Monday, June 15, 2015

Member Profile: Karen Cunagin


Karen Cunagin

San Diego, California




1.  Describe the work that you make. I am a lifelong fiber artist and textile lover concentrating on quilt-like, two-dimensional work for the last ten years.  (My first quilt was an art quilt for Hoffman Fabrics at Quilt Market in 2003.)  As a college instructor I’ve become a “universalist” — I piece, I appliqué; I dye and print and paint.  I stitch by hand and machine.  Color, line and design are the facets of the work I emphasize.


2.  Do you have a signature style? While I make figurative work, I also love the geometry of our quilt block heritage.  I like to be a bridge between that tradition and contemporary practice.  As I design all the projects for my classes (some 80 so far) — writing patterns, making samples, and often re-interpreting that basic plan into my own expression — I try to keep it always fresh, something new. My own work is probably best recognized by my use of color and pattern — I love commercial fabric, and I love putting together surprising combinations incorporating both old and new goods.
Las Mananitas 59x55



3.  Favorite color palette?  How do you pick a favorite color palette?  I guess it’s something different than what I just did  — though it seems many of my samples are a range of values in acidy green and/or red! I generally use hues that are rich and clear.  They reflect the light of Southern California.



4.  How do you work?  I always work on a design wall.  Even though I imagine I know what combinations of fabric will look like, there’s nothing like seeing the parts together — do the values work? —  is there enough/too much contrast? — how does it look from some distance?  I never know the end from the beginning; I start with a concept and see when the project leads me…  Most of the time there’s a story in the work — and it comes out in the process. There are always lots of little surprises I embed in the work, details that can be discovered with time invested looking at it.

One of my favorite methods is “free-range’ piecing — I use leftover parts/scraps from a formal project — and see what the colors, patterns will do.  I’ve learned not to give up too soon — there may need to be more of the work on the wall before I can see what’s really happening.

Given the choice, I don’t want ‘one’ red — I want twenty.



5.  Where do you find your inspiration?  I’m a flower girl — I’m inspired by the garden.  And the meaning of The Garden in all its historical contexts.  I’m excited by the work of fellow artists — Ruth McDowell, Joe Cunningham, Nancy Crow, Karen Stone, Gwen Marston… I love all things Japanese.  And Scandinavian!
So Many Birds in the Air, So Many Fish in the Sea 56x58

6.  Do you enter your work in shows?  List your top 3 exhibits that you work has been shown in, and what year. As I support myself I’ve had many avenues of income — college teaching, guild lectures and workshops, quilt shows and retreats, fine juried craft shows, work in gallery/museum venues, in books and magazines, public art projects, an Etsy shop…  I learned that showing my work is usually an investment of funds rather than income — so I don’t enter many exhibits.  However, my work has been seen in the Visions Biennial 2006, Sacred Threads 2013 and Sheila Frampton-Cooper’s Perspectives exhibit at Road 2 California 2013.


7.  Describe your studio space?  My studio space is in my home — the place most people would call a family room.  Of course I have a vast collection of fabric there (I AM a professional!), and all the basic notions and tools.  The work space is an active environment, but well-organized.  I think you have to see what you’ve got or you’ll never use it.  I crazy about my Juki sewing machine.  In fact, I have two — one at home and one at school.

Sugarbirds Migration 53x53

8.  How do you balance your life between art, family, friends, etc?  I do not balance my life.  My children are grown and live far away (art professor in MN and career Coast Guardsman) — and I miss them like mad.  So I work continuously.  I love my solitude and I love my students and give them everything I’ve got.  As I will work forever (that’s what artists do), I take time for lunch with friends and make/host visits as often as I can.      


9.  What other profession organizations are you affiliated with?  In addition to SAQA membership, I support AQS and the Visions Art Museum, where I recently finished a 3-year term on the Board of Directors.


10.  When did you make your first art quilt?  2003



1 comment:

alison schwabe said...

Very interesting, Karen - and I found that in answering some questions, you wrote what I'd have written in more or less the same words about myself and the way I work! I too love grids, and art quilt making that explores traditional techniques, separately or in combination. I however am not a college professor though I occasionally teach. I have done monopronting at times and used paint in other ways, but I use fabrics dyed by others in combination with commercials.