I have recently edited the book A Chosen Path: the Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes published by University of North Carolina Press. Over her long career, Karen Karnes has created some of the most iconic pottery of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The body of work she has produced in her more than sixty years in the studio is remarkable for its depth, personal voice, and consistent innovation. Many of her pieces defy category, invoking body and landscape, pottery and sculpture, male and female, hand and eye.
Equally compelling are Karnes’s experiences in some of the most significant cultural settings of her generation: from the worker-owned cooperative housing of her childhood, to Brooklyn College under modernist Serge Chermayeff, to North Carolina’s avant-garde Black Mountain College, to the Gate Hill Cooperative in Stony Point, New York, which Karnes helped establish as an experiment in integrating art, life, family, and community. After twenty-five years of communal living, Karnes moved to rural Vermont with partner Ann Stannard and began making some of the most complex work of her career.
Karen’s life and work illuminate both the golden age of the American craft movement and the ethical, aesthetic, and living choices that all craftspeople face today.
Editor's note: Here are some reviews so far,
"Filled with high-quality images spanning 60 years of [Karnes's] work. After reading the book, you will understand why she is commonly referred to as the 'grandmother of American ceramics.'"
"There are too few books that treat pottery as seriously as other art forms; too few that pay sufficient tribute to the achievements of women artists; and too few that situate great art within a rich biographical context. This finely textured book does all three, providing in-depth analysis not only of Karnes's pots and sculpture, but also of the life of the fascinating person who made them."
--Glenn Adamson, Deputy Head of Research and Head of Graduate Studies, Victoria and Albert Museum
"Mark Shapiro has assembled a stellar cast of essayists to explore the intriguing life and work of potter Karen Karnes. They write with a grace, clarity, and reverence befitting this maker of sublime yet curiously humble clay masterpieces."
--Mark Hewitt, potter and co-author of The Potters Eye: Art and Tradition in North Carolina Pottery
"A great book about one of the important potters of our time. Seven artists, critics, historians, and friends, followed by Karen's own observations, document her life and work. Central, analytical, and factual, it is a fascinating story of creativity and dedication. Inspiring and long overdue, it is important reading for all artists."
--Warren MacKenzie, potter