STUDIO TOUR: KAREN GELARDI

A friend pointed me in the direction of Karen Gelardi this past winter. I had seen her work at numerous shows in the past and was excited to learn more about her process! So one winter day, I drove down to her studio and spent the morning with her while she worked on a commission of many banners for a location in New York. See her process and studio below, and Q&A.

What is your earliest memory of creativity?

I remember when I was 3 or just turning 4 years old discovering thumbtacks pushed into the windowsill in my room. I am not sure if I originally put them there or if my brother did, but I distinctly remember thinking about the change in surface from the wooden sill to the painted metal domes and the colorful arrangement of the circles and then moving them to new locations to form patterns. 

Was there a moment in your childhood that you feel heavily influenced who you are today?

Spending time in the family factory—an injection molding and design company in Biddeford, Maine and also in my mother's painting shack in the woods— had a huge influence. Seeing napkin sketches turn into manufactured products including the creation of the assembly systems, the tool and die work to the package design— that entire creative process. And then seeing the finished products out in the marketplace being used as everyday objects—audio cassettes, video cassettes, CDs and toys where the music and technology industries added a layer of content onto these manufactured objects or the consumer added their creativity in the use of the product. It set me up to think in terms of components and systems as well a series of inter-related creative projects and disciplines. And in my mother's painting studio I saw a more private creative practice that was meditative and personal and a different kind of struggle to create images, explore changing ways of seeing, ideas around painting, and the discipline of being in the studio. It was a very wide gamut of creative channels. I struggle with a mix of excitement and frustration of juggling interests in different industries and finding ways to interconnect or separate different creative pursuits.

What medium did you start working in? Why did you choose to start there?

I started with photography and video and documenting my family but soon after discovered an interest in drawing and painting.

Tell us a little bit about your creative process? How do your ideas form? How do you go about making them a reality?

I am not sure where they come from but I usually begin with a desire to create images and objects using a new process or strategy. My subject matter is more intuitive and subconscious. For one body of work I was interested in taking a single drawing and using printmaking processes like photocopying, silkscreening, and digital printing to expand the drawing into objects. I made papier mache panels and sewn fabric sculptures and then assembled these components into larger layered works. My work reflects an interest in resiliency which for me means working with components, production techniques, ways to create variations, and an overarching system.

What has been your biggest stumbling block creatively speaking?

Dealing with time and the physicality of making things

How do you feel being an artist in Maine has benefited you? Has it created any stumbling blocks for you?.

I just know this is where I want to be and I try not to think about this too much. Wherever you live there is a need to adapt to the environment and that can reveal both strengths and weaknesses. For me it is more important to be somewhere that has meaning to me than to weigh the benefits/blocks. 

Did you ever have a mentor? If so, how did that help your creative process?

I haven't had a specific mentor but artist friends and family have definitely influenced me. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I have no idea!

If you could change one thing about your past, what would it be and why?

I really try not to focus on the past.

What advice would you give to creative people who would like to make a living doing what they love?

Trust what interests you to pull you forward and keep your overhead low so you have more freedom to pursue your interests.

Thank you Karen!

Check out Karen's work here.