Remembering Karen Karnes by Anne Shattuck Bailey

Editor’s Note: This essay was adapted from Anne’s eulogy at Karen’s Celebration of Life, September 17, 2016 at The Art School at Old Church, Demarest, New Jersey.

Karnes, photographed by Robert F. George, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1977.This is a very personal remembrance that I’d like to share today. To me, it is about the connectedness of all things and the power of those connections to shape lives. Yes, life is an amazing journey, and after a while there is a story to tell. Once I was very young, just like some of you, and I was a full-time potter. My name is Anne Shattuck Bailey, co-owner of Bailey Pottery Equipment (Anne Shattuck was the potter.) Karen Karnes was a very important person in my early adult life. Being asked to talk about Karen at this celebration of her life made me think back on some very happy times we shared so long ago. To this day, I live in gratitude for things she did and things she said that helped me become the person I needed and wanted to be. Her spirit lives on in so many parts of me. Her friendship, help, and inspiration shaped many things then and later.

Karen and I first crossed paths at the Rhinebeck Craft Fair in 1976. Of course, I was aware of who she was when she stopped by my craft fair display to look at my pots. I really admired her work. Like her, I was a salt-glazing potter. Unlike her, I was trying—more often than not, struggling—to make a living as a full-time potter. It was not easy, but I was optimistic, and I had been competently trained in England in the Leach tradition. And hey, it was the seventies: handmade was in! And guess what? I was an Old Yank, don't you know! Coming from farmers, sailors and merchants, I knew the value of hard work.

At Rhinebeck, Karen asked if I would be a part of her group show at Old Church. Me showing with Karen Karnes? Okay, I think I can do this. Rhinebeck was my first big craft fair, and I was beyond thrilled that she wanted to help a young potter like me. It was truly one of my life's most memorable moments: a woman whom I deeply admired, a fantastic potter and a visionary, was asking me to show my work with her. It was just what I needed at that point in my life. Yes, yes, yes, there is a pottery god! Thank you, Karen, you were it.

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