Karen Lewis Interview for Jenni Smith Sews May 2, 2016 08:33 70 Comments
I first met Karen Lewis a couple of years ago at the fabulous Chirpy store in Leeds. Karen had just published her book Screenprinting at Home and had an open workshop to give the basic techniques a go.
Last November I also enjoyed a full day workshop at Karen's home studio with some of my quilt-loving friends.
(My rather wonky logo templates ready for screen printing!)
Karen is incredibly busy at the moment. She is working as a fabric designer for Robert Kaufman and this week she announced that she will be teaching and lecturing at Quilt Con 2017 in Savannah, USA. She has also set up The Thread House with Jo Avery and Lynne Goldsworthy to release patterns and host retreats.
We spent a bit of time together at The Craft Hobby and Stitch show and I am very pleased to share this interview here.
Jenni: Can you give us an update on what is happening with your fabric and thread collection at present?
Karen: My first collection for Aurifil is currently being launched and will be available for retailers in May. My Blueberry Park fabric collection is still going strong…I think!
(When Karen printed over her Kona colour chart one day at home and put the photo on Instagram everybody got very excited and that is how the collaboration with Robert Kaufman began.)
Jenni: Is printmaking still part of your daily routine?
Karen: Printmaking is very much part of my daily routine whether it is physically printing or planning new designs. Since moving house I haven’t got my printing space fully set up so I am currently relying on using studio space outside the house. This has the result of making me more organised when and what I print but has the downside of me not being able to print when the mood takes me. Making me more organised however is no bad thing!
Jenni: Do you have a new studio/ workspace?
Karen: I have a new studio that is just off the kitchen. My previous studio was in the attic and away from the rest of the household. I loved hiding away up there and was a little nervous of being in the hub and distraction of everyone but actually I love it. I love being in my studio and being a part of what everyone is doing in our live-in kitchen.
Jenni: Will the recent move to countryside inform your new designs?
Karen: Most definitely. I go for daily walks through the fields and country lanes and my head is constantly buzzing as I see new flora and fauna, mark making shadows, farm buildings and all sorts of other things I didn’t see regularly. I am sure it will have an effect on new designs.
(Karen's new surroundings - photo from her own blog)
Jenni: How important do you think social media is to connect with other makers?
Karen: As makers we live very isolated lives so for me social media is very important. I love interacting with other makers and also customers. I don’t have colleagues on hand that I can bounce ideas off and learn from so to interact on social media platforms is a necessity.
Jenni: Do you find other challenges working for yourself?
Karen: It is a daily challenge to not get distracted! Whether that is by chores around the house or losing time on the internet. There is no-one around to keep an eye on me and for me to feel the pressure of sloping off. I do love working for myself but do miss the real life daily interaction with others.
Jenni: You have a brilliant sense of colour, where does your inspiration come from?
Karen: Thank you. I am drawn to simplicity and I think that shows in my work, both with my fabric and quilting design. I don’t seem to be able to combine multiple colours and really admire those that can. As a consequence my work tends to be limited palettes which generally blend together easily. I always seem to be drawn to a mustard, grey and teal combo and that is definitely my default colour setting but more recently I have been enjoying adding peach and aqua into that combo. Also a bit of turquoise. I would say to people who struggle with colour combinations to pick one busy print that you are drawn to and pick out the individual elements in simpler/one colour prints to go with it. I would also say, go with what appeals to you.
Jenni: How many quilts do you have in your home?
Karen: Definitely too many to count! I try to sell sample quilts but some I am just too attached to and find it hard to let go of them!
Jenni: Have you passed your skills onto your children or younger family members?
Karen: My 2 sons are coming up to 19 and 17 and are in no way interested in learning either quilting or printing. They are just about interested enough to dictate something they would like me to make for them! My daughter is 14 and flips in and out of being interested in learning to quilt. She has done some quilting and I think it is something she will become interested in when she is older. She however loves to print and that is one reason to get my printing set back up at home so she can do more of that.
Thanks Karen and good luck with all your projects this year.
I am super excited to have one large set of Karen Lewis's Aurifil threads to give away. This has 12 large spools of 50wt thread.
To enter simply write your name and contact email in the comment box below. Alternatively you can email me your details through the contact page on this site.
One very lucky winner will be chosen at random on Saturday 14th May and I will announce it here on my blog.
Why not also read my recent interview with US fabric designer, artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon here.
Thanks for stopping by.
The winner of the thread competition is Erin @onceuponadonkey. Thank you to everybody who took part.