When Kathy Deggendorfer was a child, her family owned a beach house in the Taft district of Lincoln City. The time they spent together there and the charms of the ocean were appealing, but to Deggendorfer, the best part of the beach house was what was down the street. “The coolest thing was that there was an art supply store nearby,” she recalled. “I loved visiting that art supply store.”
Deggendorfer’s earliest artistic efforts were to gather rocks and paint them with model paint. Those days at the beach were the beginning of her lifelong, self-taught career as an artist.
Deggendorfer earned a degree in Medieval English with a minor in Italian from the University of Oregon, but soon her interests returned to creating art. “A degree in Medieval English will make you become an artist, apparently,” she laughed. Since the late 1990s, she’s worked primarily as an artist, based in Sisters, Oregon.
Deggendorfer’s original watercolor paintings are easily recognizable due to her tendencies towards vibrant colors, cheerful themes and playful qualities. “There is a lot of angst in the world,” she said. “But my paintbrush won’t go there. There is also joy. Why not record it?”
The natural world, people at play, fishing, camping, dogs, mountains and flowers—these are the themes that turn up again and again in Deggendorfer’s work. “I love patterning,” she said. “As a member of a clothing manufacturing company, it’s all about pattern and color.”
Deggendorfer’s mother is Gert Boyle, the former president and current chairman of the board of Oregon giant Columbia Sportswear. Deggendorfer’s sister and brother are still a part of the family business, which Gert Boyle’s father founded in 1938.
While Deggendorfer doesn’t live in the Portland area and work with the company, as her family members do, the business is still in her blood. She is driven to get her creations out into the marketplace. Much of her work manifests from original paintings into usable products. Her imagery has been transferred to tiles, fabrics, greeting cards and coffee mugs. “I’m from a manufacturing family—I have to go to product,” she said.
Among other things, this approach means that her art is experienced by more people than if she concentrated on only original paintings. Her coffee mugs are held in the hands of hundreds of people each morning; her greeting cards are cheerful finds in mailboxes every day. Larger projects have come her way, too. “My hand-painted tiles have been an entre into public art,” she said. Deggendorfer’s designs grace tile installations in several Portland hospitals including the Casey Eye Institute, First Street Park in Sisters and a large bank in California. “The permanency is greater,” she said of the opportunity to create commissioned work for public display. “Plus, it gives me the opportunity to collaborate with other artists, which is what really rings my bell.”
Fabric is another recent avenue for her work. Maywood Studios, in Portland, began creating lines of fabric from Deggendorfer’s art in 2016. “When you design fabric, an element of a painting can morph,” she explained. Maywood’s designers deconstruct a painting into sub-designs, which are grouped into a collection of fabric ideal for quilt making. One line, called Quilter’s Road Trip, found some fame on a Facebook page called RV Quilters. “It was a win,” said Deggendorfer. “With the help of social media, I became the Kim Kardashian of quilting for a while.”
Art is Deggendorfer’s first love, but philanthropy is never far behind. She has an active presence in the Sisters community and a long history of giving back. She purchased the building that houses her art studio in order to open it up to other artists as an art collective. In 2002, she launched the Roundhouse Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Sisters. The foundation took on a new layer recently, with the purchase of Pine Mountain Ranch, a 100 -year-old working ranch west of Sisters on Whychus Creek.
The ranch is home to several historic buildings, including a 1920s era dairy barn, as well as one of the last three round barns in the state of Oregon. “It’s a retreat space, a place to serve as home to artistic partnerships,” she said. Artists of all types are invited to apply for residencies—six creative artists have been hosted thus far.
As with her aspirations for her art, Deggendorfer is modest, patient and realistic—while also being incredibly determined—about her goals for the ranch and the foundation. “I don’t really know what Pine Mountain Ranch is yet,” she said. “All I can do is make this place where people can create, and talk to each other.”
As the ranch morphs and develops, Deggendorfer will keep getting her cheerful works of art out into the world, too. “Someone told me recently that drinking out of one of my mugs makes them so happy each morning. What better thing could an artist ask for?”
Written by Kim Cooper Findling