Karen Shannon Handcrafted Design Karen Shannon Handcrafted Design

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About Me

When I was little I was always drawing, sewing or making something, inspired by a very artistic mum and a grandmother with a huge cupboard full of fabric remnants. This led me to study Embroidery and Textiles at the University of Ulster finishing my degree way back in 1985 and after completing an Art Teachers Diploma taught Art and Design in further education until the paperwork became more important than the students.

At this point I was drawn by a strong need to make my own work again and left teaching in 1998 to set up my own craft studio, experimenting with materials and processes to arrive a few years later at my current collection of mixed media pieces. I made my first piece of work for an exhibition on the eve of the New Millenium and was inspired by a bookmarked poem in one of my grandmother's books, much used when she was a primary school teacher. 'The Dream Ship' was born and depicts a view through a gothic archway to a Tudor sailing ship, off to explore new worlds. My work developed from there and draws upon all the fairy and adventure stories I read as a child and imagining the antics that my garden birds and large ginger cat are getting up to when my back is turned. I try to bring these elements all together to create little 3-dimensional worlds in picture form.

I live and work in the heart of County Down, nestled in the drumlins of Dromore creating all my work in a little attic studio. If I'm not making I can be found baking far too many cakes, battling the weeds, slugs and local wood pigeons in my fruit and vegetable plot or running round the aforementioned drumlins to try and work off all that baking.

Karen Shannon Studio
Karen Shannon Studio

The Making Process

From initial preliminary sketches I get to become a kid again and play with plasticine! Using the same tools as ceramicists I make my originals, creating tiny patterns and impressed decorations on my creatures. These masters are then attached to a solid surface ready to be made into a mould.

I next build a wall around my master plate making sure there are no gaps so I don't have any seepage and then mix up a pourable, flexible rubber solution. Taking it very slowly I pour the rubber over my little creatures to ensure there aren't any air bubbles and then leave the mould to cure. I then mix up a very fine plaster and hand cast each piece as needed. Again I need to be patient as I have to leave the plaster, first to harden to enable me to extract my pieces from the mould without breaking and then to fully cure so I can decorate them with my collection of shimmering metallic paints enhanced with metal powders.

Karen Shannon Studio
Karen Shannon Studio

To frame my little scenes I emboss brass, copper and aluminium using my well used second hand fly press (it takes quite a bit of force, which thankfully got a lot easier when I started weight training at the gym!) I then antique and chemically verdigris these and use them to surround my pictures to draw you in to my fairytale world.

I next get to play a bit more and decorate my work with a myriad of beads, sequins and wires. The difficult bit is knowing when to stop and I have caught myself taking ten minutes deliberating on which colour of bead a flower should have at it's centre! My final task is to frame my work in a simple wooden frame ready to be sent out to their new homes.

Karen Shannon Studio

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karen shannon handcrafted design

dromore : county down : northern ireland

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