Featured Artist Karen Gass
When you picture an artist what do you see? Beret wearing painter? Vegan living in a commune? A homeschooling grandmother? My guess is the third choice was not even close, but this is just what I found in Karen!
Karen lives a very packed life as a stay at home mom, wife, homeschool teacher to a senior in High School, as well as an online magazine editor. She is happily married and has 14 grandchildren, only two being girls, and another on the way! Sound busy? Well, add in professional seamstress learning couture techniques and patternmaking and I don’t know how she crams is all in. Karen also deals with fibromyalgia, an auto immune disease which causes intense and widespread pain throughout the body. This illness has slowed down some of her activities, such as gardening, but has not dampened her creative spirit one bit.
Karen claims that she did not chose to work with fabric, but rather the fabric chose her. She comes from a long line of dressmakers and has always been one to keep herself busy from childhood with one hand project or another. Her family has been encouraging of her creative soul which has allowed her to explore many different arts such as embroidery, cross stitch, crochet and more recently polymer clay; but it is fabric that really captures her imagination. Karen says that she loves the combination of colors, textures and fibers and has made clothes for herself, her pregnant Daughter in Law (lucky girl that doesn’t have to try to find cute maternity clothes!) as well as her children. She loves the idea of taking a flat piece of fabric and turning it into wearable art!
Before the internet became a mainstream item, Karen and her sister did craft shows together. Karen would make quilted wall hangings, pillows, and small quilts while her equally talented sister would work with painted wood. While these shows were certainly successful, the internet gave her a new outlet, with much less setting up and breaking down, for her work. She saw it as an opportunity to reach a much larger market and jumped in with both feet and soon a business was born. It was also an opportunity to work around her fibromyalgia symptoms by allowing her to set her own schedule based on her health needs rather than punching a time clock. This flexibility is one of her favorite aspects of working in the handmade world and selling online.
Karen has, of course, also found some of the pitfalls of trying to make it selling handwork such as slow sales times and the hours of pictures and promotion, but that has not stopped her. She knows that when you create, it comes straight from your heart and soul and that the right customers, once they find you, will jump at the chance to own an artists creation.
Karen encourages others to also pursue their creative passions, but advises them to be the best at what you do. Take classes and practice and always be willing to learn new techniques or improve on old ones. Learn from every success and every failure; study it and fix it! Most of all, you must love what you do since this is not an easy road to walk, but the rewards well out way the struggles if you love your work.
Are you ready to feast your eyes on what a talented, homeschooling Grandmother can do? Well, Karen is easy to find on HandmadeArtists as well as on Etsy here or here. You can also track her down and get to know her on Facebook and her blog.
Karen is an inspiration for so many reasons, but I was most impressed by her attitude. She is a spunky lady that has had some struggles, but continues to see the positive and allow her spirit into her work. I’m sure when you see it you will understand what I mean.
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