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Meet Hello Galena Artist: Karen D. Stockwell

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Karen StockwellHello Galena artists come into their talents via a variety of avenues, and Karen Stockwell is no exception. See how she has made her way through creative writing, singing, and visual art to become the expert jewelry and collage artisan she is today.

Karen's "Stockwell Cottage and Garden" business features jewelry, vases and candleholders.

In her own words:

How would you describe your art? Style? Mood?
As for style and mood, that depends on my mood and the materials Iím using. I like the natural fibers, patterns and colors in Japanese paper. And I like to use unusual materials, like handmade beads from Uganda (rolled paper) and Afghanistan (hand faceted quartz). I found an artist on Etsy who makes fiber beads and use those occasionally, too. I like to think of my art as colorful and bold, but also beautiful and sometimes delicate.

How did you learn your craft?
I learned my collage technique from my mother, Lorraine Dilsaver, who was a self-taught, mixed-media artist. I then applied that technique to making jewelry using a heavy paper base as well as collaging onto glass. I made beaded jewelry back in the '80s, but have learned more recently from books, classes, and asking questions at bead stores. As a visual artist, I took private lessons as a teenager in drawing and painting, got a B.A. in Art Education at Western Illinois University, and more studio classes as an adult (mainly at North Shore Art League in Wilmette), which included printmaking. I also have a M.A. In Art History from the School of the Art Institute. I did my thesis on the work of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, a Mexican photographer.

What is the most original aspect of your art?Karen Stockwell glass collage pin
That would probably be the collage process I use on my pins and on glass. People often say they havenít seen anything like it before.

How has your art changed since you started?
Itís kind of my lifeís story. I started out wanting to be a creative writer. After a 4th-grade teacher told my parents I had a good color sense, my mother sent me to private art lessons.

In college I was an art major with an English minor. I began doing naturalistic pen and ink, then pencil, than colored pencil drawings and did my first art fair at the age of 19, with my mom. I did this for probably close to 20 years. Then I started getting an artist block. I ran out of ideas of what to draw. The work was detailed and took a lot of time, so the idea had to be engaging.

Karen Stockwell pendantI went back to school and got a Masters in Modern Art, Theory and Criticism at the Art Institute of Chicago. I did it part-time while I worked, so it took a long time to get through it. I had hoped to get more ideas for my art, but ended up even more blocked. So I went back to writing. I wrote poetry and did lots of open mics in Chicago.

Then I got interested in taking classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I studied guitar, jembe drum, vocal technique. I started writing songs and singing at open mics. I became part of a duet called Moon Lodge. We combined poetry and music. My partner, Shelley Miller, went on to become a solo singer and a full-time teacher at the Old Town School of Music. She sings ďRed River ValleyĒ on one of the Old Town CDs. Sheís a generation younger than I am. I also wrote a novel (in 4th draft) and started a second rough draft of another. I would really like to get back to those, but in the meantime Iím doing my current craft work and enjoying the hands-on experience, working with color, texture, composition. I look forward to retirement, when I hope to have my hand in all these things, since I love doing every one of them.

What are some new techniques or styles you are trying or learning?
Iíve been working with wire lately and would like to learn more about wire wrapping. Iíve also started knitting and just picked up a book on how to knit with wire. I took a class at Sievers School of Fiber Arts in Wisconsin last year on making silk fiber paper. Iíd like to incorporate the paper Iíve made into my work more.

Karen Stockwell necklaceWhy do you enjoy your artistic endeavors?
Itís self-expression. I like to be creative and then share what Iíve done with others. Itís a way of calming myself after a stressful week at work (I work in educational publishing). If Iím not doing something creative, I get cranky! Itís a way of exploring ideas, of leaving something of myself behind. Iím a curious person who loves to try new things.

How do you express yourself through your art?
I would say itís through the choices I make. Much of it is design, choosing colors and patterns that work well together, but that may also be an unpredictable combination at the same time. I can get very colorful! I like to use contrasting colors or textures. Sometimes I use lowly materials, like the paper beads, with a more expensive element like pearls.

Karenís handcrafted work is for sale at Hello Galena, at 121 N. Commerce St., in Galena. Find our online map, store hours and directions.

Photos by Kim Becker

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