We had the good fortune of connecting with Cat Widner and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cat, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
Honeysuckle Handmade Studio is a vehicle for me to practice ART AS ACTIVISM. I started this business in 2016 while I lived in Knoxville, Tennessee and was still an art educator in the public school system. When I moved to Utah, my business evolved as I did. I wanted a way to give back to non-profits, and Honeysuckle provided that possibility. When I left teaching in 2020, I dove all into this business and it flourished. The moment I gave all my attention and love to Honeysuckle, my ideas flowed, my designs got stronger, and my passion was being fulfilled.
Those who support this business and support me in turn support non-profits that focus on social and environmental justice. These are two aspects of life that I feel a lot of passion for and believe in wholeheartedly. My jewelry, books, artwork, and accessories are all made with a strong concept and a lot of love and care.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The desert winds dance through the long stems of the creosote, kissing the sandstone walls, swooping over the rivers as they carve the canyons, swirling over the globemallow and sage to meet the yucca as it blooms. The prickly pear has reached out to touch the prairie fire paintbrush as the woman dissolves into the land.
My work is derived from the land, each bead a metaphor for the grains of desert sand, the colors reflecting those we see outside, each metal piece formed to carry the organic and geometric shapes we find in nature. My desire to create is intrinsic, it is a necessity. It belongs in the space between human and nature, it speaks to the connection, the relationship, and the love that lives there.
Art has always been an essential part of my life, through childhood and now. I had the pleasure of attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to earn my MS in Teacher Education and BFA in Printmaking and Drawing, with a minor in Art History. I was an art teacher for 8 years, stepping away in 2020 to pursue Honeysuckle Handmade Studio as my full-time job and passion.
The road to becoming a full time artist was not a path of ease. Teaching in the public school system has a way of draining a human. My students were amazing, full of passion, laughter and love and sometimes really hard life scenarios that we worked through together. While I was a teacher, my first priority was creating a safe space for my kiddos. A space they could be themselves without judgement from the world or others. This was the best part of teaching. Sadly, public schools are being run as businesses to make money and that was the part of teaching I could not handle anymore. It broke me to leave teaching. I truly thought I would be an educator forever and change lives. Thankfully, I had Honeysuckle to absorb the energy and passion I have.
Since becoming a small business owner, I have learned so much. A major lesson I am still working on is taking time off. By running a business, and as the sole human, it becomes harder to separate my business from me. I have been working on this separation and taking an appropriate amount of time off each week to refuel myself so I can in turn fuel my business.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have so many amazing humans in my life that lead me to where I am today, this list will be long in the best way.
I had the opportunity to attend the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and had so many amazing influences and classes there. My printmaking professors Beauvais Lyons, Althea Murphy-Price, Koichi Yamamoto, my drawing professors Marcia Goldenstein and Nick DeFord so many of my amazing TAs such as Erica Walker, Veronica Siehl, Kelly Hider, Jessie Van Der Laan, Ashton Ludden, Sara Marie Miller and so many more truly changed my life and where I wanted to take it. These people, these teachers, these role models were my insight into how to pursue art in my life, not just for a hobby.
When I was debating whether or not to leave my teaching profession, my dear friends Sarah Betts and Kate McGowan spent a lot of time and energy chatting with me about the hows of doing so. I am forever grateful for their support and love on this journey I have been on, and for their believing in me when I truly didn’t believe in myself.
My mentors in this field are many, but two that truly stand out in helping me follow my dream are Kim Hall (Alpine Earthworks Pottery) and Courtney Johnson (Little Canyon Press). They also have spent so much time and energy in conversation with me, brainstorming ideas, and providing guidance. These humans are a HUGE reason I am an artist as my day job and I could not do this work without them.
Huge shoutout to my life partner, Sam, who always has my back. To the many markets he helps me with, ideas he listens to, and meals he makes me when I don’t have the time to feed myself, he is my true hero.
A big big hug and shoutout to all my amazing customers, I am so in awe that I have so many people that have been supporting me from the beginning and continue to buy my work. Each and every human that gives a follow on social media, signs up for my newsletter, and shows up to a market has a place in my heart and deserves a shoutout! I am forever grateful to be where I am today because of you.
Other: Sign up for my newsletter here: https://www.honeysucklehandmadestudio.com
All photos credit of Cat Widner, artist and maker.