Studio Briefs – Karen Dries

I was raised around art my whole life…

My father who is a landscape painter, had a studio at the house that I grew up in. I was exposed to arts and crafts from a young age, from painting to wood-working. I love it all, but it was pottery that became my number one craft ever since I was a teenager. I started doing pottery in High School. My school in Ridgefield fortunately had a strong art program that included pottery. I spent all four years taking those pottery classes. I even did an independent study my senior year. Later on, I studied art at the Silvermine Guild and took some courses from various studios.

My teaching career started unexpectedly when I visited a paint-it-yourself pottery studio. This particular studio had advertised courses, but they didn’t currently have an instructor. I offered my help and landed the job. I have loved teaching people pottery ever since – that is why I love teaching at Brookfielf Craft Center from kids to adults to experienced crafters. I especially love the excitement of kids discovering a spinning pottery wheel and the fun of forming a piece of clay. Everything about pottery is cool to the kids. I enjoy teaching adults too because they can get into more advanced techniques. My involvement with the BCC started a couple years ago when I was initially looking for work in Ridgefield. One place I was interested in had no open positions, but they referred me to Brookfield. I loved the BCC from my first visit. I went in and talked with folks and immediately connected with the organization and people.

Volunteering is a big part of my life. Volunteer work offers me many opportunities to problem solve. From 2010 to 2013 I volunteered in Mozambique, Africa. While there, I observed carvers, and batiks (wax resist). This experience inspired me and impacted on pottery and influenced my art.

These day I volunteer with my husband at Watch-tower Educational Center (Patterson, NY) where we use various craft techniques to produce props and scenery for the Center’s programs. I also started wood-working at Watchtower. I made a number of small pieces for myself. Ever since then, I loved woodturning, to me it is a pottery wheel turned on its side. I also had the opportunity to teach woodworkers pottery and observed that they picked it up quickly. Both crafts have a similar concept: the wheel turns and you are still.

I love functional artwork. For example, a sculpture and a mug can both be beautiful, but the mug will always be useful, no matter how artsy it is. Although I like to think of myself as artist, I see myself as more of a maker than an artist. One time I made a mug with a cover for friend to keep her tea warm while she cared for a loved one. I took great satisfaction in making that piece and knowing it would be appreciated by the caregiver. I enjoy the complete focus on producing an object. The absorption in the act of doing and creating. The anticipation of seeing the end result after firing a piece. Even the waiting period to see final result. Hard work and patience sometimes ends with unexpected results. There are many opportunities for things to go awry, but I continue to learn from those experiences.

Story written by Terry Tougas and Karen Dries