Karen Karnes 1925-2016

by Elenor Wilson
Jul 19, 2016

Karen Karnes (left) with Mikhail Zakin (right) on Cape Cod. From Kathryn Hall's article in Vol. 43, No. 1.Karen Karnes died on July 12th, 2016. We lovingly send our condolences to her partner, Ann Stannard, and her dearest friends, family, students, fellow potters, and admirers. In her 91 years, she profoundly influenced much of (and, I would say, all of) the ceramics, crafts, and art communities worldwide.  Even those like myself, who (regrettably) did not have the chance to meet her in person, have been influenced by her writing, teaching, students, and, of course, her pots. Her life is eloquently remembered on the NCECA blog by Mark Shapiro, who wrote the book, A Chosen Path: The Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes. He writes,

"[Karen] was a towering figure of the postwar studio pottery movement, pioneering salt-glazing in the 1960s and wood-firing in the 1980s. Her work opened undreamed of possibilities of expression for the handmade pot. For the many potters who knew her, she was a mentor whose work embodied the creative power and singular voice to which we all aspire—her life in complete harmony with her creative vision." 

A celebration of Karnes's life will be held at The Art School at Old Church, 561 Piermont Road, Demarest, New Jersey, Saturday, September 17th at 4:30 p.m. For more information, please contact Maria Danzinger.

Karnes wrote, and was the subject of, numerous articles in Studio Potter, including: "A Conversation," Vol. 6, No. 1, 1977; "A Bourry Box Kiln," and "A Portfolio of American Woodfired Pottery," Vol. 11, No. 1, 1982; "Choosing Another Path," Vol. 15, No. 1, 1986; "Vermont Potters," Vol. 18, No. 1, 1989; "Guiding the Spirit Through Clay: The Lineage of Robbie Lobell," by Kathryn Hall, Vol. 43, No. 1, 2015. In honor of Karnes and her life, SP aims to make each of the above articles available to the public as embedded, shareable, and saveable online text, such as the one linked above.  Many, many, other articles, books, and films on the life of Karen Karnes have been published throughout her life. I highly recommend the film, Don't Know, We'll See, The Work of Karen Karnes, by Lucy Massie Phenix, which is available now in our online shop.   

The Winter/Spring 2017 issue of Studio Potter will be dedicated to, written by, and feature women working in clay. I invite you to contribute your story about Karen. Please contact me for submission guidelines: editor@studiopotter.org

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