COUNTER CULTURE

BY ALAENA HOSTETTER

Whether it’s popcorn and candy bars, cowhide, metal machine- shop shavings, bamboo, glitter, or literally any material you can think of, Kathy Runkel has found a way to customize her patented process of using epoxy resin in a plethora of applications and specifications.

Luminexa Surfacing’s resin cures to a hard, durable finish. It can be translucent, semiopaque or opaque, and it can be backlit, which makes the perfect counter, bar top, water feature or wall art. If popcorn or glitter isn’t your style, she can put plain steel inside of it and make it a magnetic dry-erase board that can be installed vertically in the office. The applications are virtually endless for this versatile product, and Runkel has the imagination to mold Luminexa into whatever a client asks for.

Commercial and residential commissions are something Runkel has specialized in for eight years, and she works exclusively with members of the architecture and design trade. She has nearly 20 projects on the docket right now, mostly high-end commissions around North Texas, but is also branching into new applications, like coasters.

One of Runkel’s recent favorite projects is a showpiece bar top in the home of a high-end client who collects western art. Runkel experimented with different methods of placing cowhide into the resin until she found a way that worked. Trial and error is something she’s familiar with, having developed the product and built the business from scratch.

“I’ve had to teach myself how to do this, because there’s no manual and no one to ask,” says Runkel. “Each new embedded material requires testing and experimentation. Some materials require more testing and samples than others.”

Runkel comes from a gemology background and was looking for a change of career. She wanted a business she could put her name on. Although she built the business on a lot of experimentation and had to learn about how chemicals interact, she’s hesitant to call herself a scientist. Runkel is also modest about calling herself an artist, although her finished products, like one containing a swirled, pearly copper pigment, are beautiful and could most definitely be considered works of art.

“I’m really a capitalist with an artistic flair. I don’t consider myself an artist, although I hear this a lot,” says Runkel. “I see it as developing a product that is reproducible while allowing a platform for designers, architects, builders, as well as restaurant and bar owners, to use their own imaginations; they can come up with their own ideas.”

Regardless of her title, Runkel’s gemologist eye comes in handy. She’s attuned to the specific properties of materials that work best in certain lighting. Grabbing a sample that contains holographic glitter, Runkel takes it outside in direct sunlight to show off its sheen.

However, it’s not all just glitter and cowhide, Runkel’s product works in residential hospitality and health care, both in horizontal and vertical applications. Because the surface is nonporous, it is nonstaining and naturally antimicrobial. Incredibly, there is no detectable odor in her workshop. The product has no VOCs, and it’s safe for the most sensitive patients.

Runkel has built a successful business because she envisioned a versatile and customizable product that can fit just as easily in a hospital or a rec room (she’s preparing to produce a kids’ craft table for a 50,000-squarefoot mega mansion).

It’s commercial, it’s residential, and it has a natural home in the hospitality industry. Runkel is routinely asked to do large-scale projects for bars that are over 100 linear feet—like at Gloria’s in Addison, where the finished product is seamless because it was poured on-site.

Runkel has big plans for expanding the business with branded partnerships. No doubt this next phase will be successful like her other projects, because the root of Luminexa’s magic is Runkel’s imagination.

Alaena Hostetter is a Dallas-based journalist who writes about all of her favorite things: art, fashion, culture, music, entertainment and food.