article by Starla Gatson
photography by Kelly Moore Clark
“Art is too important not to share.” This quote comes from Brazilian artist Romero Britto, but it’s more than that;it’s a phrase in which 19-year-old Katherine Bonner fully believes. These words, displayed on her website homepage, sum up her philosophy as an artist.
Art brings people joy,” Bonner explains. “It’s kind of like a domino effect. When you have the courage to share your art, you give someone else the courage to share theirs. You give them joy; you inspire them to go travel or create. [Sharing your art] can give people the ability to problem solve, and it can open up minds to all these ideas.” Take the murals scattered across the twin cities, she goes on, “They’re such a public way to show art. Even if you’re not looking for it, you’re going to see it, and you’re probably going to be inspired by it.”
Bonner’s belief that simply seeing another artist’s work can inspire is not merely an assumption or something she has observed; it is something she has experienced firsthand. She draws inspiration for her own work by seeing what other artists are doing, she explains. Bonner’s interest in calligraphy is a prime example of this, as it was born from simply looking at her great-grandmother’s calligraphy pieces and the tool she used to create them.
“My grandmother had a shadow box in her house, and it had [my great-grandmother’s] calligraphy pen in there,” the Ouachita parish native recalls. “I looked at it all the time. One day, my grandmother opened up the shadow box and pulled out this old calligraphy pen that had been in there I don’t know how long, and I got to play around with [it]. Then, I invested in my own things and started playing around with [calligraphy].”
Almost anything can inspire her, Bonner says, and if she sees anyone do something, chances are she will want to try it herself. This ability to pull inspiration from a wide range of sources seems to work to her advantage, as it motivates her to seek the resources necessary for learning new mediums and techniques. Since she opted not to attend a university after high school, Bonner has had to get creative when it comes to sharpening her skills. This means checking out library books, watching YouTube tutorials, being bold enough to try something new, and persisting — even when the first few attempts are less than stellar.
“Pursuing art without a degree was very scary to me, but I knew I didn’t want to go into debt for college,” she says of her decision to forego a college education. “But I knew this was what I wanted to pursue, that doing art full-time was always going to be the end goal. I think not going to college can be such a negative thing, but I just knew this was what I wanted to do: start a business, start doing art classes with kids and other people, and just see a little community start to thrive. You can be a creative even if you’ve never taken an art class in your life or don’t have a degree.”
So far, Bonner says, she seems to be on the right path, even without a college degree. Many parts of her journey have confirmed it, she reveals, “There were definitely a lot of little moments where I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I’m doing the right thing, and this is bringing me joy.’ There were a lot of times where I could see it growing, and it’s just very exciting.”
Further solidifying Bonner’s decision not to go to college was an unwelcome interruption that might have added an extra degree of difficulty to her freshman year: a thyroid cancer diagnosis the summer after graduating high school. She often felt sick, and the disease was slowing her body down, she remembers, but she was determined not to be bitter. Instead, she leaned on art, the thing that had brought her joy since childhood, and spent time dreaming of and brainstorming for her business, The Magnolia Makery’s, future.
Bonner, cancer-free since April, officially launched The Magnolia Makery about a year and a half ago. Since its inception, Bonner has sold goods like greeting cards, bookmarks, and painted canvas bags through her website, at art crawls, and at downtown Monroe’s vintage and local-made goods store The Good Daze. More recently, the young artist has added art workshops to her business’s list of offered services.
Unlike Painting with a Twist-style classes, Bonner’s workshop attendees don’t paint the same image in the same way. Instead, there’s more room for individual expression, with everyone painting whatever they’d like while enjoying the company of others who simply want to make something.
“Everybody says they’re very therapeutic, which is awesome because they’re a very therapeutic thing for me,” she says of the workshops she’s held so far. “Those are really fun because we talk, we get to know each other, and you get inspired by what the person next to you is doing.”
These workshops, plus the children’s art classes she teaches at the local Montessori school, are yet another way Bonner feeds her passion for art, a seed planted in her as a child that has been blooming ever since. Though no one else in her immediate family is an artist, Bonner was encouraged to make and learn about art from a young age, thanks to the support of her elementary art classes.
“I just loved art class; that’s definitely where I wanted to be,” she remembers. “Around 4th grade is when I started taking after-school art classes, and that’s where my appreciation and love for art really started to take shape. Having the space to be creative and try new mediums, that was where I thrived and loved to be.”
Ultimately, providing a space for artists to create is what Bonner hopes to accomplish through The Magnolia Makery, and as she continues selling her own creations, hosting workshops, and teaching classes, she works toward a bigger goal: opening a permanent location in which creatives can gather.
“I really want to have a space downtown where we have constant workshops and classes where people can come together, whether there is a class where we’re all learning one thing or it’s just a time where you bring whatever you’re working on and meet other creatives,” Bonner muses. “Just a space where people can come together and have kids art camps and things like that. I’m very passionate about that, and that is definitely what I’m working toward constantly.”
Until that dream comes to fruition, however, Bonner will continue sharing her creations how and whenever she can — unsurprising, considering her belief that art is too powerful to keep to yourself. She urges others to do the same and says, “Art is a very important part of life, and even if you’re just doodling in a notebook, share it. You don’t know if it could inspire someone else or bring them joy. Share your art and grow in it.”
Bonner shares her work on her website, www.themagnoliamakery.squarespace.com, on Instagram @the_magnolia_makery, on the Magnolia Makery Facebook account, at The Good Daze, and at area art crawls. Follow her socials to find out when The Magnolia Makery’s next workshop will be.