Friday, April 8, 2011

Diva of the Month, April: Karen Klomparens (10 Things Glass)

Welcome to Part 2 of our Diva of the Month April feature. We are interviewing Karen Klomparens of Fire 'n' Sand Glass this month. In this portion of the interview, we asked Karen about “Ten Things Glass.”

1. Attraction to Glass - We asked Karen how she first got interested in glass as an artistic medium. “I got into glass after years of dabbling in other things,” she says. “I was always making, fixing, or building something, a Jill of all trades - master of none, lol. Later I started doing shows with my hand painted kids clothes and some costume jewelry for the moms along with yard art and anything else I could dream up. Then after a short stint trying my hand at airbrushing I took a stained glass class after seeing a beautiful lamp my sister and her husband made. Funny thing is I never did make my lamp, got into fusing right away and then lampworking. One of the aspects of glass that I find so fascinating is the technical construction of pieces when firing in a kiln. And then there’s the reactions you get in the flame.”

2. Training in Other Artistic Areas - A lot of glass artists have some training in other areas or mediums. We asked Karen if this applies to her. “I’ve always been creative even as a child,” she tells us, “but have no formal art training past high school where I spent every free hour in the art room (unless I was skipping out). Our art teacher once told me that I had more natural talent than any of his other students. I just pay attention to detail, a bit OCD really.”

3. First Beads - The first beads Karen was ever proud of? “The first beads I was really happy with were ones that had some very cool reactions,” she says. “I had no idea what I was doing at the time, just swirling some colors and silver foil on and presto-ahhh! Want to see them?” (Photos below)

Pretty sure the blue one on the right is in my etsy shop now.

Still have the focals.

4. Inspiration - We asked Karen where she draws inspiration for her work. She tells us that her down-to-earth country lifestyle plays a big part in the organic type beads she makes. “I love organics and earthy colors,” she says. “I have a book of fancy cocktail drinks in bright colors that I bought just for bead inspiration.” She also describes friends she's met that also work in glass as the greatest source of inspiration for her. “Here in MI we meet up about once a month to play, eat and just have fun. We’re always sharing new things we’ve learned and most bring their new work to show. We also rent the local Glass Society twice a year.”

5. Ideas and Planning - Karen usually starts with orders or making similar items to those which have sold recently. Then she wings it. “I want to keep it fun, if it isn’t enjoyable I’d probably get sick of it and move on to the next adventure,” she says. “Don’t think I could ever be a lampworker who is known for a couple items and then has to create those same items over and over again. But I don’t think I’ve ever become a well known lampworker period and that’s okay with me. At this point in my life I don’t want to make this a full time job with all the deadlines that go with it.”

6. Photography - Photography is an important piece for glass artists, particularly those who sell online. We asked Karen about her photo setup. “I’ve tried a few cameras and get the best results from my Canon G2,” she says. “When my first one broke I bought the same model off eBay after trying a new Olympus and Kodak. For macro and color accuracy the old Canon works best for me.” Karen has changed her light set-up at least 5-6 times over the years. “At one time I built a large wood table with an adjustable box with a variable drop shadow backdrop. With a 500 watt and 2-250 watt photo bulbs from the camera shop it worked great but was stored above the garage and I got tired of taking everything up there. Then I had a copy stand I used for awhile.” Her current set-up is a 14” light tent with 4 clamp on lights using daylight fluorescent bulbs which are cool burning and energy saving. “I cut some matt finish glass that is raised over a light gray background (gray shows your bead colors best). My background is a little beat up so having a piece of matt glass over it hides the marks on it. This sits right next to the desktop computer, much more convenient for taking and editing pictures.”

7. Money - One of the problems of doing art for money is, do we let the finances dictate what we create? If money were no concern, how would that be reflected in our work? Karen says she would love to work bigger and hotter someday, but her current studio is maxed out on space. “Until we retire and move into a smaller house with a bigger studio that has to wait,” she says. “Doesn’t help that I’m a tool junkie either. I’ve been investing my bead sales into metal working equipment recently and have many ideas that need to get worked out. I’ve taken over half of the basement now with the recent wood-working area in what used to be the pool room. I also find I look at every out building I pass on the road and evaluate whether or not it would make a great studio. I’m into the process as much as the end result.”

8. Personal Style - What sort of jewelry does Karen wear? She says she doesn't change her jewelry very often. “I wear a pinkie spoon ring that I’ve had since I was about 15 years old,” she tells us. “Usually a bead on a silver chain that I change once in a awhile, my wedding ring, eye glass holder, and lampwork earrings. I lost my thumb ring a couple weeks but think it will turn up around the house someday. I’m a low maintenance gal and love being able to work at home in my jammie pants and slippers.”

9. Skills - One skill Karen wishes came easier to her? This one seems to be a common lament amongst lampwork artists – stringer control. “Stringer control is an area I haven’t spent a ton of time on,” Karen says. “Every technique just takes lots of practice, practice, practice! I also tend to overwork a bead with too much stuff going on and it ends up too busy. I need to work on simpler designs. I’ve been working in boro (hard glass) too and need to learn more about the characteristics of this type on glass.”

10. Marketing - We asked Karen what she loves about marketing her business, and what is the hardest part? “I do this for fun,” she says, “but of course in order to be able to do it I have to make enough to keep going with it. Most of the marketing aspect of selling my work I don’t care for much. Guess the best part is packing up a sale and getting it in the mailbox. I gave up doing shows because I’m not a very good sales person. It's uncomfortable for me to talk about myself and my work. I even put off THIS interview for the Fire Divas as long as I could! Being able to sell online works well for someone like me who tends to be a hermit. I’d like to think my work sells itself but unfortunately that’s not the case. I don’t take compliments well and always feel like I’m patting myself on the back when trying to sell in person. I’d much rather sit quietly and humbly in the studio.”

That's all for this week. I will leave you once again with Karen's links, and we'll see you next week for Part 3 of the Diva of the Month feature!

Fire 'n' Sand Glass on Etsy ~ Fire 'n' Sand Glass on Artfire ~ Fire 'n' Sand Glass on Facebook ~ Fire 'n' Sand Glass Blog ~ Fire 'n' Sand Glass on Twitter ~ Fire 'n' Sand Glass on Flickr

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