THE CIRCUS ROLLS UPby Niamh McCooey
As the Selvedge Fair in Pendle opened its doors to a great many textile-loving visitors last weekend, we had a chance to quickly catch-up with Karen Shapley, who exhibited her fairytale creatures on the day...
How did you get to where you are today?
I returned to university as a mature student taking a BA course in Contemporary Craft where I specialised in ceramics and textiles. After I graduated, I then rented a studio at Potclays (a local ceramics factory in Stoke-on-Trent) and began to take part in many group exhibitions, solo shows and window displays throughout the country.
Tell us about your creative process.
I've always seen myself as a storyteller, conjuring sculptural work that evokes a lot of memories. Through ceramics and textiles I create 3D objects that often resemble whimsical creatures, which are then enhanced with domestic objects like baking tins, cutlery, badges, feathers and all sorts of bits and bobs! Ceramic elements are created first (such as heads and shoulders) and then these are fired three times with the addition of gold lustres. Next, the textile bases are added using various upholstery techniques. Then they're dressed with fur collars, badges, frocks and the occasional vehicle.
What will you be showing at the Selvedge Fair?
I'll be exhibiting a new collection of work that references circus life. The theme is ‘Roll Up Roll Up!’ and includes juggling mice, elephants and monkeys who are all watched by spectators of the woodland.
What inspires you?
I’ve always been inspired by the Victorians who were so enthusiastic about the world and the discoveries they were making. They didn't feel restricted by style and I admire them for that. They also created the most bizarre objects such as vases with palm trees and primroses. It’s this enthusiasm to be creative and not to be contained by rules of design that still inspires me to this day.
To find out more about the Selvedge Fair in Pendle and to book your tickets, click here.