In honor of the 20th Annual Northeast Artists' Studio Tour, we've interviewed our super talented artists to share how they got where they are and why they make the work that they do.
Next we're featuring potter and art therapist Karen Misseldine. Karen's studio is location #5 on the tour, at 605 John Street in Decorah, IA. This year's tour is Friday through Sunday, October 13th to the 15th, with all locations on the tour open from 10am to 5pm each day.
Who are you and what kind of art do you make?
I am Karen Haas Misseldine. I make wheel thrown and slab built functional and decorative clay art pieces. I use a wax resist glaze technique that is similar to batik.
What’s your background?
My background strongly includes utilizing the art experience for healing, self-awareness, and expression. When I was an undergrad at Adrian College in Michigan I was seduced by the all-encompassing involvement required when creating art in clay. There is a lot to master when learning the fundamentals of clay and at the same time, clay can be very forgiving. I was the on the path to become an art therapist and completed an M.A. in Art Therapy after working in mental health for a few years. I have been an art therapist for over 25 years and am completely honored to have shared the healing qualities of art with so many people from the ages of 3-106! I began my clay art profession about 13 years ago with NIAST being my first juried show.
What do you enjoy most about being an artist? What part of your process do you most enjoying doing?
Connecting with others. I love hearing people's impressions of the natural images I create. Just recently a mother and daughter came to purchase a wedding gift for a friend and took their time choosing a tree platter that they felt best described the couple and what they wished for them. They picked up on the subtle differences and said the coolest things like, "this one looks wind blown, exciting and dramatic." I use a lot of tree imagery, a powerful and healing image for me and so many others. The trees, dragon flies, butterflies and other natural images evoke stories, memories and often precious emotions that people share with me. People share with me how much comfort they feel when sipping their favorite beverage from a cup I've made. I have come to see how my clay work and imagery is an extension of the art therapy work I do and love so much. But I also do enjoy the quite solitude of getting lost in the flow while I am up to my elbows in clay.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I am mainly an art therapist and mental health counselor. My private practice is Art Therapy Counseling and I am a therapist at Northeast Iowa Behavioral Health. I have also spent many years developing and implementing art and expressive therapy programs for residents in long-term-care centers and continue at Waukon Good Samaritan Society one day a week.
What inspires you?
Nature, trees in particular. When I was undergoing treatment for cancer, trees grew on my pots and that's all I wanted to do. They seemed to be a sign of strength, flexibility, comfort, and growth for me, as they are for so many others. Butterflies evoke memories of my mom and beauty for the sake of beauty. Dragon flies, the moon, sunsets, water rocks, pebbles.....and experiencing the changes of the season. Doing art with others in small groups.
Do you think creativity important to learning?
Yes, definitely! It engages the whole brain by encouraging problem-solving and creative expression at the same time.
Who is your favorite artist or what is your favorite piece of art?
I have always admired Georgia O'Keefe and the bravery of Frida Kalo.
Is the artistic life lonely?
I could not just be an artist in my own my own studio all day every day. I need and am inspired by interaction with other people. That's why I love being an art therapist so much. I choose to be an artist in the work I do with others. I especially love art therapy in small group settings where people receive support, ideas, inspiration, and healing from creating together.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
"Try it, and see!" Pi Benio my undergrad art instructor and advisor from Adrian College would spiritedly exclaim to her students. She rarely gave us the answer encouraging us to learn from our own experiences and not be afraid to make mistakes.
What will we see when we get to your studio? How do we get to your studio?
I am at 605 John St. A dead-end street just off Broadway in Decorah. You will enjoy the view off my deck...an overlook of the city of Decorah surrounded by trees and Autumn splendor. Hopefully when you walk in you will feel the warmth of natural color and the love I put into creating each piece surrounding you. I invite you to touch and hold and let the pottery speak to you. There will be platters, cups, mugs, tumblers, butter-keepers, oil bottles and jewelry among other things. You may also be lucky to experience live classical guitar music by my husband, Tom or piano by my daughter, Kasi.
More about the Northeast Iowa Artists' Studio Tour:
The Northeast Iowa Artists' Studio Tour is a unique opportunity to explore artists studios for an intimate look into their creative process and a chance to purchase their newest works right out of the kiln, hot off the presses, paint freshly cured...you get the point! This year, you can experience 51 artists at 38 locations while also taking in the charm of Northeast Iowa's small communities, local fare, and the breathtaking scenery of the Driftless. Each artist is different, but they all share a passion for imagination and each one welcomes their guests with gusto. Visit the Tour's website to download a brochure, map, or GPS coordinates for each location.