As I paged through Karen's work, I instantly knew that I was in the presence of a master craftsperson and serious fiber artist. Her passion and path is the ancient Japanese technique of stencil cutting, called Katazome.
An excellent quick overview of the process can be found on Karen's website, here. The meticulously cut stencils are laid on fabric, a resist paste is spread over them, the stencil removed and the paste allowed to dry; then the fabric can either be painted or dipped into dye. Karen does both, and the dye she uses is the traditional Japanese indigo.
I was stopped in my tracks by this woman's art in the pages of Martha's book. Karen had a thoughtful demeanor and was very humble as she talked a little bit about it. When I asked if I could come see her the next morning to learn and see more, she graciously agreed.
We went down to her basement, where the workspace is.
Karen's work can be both large scale like this, and also extremely detailed. One of the main forces driving her is pattern, whether in her interpretations of traditional Japanese designs or in her own personal imagery, where she abstracts patterns from nature for use in her stencil designs.
Karen was for many years a marine biologist, which informs her art to great extent, I think.
She showed me many, many cool ones.
She also showed me an antique Japanese stencil that illustrates how minutely detailed this process can get.
Click on it so you can really see it up close:
She had shelves full of her own stencils--she's been doing this for 18 years. The one she had out that caught my eye and captivated me was this one:
My favorites of her noren are the ones she did using stencils she created of two of the Cascade peaks in our area of the Pacific Northwest, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood.
And look what she did with our beloved Mt. Hood:
She also produces silk art garments.
She showed me a quilt she has in progress.
Then....it was time for me to go shopping!!!!
I knew I couldn't appreciate the intricacies of the indigo dyeing process as Karen was explaining it to me...I was just too ignorant.
I loved the clamps she uses to hold up the fabrics to dry after they've been dyed.
She has her inventory organized neatly in bins.
The bins were all labeled like this:
I came away with an amazing stash.
The last fabric I chose was that Mt. Hood panel, my favorite piece of all.
On my way home from Corvallis, where Karen lives, I passed through Portland and went to see my friends at The Button Emporium. I was looking for some trim for another project, but I had to show Marvis Lutz, the owner, this incredible fabric. She was as excited about it as I was, especially by Mt. Hood.
I told her I thought it needed a moon...and she brought out an antique mother-of-pearl disc that is almost 100 years old. We found some cherry blossom appliques that she had had made especially for the store, and some raku salmon buttons....
I am in Karen's debt, and Marvis's too, for providing me with such supreme beauty to work with....