ARTIST INTERVIEW: Karen Gayle Tinney
Karen Tinney is a Philadelphia based artist and designer who makes mixed material home decor. Using a combination of ceramic and fiber techniques, each piece is a reflection of the artist’s passion for combining materials in unique ways. As a graduate of Parsons School of Design, Karen worked professionally as a home decor designer for over 5 years before launching her own line in 2015. Each piece is meticulously crafted by the artist in her studio; some pieces taking months to fully complete.
We are thrilled to welcome Karen as a new artist at the Spring Fair 2018! You can also shop for one of her wall hangings in our online store.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now.
For as long as I remember I was interested in a career in arts and design – in high school I had the opportunity to take many specialized art classes (one of them is where I learned the weaving technique I use today). I went on to attend Parsons School of Design for product/furniture design and worked for over 5 years as a home décor designer. During that time, I was always making my own work – I took classes in different fiber techniques and I was drawing and painting a lot.
In 2014 I moved from Brooklyn to Philadelphia, and during that time I started to take up basket making techniques and fiber art again to fill my spare time in my new city where I didn’t know many people. I also ended up in a ceramics class, which reignited my interest in the medium that I hadn’t used since college. At this point the two materials (fiber and ceramics) naturally came together for me, and I slowly started to build a body of work. In 2016 I left my job as a designer to work full time for myself.
What are your most important artistic tools?
A special tool for punching holes in wet clay, a comb to keep fringe straight, and a big, dull needle.
How do you define success in your art or craft, or alternately, what does failure mean to you?
Success is when I push myself to do something that I didn’t think I could do – like achieve a certain shape or scale in my vessels or improve my ceramic building techniques. Failure is feeling like I am treading water on the same ideas.
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
Definitely. Working on your own creative business can be very isolating – so many hours devoted to your own work in your studio. It is important to have a connection with others in your community to bounce ideas off of, share resources, and encourage each other to grow.
Did you have any artists or creative people in your family? If so, how did they influence you?
My Dad is a second-generation furniture maker and my parents had a store where they sold his work for the earlier part of my childhood. I grew up watching him work and saw first hand how difficult it can be to own your own creative business, but the entrepreneurial spirit must be genetic!