The Yale to artist pipeline isn’t something you hear about often but Karen Krieger defied the status quo. It took her a long time to circle around to being an artist and doing the work she does. She pursued a lot of her other interests but then one day in her mid 40s she was going through old letters and found a report card from a course she took at Carnegie Mellon. It was a design class she took when she was a junior in high school. She took an eight-week psychology class and her evaluation said she favored becoming a craftsperson. At the time she didn’t even really know what that meant. Karen explained that she thinks, “what they recognized was that I really liked working with my hands and I found it really satisfying.” When she got these results back in high school she didn’t think much of it. She graduated high school and went on to Yale to major in architecture.
After college Karen went on to further her education and went to graduate school to get a degree in landscape architecture at UMass Amherst. Even then she knew in the back of her head this wasn’t her calling. One of the jobs she picked up during this time was being a business manager at a glassblower shop. At the time Karen barely knew anything about glass but knew enough about business. She worked with this shop for five years and realized she wanted to start her own business in it. Karen applied to a fine arts prep school and got in for metal. She quickly saw she had an aptitude for it and how much she loved all her time in the studio. Karen recalled how she felt in the studio saying, “I had the patience for it. I had the dexterity for it. And I thought okay, maybe this is what I like to do.” After this she took a course at Penland Art School where she learned how to set up a studio, how to solder, and went back home at the end to begin creating pieces. In her studio she created a variety of pieces and one of them was metal based picture frames. She attended her first wholesale show to see if people would be interested in her work. She hoped to sell maybe 50 but walked out of there with having sold 500. She was absolutely mind-blown. This moment launched her business.
Karen developed a signature line of metal jewelry that she made for a very long time. She loved doing this and it was very successful but with someone with so many passions, it’s hard to stick to one thing. She started working with creating beautiful pieces out of paper and that’s what she’s still doing now. Part of this shift was because at the age of 48, her and her husband adopted a baby from China. They could no longer spend all their time working anymore so she had to find something that was portable, something she could move from room to room. Paper gave Karen a way to keep making things and still be a mom and it became a real exploration. “I just fell in love with some of the papers that I still work with and fell in love with sewing on paper and sewing with paper,” said Karen. After many years she finally got around to answer her true calling of being an artists and she could not have been happier to make this change in her life.