about

Aged 5, Mum gave me my first 10p to spend at a jumble sale. Over 40 years later the pin cushion purchased is much used and well loved.

Reflections on early childhood and creativity

Looking back I realise I was a curious child, watchful and inventive. In mine and my sisters shared bedroom oversized floral wallpaper decorated the room, I'd lay in bed mentally calculating colour-way and repeat to find order, make sense and understand. Now I see this intent looking and curiosity provided an unconscious education in how to draw accurately, further imbedded by the rigorous drawing training on my BTEC National Diploma in General Art & Design. My natural inclination and art education result in my viewing the world as if I'm drawing it. Always searching for horizontal, vertical lines, breaking objects down into simple shapes, noticing distance, angle, proportion, relationships between objects, repeat and structure - the world is a puzzle and I don't want it solved.  

As a child my greatest delight was in being gifted a brand new sketchpad and pack of felt tips. As outlining everything in black was an unspoken rule in how to finish art, the black was always the first to run out and become a frustrating, scratchy imitation of its former self. How we coveted black felt tips! Another precious delight was once being given a short length of woven cloth, using our long wardrobe mirror and my body as mannequin I fashioned a wrap-a-round skirt with button fastening. Frayed edges, functional stitching, working with intent and focus in creating. Little me understood fabric.

In school I drew to express my thoughts and feelings and attempted to ignore writing. Watchful Karen was confused by a classmates drawing of a hand, a scrawled circle with lines of fingers when I was drawing an anatomically correct hand with fingers and thumb... I'm unsure of the teachers noticed. Discovering my dyslexia at 31 made sense of the difficulties experienced at school, where (apart from Art and Design) I was placed in low ability classes. My self esteem was low and without Art I'm unsure who I would have become.


After school a Diploma led to a Degree, and years later a Masters at Goldsmiths, University of London. My younger self never imagined she would teach, but here I am, fortunate in having worked alongside toddlers, school pupils, young people, adults and seniors in my work as a creative practitioner in galleries, schools, community centres and colleges.

My artwork is ignited and haunted by memories of a chaotic and dysfunctional childhood in an Essex council estate. The green woods opposite our house, my home. Somehow, these woods entered my soul and made landscape a place of safety and connection to myself, for myself. Without Epping Forest I'm unsure who I would have become.

Louise Bourgeois writes of complex emotional process ending in reconciliation in her autobiographical sculpture, I Do, I Undo, I Redo. Louise's writing has deep resonance personally and transformed in my head to I Undo, I Redo, I Forgive, I Undo: my childhood experience, I Redo: remake, alter, make good, I Forgive: a (possibly) lifelong striving towards understanding and forgiveness. My art, walking and work as a creative practitioner circle around these intentions and ideas.

What I've learned:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it! William Hutchinson Murray
Be careful who's advice you take
Trust your gut
Keep trying
Own your wounds
Do your best
Be kind (to yourself first, then others)
Get informed
Look around you
Be who you are