Our April Featured member is Karen Klomparens of Fire-n-Sand Glass Art. We know her as giapet. We asked Karen to tell us about herself.
Karen, please give us a little background on yourself:
"Bet you could make this cool stuff!" That's what my husband said when he saw a beautiful Tiffany style lamp at my sister's house. At the time I was into fabric painting, airbrushing or some other creative endeavor as usual. My basement workroom soon became a glass studio with the equipment for doing stained glass. A couple years later I was introduced to glass fusing through an online glass group which met up for the Glass Expo in Las Vegas in 1994. What an adventure, meeting up with online friends for the first time and fusing pieces in a small kiln inside a motor-home out in the desert! From there it was a natural progression into working "hot" on a torch making lampworked beads. The husband now says he created a monster, lol.
What do you like best about what you do?
Using new ideas with the technical limits of the glass is what holds my interest the most. "What if I tried this, wonder what would happen if...?" The discovery of new color reactions and designs, the possibilities are endless and the surprises are often some of my best pieces. Being able to create glass art at home and actually have customers who admire it is the icing on the cake.
Is there a pattern in the way you select materials? In the way you use color, texture or light?
I work in what I like to call organized chaos, so usually what is spread all over my bench is where I start from unless I have special orders to do. Organics and textures are my personal favorites using silver foil combined with different frits (small chunks of glass) to get those fantastic reactions. I like earthy colors myself but try to work with brights and pastels too. Really I just want to try making it all! Doesn't matter, bead sets, focal beads, vessels, off mandrel work, sculptural pieces, fused pieces.
What inspires you? How are your inspirations expressed in your work?
I'm lucky to have so many glass friends here in Michigan and where we share ideas and techniques. They keep me inspired to try new things that I might not have on my own. Currently we are exploring incorporating metalwork with bead making. Being part of the EGA team has also been a wonderful experience too. We're surrounded by woods and wildlife here where the colors of nature and the peacefulness are always inspiring. I'm getting ready to start on a batch of 3-D hummingbird feeders for spring.
How much time is spent creating your pieces?
Kiln fused pieces take hours and sometimes days to complete. While the pieces are in the kiln I'm free to work on the torch. I tend to lose track of time in the studio, sometimes its 5 am before I realize it. I like to have long blocks of time to work unless I have a custom order to do, then an hour or two is fine. Often the idea for something is in my head for weeks before I get to trying it.
What are your techniques and style and how do these relate to the medium?
I don't think I have a certain style or maybe just haven't found it yet. I think of myself as a "Jill of all trades and master of none". I like to make up my own frit blends different than the ones you can find commercially. I tend to try a technique until I'm satisfied I can do it and then move on to something else. I really don't want to find myself in a position where I'm known for a certain design and then have to create the same thing over and over again. I like the freedom of working on whatever my heart desires at the moment.
What do you find most challenging about your work in the glass arts?
Being able to take a bead design that almost everyone does and make it my own is a real challenge! Let's face it, there is only so much you can do on a 3/4" glass canvas. Showing and selling my work is another area where I could do better too. If it wasn't for the Internet I'd have buckets of beads around our house. I'm just not a very good salesman type person in person. I also like to build equipment for my studio. I've built 2 kilns, adapted another into a bead annealer, put in my own ventilation system and rewired all my studio lights.
How did you find Etsy? What do you like most about it?
I had read about Etsy online months before signing up. My work seemed to get lost is the masses (or is that mass produced stuff) that was selling on ebay. The idea of a handmade site was perfect fit for my work. The best thing about Etsy is my pieces stay up for 4 months instead of just a week. I could never keep a constant presence up week to week where I can on Etsy. Etsy has provided a venue where I can feed my need to create, making it possible to buy the tools and glass I need continue doing what I love. I'll never be a famous bead maker and that's okay. I just love to cut or melt glass and am grateful some people like my work enough to purchase it.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Doing pretty much what I'm doing right now only in a bigger and better glass studio, spending endless hours playing with fire! And maybe, just maybe having the time, space, and funds to build a small furnace hot shop. After all a girl's gotta have her toys too!