Saturday, July 16, 2011

Interview with Karen Henderson

~ Artist Interview ~
Karen Henderson "Textile Artist"

1. What is your name? Karen Henderson
2. What do you do? Landscape inspired wall pieces.
I usually start with hand weaving the fabric, in natural color (beige,
white, lt. grey or lt. brown) yarns. Often, I use an Irish linen warp,
and then for weft I’ll try silk, paper, or mix with a variety of other
yarns. I explore variations in the density of the weave, playing with
textures and transparencies. Basically, I’m weaving my own ‘canvas’.
After weaving, then the dye process(es) begins to slowly build my
image (batik, shibori, dye painting). Other fabrics are
combined...hand-stitching is usually the last part of the process.
Sometimes I also work with fabrics I haven’t woven, using all the
other same processes. Or I combine them, I’m even getting brave now to
sometimes cut a weaving.
3. Do you support yourself financially with what you make?
I wish I were! On a good month I can support myself. But it’s so irregular I
can’t count on it. Currently, I still need to keep a part-time ‘day-job’, and
I also do freelance textile design to augment my income. I was trying to get
established at the higher-end craft shows with my ‘fine’ art, doing them from
2006 to 2009, which was an incredible experience, but with the economic
situation, it’s too costly for me right now. I’ve decided to try other
approaches to getting my work out there. Recently I finished a commission for
a hospital, which was a great process that I’d like to find more
opportunities for. Another avenue I’m considering putting more energy into is
making smaller, quick to make work & wearables to sell at our local farmers
markets, which I tried last fall and it was fun… I think I could also try
Etsy with those but haven’t tried that yet - I need to ask your wife some
tips! Ideally, I’d like to do the textile design freelance as my only “dayjob”
and then pursue making/selling my fine art wall pieces for the other
part of the time.

4. Do you ever think about doing anything else as a profession? Lately, yes,
I think about going back to the textile design work full-time. It’s been a
difficult time the past couple of years due to the economy…so it does have me
second-guessing the practicality of my desire to support myself. But so far I
just keep trying with my art, and am looking forward to a one-week residency
this spring. That will be a nice retreat to focus on some new work.
5. What is your earliest memory of making something? drawing on the walls of
our bedroom with my sister…age 3. My sister would also have these ‘theme’
doll parties for her friends, and we’d have to bring our dolls dressed in
whatever the theme was she chose…it was like a super early project runway for
little girls…that was maybe age 5. I also remember getting my own 70’s style
plastic ceramic wheel…I have always loved making things, and always knew I
was an artist.

6. How do you come up with your ideas?
I respond to the things in nature that resonate with me…and then the
different processes and materials have a lot to do with it too. It’s a
dialogue between intention and reaction.
7. Do you consider what you make to be art? yes
8. What are some of your creative influences (other artists, nature, music,
etc.)? nature, browsing books from the library, reading art magazines… and
last year saw an exhibit that had work by artists who had called themselves
“Luminists” which really intrigued me but now I can’t remember their names or
the time period…but I thought at the time I’d like to join them.

9. Do you ever get emotionally attached to things that you make? Not really
in that sense of “I can’t live without it”. I guess I feel like when you are
a maker, you have to make room for new — so in the end can’t get attached
really. And it’s such an honor when someone else connects so much with the
work that they want to welcome it into their home. It’s surprising, and
gratifying, to hear someone else’s interpretation of the piece, or the
emotions they get from it, and how close it might be to the thoughts I had
when creating it. I love that.
10. Do you think art has a purpose?
Yes. For us to share our humanness with each other in whatever way that
artist is expressing it.

I first met Karen as a first year art student at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY back in the Mid 80's.  I remember her best by her fantastic work ethic, great sense of humor and her positive attitude.  She was someone that you definitely wanted to be around hoping that any of it might rub off on you.  I had lost touch with her for more than a decade and one day when I let my fingers do a googling low and behold It turns out she had been very busy creating an impressive body of work in textiles.  No big surprise really considering her work ethic but still always great to discover that artistic perseverance in life.  I'm happy to reconnect with her after so long and I hope that you enjoyed her thoughtful responses to my questions about her creative efforts.  And many thanks to Karen.  To see more of Karen's textile works click here.


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