Karen studied for a BA at Dublin’s National College of Art & Design. From here, she took part in an international exchange to Illinois and gained some experience at the Seattle Glass Blowing Studio. She completed her final year back in Dublin and, after her degree, was offered an MA place at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), New York, which she gained in 2011. During her degree, she began to develop a body of work called 'Synapse', based on the brain’s response to colour. Karen is very interested in colour therapy, chakras and the potential for healing through the manipulation of energy. Her mother is an energy healer and Karen herself practices as a Reiki healer, which informs her work. It’s natural, therefore, that she is quite a spiritual, meditative person, in line with her belief system. She likes to work intuitively, intrinsically involved in the process, evident in works like ‘Cone & Vortex’ (about energy and how it relates to human consciousness) and ‘At-onement’. Linked to Reiki and her philosophy, she becomes focused, in the zone, at one with the process. There’s an influence here too of the Japanese aesthetic, Ikebana, a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. Her ‘Enso’ series (Enso 1, 2011) are large, circular pieces (about 1m diameter) that dwell on the unity of the circle form. 'Present Moment Reminder 2012', revisits 'Present Moment Reminder 2010', using pate-de-verre and capturing time in amethyst, one of her favourite crystals.
2012 was a busy year: she graduated from RIT, completed an artist exchange at Bullseye, held a solo exhibition in Buffalo, New York and had a spell as a teaching assistant at Pilchuck under John de Wit and Lance Freeman. Her work as a teaching and studio assistant has taken her round the world, to the UK, Ireland, France and USA. She has also been a student rep to the board of directors of the Glass Art Society. She followed this up in 2012/13, with an artist residency at Edinburgh College of Art. In 2011, Karen won the Langley Kenzie Endowment Award and was shortlisted for the World Craft Council Film Festival in 2012. She has exhibited widely, at venues such as the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Craft Gallery (Ireland), Prague Castle (Czech Republic) and the World Craft Council Prize for Applied Arts Exhibition (Belgium). Her philosophical and meditative approach, evident throughout her work, made for an interesting and thought provoking talk.