The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts welcomes fiber artist and designer Karen Gelbard to the Oregon Coast Visual Artists Showcase (COVAS) at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Running from December 2 to January 27, Gelbard’s exhibition, “The Oregon Weaver: Designs from the Pacific Northwest,” will include hand-woven jackets, coats and scarves. The COVAS Showcase features mid-career artists rotating through Oregon’s seven coastal counties, and Gelbard will be representing Tillamook County. A public reception for “The Oregon Weaver: Designs from the Pacific Northwest” will be held Saturday, December 2, 5-7pm, with an artist talk at 6:30pm.
Based in Pacific City, Oregon, Karen Gelbard is an award-winning fiber artist whose work reflects the colors and textures of the Pacific Northwest. Since 1997, her designs and craftsmanship have been garnering attention from art fairs and festivals throughout the country. Gelbard has also been the recipient of arts grants from the Oregon Arts Commission and The Ford Family Foundation. In 2017 alone, she received the “Best in Fiber” award at Art in the Park in Columbia, MO; the “Best of Show” award at the Peoria Fine Art Fair in Peoria, IL; and the “Fine Craft” award at the Historic Shaw Art Fair in St. Louis, MO.
“I design, weave, cut and sew hand-woven jackets and scarves. I look for ways to tell a Northwest story through color, texture and shape,” Gelbard writes. “Serge, stitch and steam. Pin, tuck and fold. Color, texture, shape and form grow into a hand-woven garment. Wherever these garments go, they will tell an Oregon story.
“In my studio, there are 12 pairs of scissors, three sergers, two sewing machines and four looms,” Gelbard reports.
In creating her jackets and scarves, Karen Gelbard starts with color and designs a color way and plans for 100 yards. From this “warp,” she creates different fabrics that are related to each other by the warp colors. Once the fabric is off the loom, it is washed and dried. The “fulling” process allows the fabric to bloom. She rolls out the fabric on an eight-foot table and determines where to layout the pattern pieces. “The pattern pieces are of my own design,” she says. “I assess the variables in my customer’s figure and adjust the pattern to a custom fit. I design for real women of all shapes and sizes.”
Calling herself, “The Oregon Weaver,” Karen Gelbard graduated in 1974 from The University of Kansas with a BFA in design. From there, she turned her creative focus to color and texture using fiber.
In addition to her own work, Karen Gelbard is part of a small group of artists who help with on-going restoration of the historic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Since 1979, she has woven 310 yards of upholstery fabric for the lodge in the style of the original hand-woven fabrics. In 1984, Gelbard was commissioned to assist in the design and fabrication of 44 rugs in the main lodge at Sunriver Lodge in Bend, OR.
Beyond showing her work at art festivals, Karen Gelbard’s “Manzanita Coat” was published in Fiber Art Now earlier this year, as part of the publication’s “Excellence in Fibers 2016” edition, and was included in a gallery exhibition held at the New Bedford Art Museum in New Bedford, MA.
“This exposure in print, online and through gallery exhibition is the next step in my journey,” Karen Gelbard says. “And I am honored to be chosen to show my work in these new ways.”
“This is the first time we’ve featured wearable art in the COVAS Showcase,” says OCCA VAC director Tom Webb. “Karen’s work takes the Showcase in an exciting new direction.”
Learn more about Karen Gelbard at theoregonweaver.com
The COVAS Showcase is open Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 4pm.
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