came first: art or poetry?
Art for sure. However, I think the story was actually always underneath. While I think art and working with my hands brought the words into light, the story was always there. The story of home is what started everything. When you’re investing in fine art and paying for a high-quality reproduction or original piece, it has to mean something. If I’m not sharing the meaning, how is someone going to connect with it?
Last question! Tell us about your work in Magnolia’s fall collection!
I have six reproduction pieces that are a part of the fall line, and those are sold on the website and at Magnolia Home in Waco. Then, there’s an additional 60 original pieces that will be in-store only starting mid-September.
Because I was commissioned to do an illustration for Magnolia Journal, I had prior knowledge that the fall theme across Magnolia was fortitude. I wrote a piece about fortitude called “The Nature of Resilience.” It explores the idea of a battered tree that still stands and waves that crash against the cliffs of the ocean. I have a dear friend who’s battling cancer at 30 years old, and it has just kept coming back. Her story was in the back of my mind writing: What does it look like to continue to stand when you keep taking blows? What does it look like to be fortified and deeply grounded?
Those two word pictures are teased apart within those 60 pieces. Thirty focus on a forest scene—a present, strong tree. The remaining are a seascape to illustrate that idea of crashing ocean waves.
We're so excited to feature Katie's work in Magnolia Home this fall! The 60 mini originals are in-store only, but you can shop her reproduction pieces in-store and online.