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Featured Artist: Karen Clothier of Inspiration by Karen

by The SpinArtiste on August 18, 2011

Publisher’s Notes: I have the privilege of being able to connect with a lot of fiber artists via this site and am often struck by how fortunate we are in the fiber community to be able to draw inspiration from the many ways people can express their artistry through fiber. Tonight, we are going to be chatting with Karen Clothier who specializes in needle felting, sculptural pieces that heavily draw upon nature. I believe you will enjoy getting to know more about Karen and why she does what she does!

Spin Artiste (SA): Welcome, Karen! Let’s get started with finding out how long have you been involved in fiber arts and how you got started?

Karen Clothier (KC): I have been creating art with wool roving since February, 2008. I actually began shortly after opening my Etsy shop, Inspiration By Karen. I originally started the shop to feature my Adirondack ladies’ appliqued jackets. At the time, I was doing what I had always loved to do: sewing clothing. My love of nature and wildlife was depicted in these jackets, and I never imagined doing anything else. Almost immediately after the opening of my Etsy shop, I came across these gorgeous wool dogs and I was so drawn to them. Every day I would search for them, wishing I were one of those talented artists! Soon, the longing to do these dogs was consuming all of my time. I began searching for books on needle felting and found a shop that sold kits. I purchased a bunny kit, and when I picked up that wool and needle, I felt like I had come home. I was hooked!!! I purchased wool and began one of my own dogs, probably the most difficult, a silver dappled Dachshund. It came out pretty good — although, I am my own worst critic. From there I began felting many other breeds of dogs. I started doing custom orders for deceased dogs. As my ability to sculpt these animals grew, so did my love for needle felting. I was featured in the Arts section of our local newspaper, and people would recognize me around town. It was so weird, but in a wonderful way.

SA: That’s wild how you were so drawn to this particular use of fiber…but I understand since I had a similar experience regarding spinning yarn..Tell us more about the appeal of needle felting for you.

KC: I always wanted to paint, for as long as I can remember, but due to allergies, I never could. When I found needle felting, and worked with the wool, I knew my dream could be fulfilled. I just knew that I had to pursue this. there were so many synchronicities that led me to this art.

SA: When you are preparing to create a sculpture out of fiber, how do you approach the piece?

KC: First, I research the animal. The next step is difficult to explain, in context. I am deeply connected to Spirit, and the wool seems to come alive in my hands. It takes shape and form, without much thought. I feel the love and appreciation for the animal that created this wool, and it plugs into the pleasure I get from creating a piece of art from it. The wool is alive and it inspires me beyond words. When I step back, and see these finished works of art, I know that it is not just me creating it, but something greater is involved. God has given me this gift. I cannot take the credit for myself.

SA: How has your work changed since you started?

KC: Oh my, I began doing dogs, thinking that would be my focus. But, that quickly changed, as I became more at ease creating the sculptures. The first animal I created, outside of the canine realm, was a Black Bear. Then I did a few more bears, including the magnificent Grizzly. My designs were coming to me faster than I could create them. With a Red Fox, Raccoon, Wild Birds and an Eagle, adding to my repertoire of designs, I soon had the consuming desire to do portraits of landscapes, but found it difficult to utilize my 3-D skills, into a flat design. As my work evolved, I decided to combine my sculptures with the portrait idea, and my 3-dimensional designs were born. That gave me endless possibilities.  Every year at Christmas, while trying to come up with a special gift for my son, I would create a new design idea. That is where the Raccoon coming out of the log design came from, as well as a few other unique designs.

SA: Tell us what you feel distinguishes you as a fiber artist.

KC: These are my own designs. To me, that is what distinguishes me, as a fiber artist. When I create these pieces, I never have a plan. I just let the work evolve in my hands. As I have stated, the wool is what inspires me to create the endless designs. Sometimes I think my ideas will dissipate, but inspiration is all around me. Mother Earth is amazing. When I look at this art, from that perspective, instead of with my mind, the possibilities are endless.

SA: So, then, which fibers do you prefer to work with and why?

KC: I love all of the wool fiber, but I think one of my favorites, is camel down. I designed a 3-D Nativity scene once, and in that scene, is a camel. I finished off the camel with the camel down. It was so easy to work with, soft and filled with beautiful energy.

SA: And, where do you practice your art? Tell us about your studio.

KC: My studio space is small, but serves the purpose well. I do not require a lot of space to actually create the designs. My bins of wool take up most of the space, as with any fiber artist. I have a large stock of fiber, as I require lots of colors to create the designs. I need it to be there, so when I am inspired, I never have to worry about having the right colors. Other times, I purchase wool because I “see” what I want to create, when I look at these particular fibers. I hope to someday have a larger space, but for now, this will work.

SA: Talk about the future. What is your big, audacious, fiber-filled dream?

KC: My audacious fiber-filled dream is to be recognized as a true fiber artist. At the moment, I am on Etsy and ArtFire, and my pieces are in a unique Adirondack shop named “Trees” in Bolton Landing, NY. Some of these pieces need to be in a gallery and appreciated as fine art — that is my dream.

SA: That’s a great dream! If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

KC: I would be doing the Adirondack appliqued jackets. At the time I started needle felting, I never would have imagined giving up sewing as I have done that since I was a very young girl. My sewing machine was retired in 2008, when I was introduced to the world of needle felting. I always dreamed of doing my own designs, but found it difficult to accomplish that in sewing. Now, I cannot imagine NOT doing my own designs, and I feel blessed that needle felting found me.

SA: Relative to your work as an artist, what do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

KC: I think my greatest accomplishment is having the ability to create the sculptures and portraits. There is not any one accomplishment that specifically defines me. I know that I can create anything I desire. There are no limitations, and knowing that, makes me feel extremely blessed.

SA: Karen, what constitutes a perfect day for you?

KC: A perfect day for me is waking up and feeling so blessed to be able to create something beautiful, that may make someone smile, or feel loved. It is showing my pieces, and seeing the responses that I get. I received the sweetest call this past Christmas, from a woman that had purchased a custom portrait of kitties. She said that she just had to respond with the call to let me know how truly talented I was, and that the energy in my work was amazing. That sincere confirmation that I got, as well as others, like the kind written feed backs from purchases in my online shops, constitutes the perfect day for me.

SA: And, that positive feedback is well-deserved. Tell us one more thing about yourself: what is your motto?

KC: You can do anything if it comes from your heart. Dream BIG, then follow with action steps. The Universe will guide you, and bring forth all that you need to fulfill your dreams.

SA: How true! And, thank you so much, Karen for your positive and inspirational outlook. After looking at all the pictures of your designs, you’ve got me thinking about a custom piece for myself! Fiber pals, here are the links (Etsy, Artfire) to see more of Karen’s wonderful work.

Until next time, I wish you all the fibery goodness you can handle, Arlene

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