QB Artist Profile: Karen Thurman
by Lauren Steinhardt on 08 December, 2015
It should come as no surprise that there are many talented makers and doers on staff here at Queen Bee. In addition to keeping our business running smoothly, our bookkeeper Karen has amazing skills in the felted wool department. Her scarves and home goods have graced our store for the past few years, and attracted lots of attention for their bold graphic shapes and intricate patterns.
QB: Tell us about your history with crafting. Were you always a crafty person?
I have always loved and been interested in art, more so really than craft. I’m a very visual person and have always appreciated color and design, be it in art, fashion, or architecture. In college I had initially thought of going into the sciences but quickly realized that wasn’t right for me. I studied art history although I decided not to pursue it as a major.
QB: How long have you been working with wool? How did you come to felting?
When I was in high school, a neighbor down the street taught me how to knit. In college I studied textile design and fiber art, and first learned to felt during that period. Later when I moved to Berkeley, I worked for a great company that sold yarn and fiber. I was constantly inspired by being around all the materials and the creativity of my coworkers. While I was in Berkeley I began exploring the felting process in addition to the knitting that I was doing. When I came back to Portland I was primarily knitting and designing sweaters, but I eventually started to felt again.
I am inspired by color, shapes, and pattern – all of which I see in nature and all around me.
QB: What’s the process behind your felted creations? How long does it take you to make each one?
Most of what I do uses a wet felting process by which loose fiber along with hot water, soap and agitation becomes fabric. Often I am layering pieces of previously felted fabric or shapes that I’ve made, and felting those together again. Needle felting allows me to provide a finer level of detail, and I use it to build some of the 3d shapes. The length of time really varies depending on the size and complexity of what I am making. Some small simple pieces can take just a few hours but most of the things have multiple steps and can take me a week or two to complete.
QB: Your felt pieces are bright, playful, and colorful. How do you find inspiration for your designs? What sort of things influence your aesthetic?
I am inspired by color, shapes, and pattern – all of which I see in nature and all around me. I’m also greatly inspired by the medium itself. It’s been around for hundreds of years and it’s a traditional way to make clothing and shelter. I also love that it is renewable - the animals produce the fibers throughout their whole lives.
QB: In addition to being a felting genius, you are also the bookkeeper at Queen Bee. Do you feel that being here every day influences your felting work at all?
I love working at Queen Bee; being in a creative environment around creative people is very nurturing even if bookeeping isn’t always the most creative work. It’s fun to see the creative process and the development of new products over time. I would be very unhappy working at an auto parts store or dry cleaners for instance.
QB: Anything new on the horizon? New stuff for this holiday season? Anything else you’d like to share?
Recently I’ve been working more in 3d. I’ve been playing with new shapes, and surface treatments, and I have recently started making mobiles. I really like the way they move and appear to float, and the challenge of making them balance, both visually and functionally. There is a lot of whimsy in my work and I’m having a lot of fun making mobiles at the moment.