fabric designer, author, and maker extraordinaire

Karen Lewis is a fabric and pattern designer, screen printer, Lino cut-ter [is that a thing?] and really great teacher. I was fortunate enough to take a Lino class from her at QuiltCon in Pasadena this year. Karen is warm and enthusiastic, and an inspiring teacher. She answered a few questions for me about creativity and her process. Enjoy! All photos, except the one below that I took setting up for her class at QuiltCon, are from Karen’s Instagram feed. Follow along here!

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Tell Me A Little About Your Creative Journey

My printing creative journey was born out of me wanting to produce my own fabrics with which to make my products that I was selling through my business Blueberry Park. I had been designing products using a multitude of other beautiful fabrics and decided I wanted my products to be recognisable as mine. So I booked onto a short Screen printing course and the rest as they say is history! As soon as I started my printed journey I knew this was the medium for me and that I had found my place.

Tell us about how you made the leap from screen printing your own fabric to designing for Robert Kaufman.

I was very lucky as i didn’t make the decision myself, it was more a case of being spotted by Robert Kaufman and invited to design for them. I still pinch myself that I received the enquiry as it wasn’t something I set out to do.  

Do you have a favorite class to teach?

That’s like asking me to pick a favourite child! Screen…no, lino…no, screen!

Tell me a little about your workspace. Do you screen print and sew in the same place?

I have my own sewing studio off the kitchen. It has double doors that are permanently open so I feel part of the home and not shut away. Although there are times, normally when pattern writing and calculating fabric requirements, when i need full on concentration and the doors are shut. Everyone knows that if the doors are shut you stay away! otherwise it’s a free entry zone and if I am in there it’s where we all congregate. The family Mac, really mine, is in there so that draws everyone in. I print on the kitchen table where there is more space and away from my precious fabrics.

Teaching is so inspiring. I love that you can be in a room full of people all having been giving the same instructions and every person produces something entirely unique.

-Karen Lewis

I think it would be fair to say out of all the hundreds of people I have been privileged to teach there has been very little overlap of designs created. being surrounded by all that creativity makes me vicariously absorb the spark.

Which came first? Screen print, or Lino cut?

Screen came first and for a long time it was the only process I did. Since learning to lino print I have enjoyed combining both printing methods by cutting a lino motif and repeating it to get the whole design onto a screen. You get the best of both processes that way.

What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

I would have to say the first time I print up a new design and that first lifting of the screen to see how the idea is realised. Magic!

Balance Quilt, as designed by Karen, and reimagined as a 2 color quilt


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