Spend time with Karen Dawn Dean and you’ll quickly discover that her energy and passion for her craft, pottery, is as clearly defined as she is as a person.
More so these days however, the pursuit of her place in this world as an artist consumes much of her daily energy — pottery simply as a catalyst. I recently had the good fortune to spend some time with Karen in her work space. I sat perched on a stool covered in clay dust (everything was), sipped my coffee, and thoroughly enjoyed hearing what has shaped her craft over the years, and perhaps more importantly, her life.
As Karen states it, she’s inspired by the pursuit of possibilities. She loves natural patterns, exploring endless combinations of color, raw materials, artifacts in nature, and has a wildly complex appreciation for the bowl. The bowl to her represents a nurturing gesture, motherhood, an embrace — the list goes on and on. The bowl also allowed us to sip rather than slurp our food thousands of years ago: an ancient human refinement.
Karen grew up in East Wenatchee in the ’50s and ’60s with a father who was a master craftsman and a mother who was a watercolorist. Both of these creative worlds were clearly bestowed on Karen alongside the very bright influence of her parent’s “work hard and you’ll succeed” early advice.
Karen’s artistic exploration began in the turbulent sixties, a time for her and many others which was fueled by an explosive drive for individuality. The corporate world of the time was often the recipient of a well-exercised, negative hand gesture of a particular digit. Art empowered Karen, refined her identity in a culture entrenched in mass production and commercialization.
Today, Karen tirelessly explores what it means to be an artist, where clay fits in this world and the influences of her life’s trials and tribulations. She continually pushes to further pursue and expand her passion for pottery — the most recent effort at the hands of a paint brush in an art class at Wenatchee Valley College with Scott Bailey. She laughs and wastes no time in stating, “man I sucked at it.” Being a student again is all a part of her life’s journey as an artist.
What’s next for Karen? She’s currently working on a two-person art exhibition at WVC’s Music and Art Center with fellow student and local artist/poet/WVC English faculty member, Niki Stewart. Karen’s contribution will be a performance piece, evolving installation piece, paintings and sculpture. It will be participatory (wanna break some pottery with a hammer?), experimental, revealing, destructive and transformative.
While she shares her vision with me, her posture changes both with nervous energy and excitement. Rightfully so, as she states it, “It’ll be the most important thing I’ve done.” With this exhibition, a very bright light is approaching Karen’s personal horizon — the intersection of what she considers the craft of pottery and art.
The event will be held Friday at Wenatchee Valley College’s MAC Gallery with Karen’s performance piece happening intermittently between 6 p.m.. and 8 p.m. The exhibit, ART220, will run the month of April.
Visit the MAC’s website here — http://tinyurl.com/d5logjl — for more details.
If performance art, or provisional work, isn’t what you’re looking for, Karen has a number of vessels at Tumbleweed Bead Co.’s store at 105 Palouse St. in Wenatchee for you to enjoy or purchase at your leisure. Know that each piece is unique, born from Karen’s endless thirst for trying to understand pottery’s place in this modern world. On a simpler level, imagine yourself sipping from one of her bowls — your fellow humans will appreciate this gesture.
Mike Endsley is the co-owner of Endsley & Co., a full service marketing company based in Wenatchee. You can reach Mike at at 360-319-9421, by email at email@example.com, or visit www.endsleyco.com.