Friday, 25 April 2014

Karen Thatcher

Karen Thatcher won second place at the National Juried Show in the Original Abstract Design Pictoral category last year, and she didn't get fully on our radar.  When she won an award in one of our member's challenge, someone did some digging and Ms. Thatcher got noticed.  We are so glad that we can bring this amazing CQA/ACC member to the forefront!

Karen Thatcher is a remarkable woman and after a traumatic brain injury where concentration, short term memory and organizational thinking were compromised, Karen needed a tool to move her injury forward.  That tool was quilting.  After some time the lessons learned at Brain Injury rehab helped Karen understand that solutions could easily be adapted to quilting needs.
Karen’s latest project is a series entitled “My BC”.

The “My BC” series by Karen Thatcher. 
I live in a small ski community where everyone plays outside.  Most of my friends participate in at least 4 sports, even at my age and you are more likely to find me on a hike than in a mall. So “My BC” quickly became how and where we play in BC.  I knew that my friends might not have been to my hiking trail but surely they would have been to one just like it.  My mantra quickly became “everyone recognizes this place.”

Biking BC

Working with silk for this series was a different challenge but after I contacted J. Pattison Group. (a large Canadian conglomerate), about 4000 ties were donated, from their employees
I received the ties and took a month to prepare them and then to categorize each into color and value. Some ties came with a Windsor knot still tied.  All were clean and some were never used.  Actually there was one tie that had a $350 price tag on it and it was still in its wrapper. Only two needed to be tossed out.  In order to use them the silk needed to be stripped from the tie stiffening fabric. This doesn't sound like much but it takes about 2 minutes per tie....add it up - 4000 ties.

Fishing in BC

 17 bulk paper boxes came over 3 or 4 months, and in some of the boxes also came other very beautiful things.  There were a dozen handmade silk shirts all new, which I matched with a beautiful tie and took to the local employment center.  My thought was that they were far too usable to be chopping up.  There were 3 or 4 handmade kimonos.  Again, far too expensive to destroy so I gave them to women with breast cancer. One woman gave her wedding dress.  There were two layers of beautiful fabric measuring at least 7 meters at the hem.   
I was recently standing next to one of my quilts at a gallery, and I overheard two people talking about the whereabouts of ‘Hiking BC’ and the two were convince it was local.  I can tell you that it is nowhere.  It is just a figment of my imagination, memory and a couple of pictures “smooshed” together.

Hiking BC

 All of the “My BC” quilts have the same history. Each quilt progressively builds on the last, hopefully adding to my technical skill base making each quilt better.
Because I am not a professionally trained artist and because of the brain injury my techniques might be a little unconventional and sometimes inconsistent.

All my quilts have an idea or theme, hiking, fishing, sailing and are started with a roll of brown paper and a fat black felt pen both found at the local $1 store.  
I usually have a bunch of inspirational photos around...stuff I like, places I've been and paintings either masters, magazines or locals.   I decide what kind of trees and where they should go...maybe a mountain behind.  If I've seen a picture I particularly liked, maybe the layout or color catches my attention I might use that information.
For the BC series I did not use any specific photos. Keep in mind my outcome is never the same as the original.  The original rough drawing is the size of the finished quilt and is much like a child's drawing.  All of the artistic bits are figured out as I work. My work table accommodates a 4'x7' and everything fits flat on that and I try for less than 44" width for obvious reasons. I work as large as I can and then cut back after the quilting is complete.

Ski BC

I attack the piece in two ways.  I often start with drawing a rough design on fusible batting and migrate color chunks right to the batting following the drawing lines. Sometimes I migrate chunks of color to precut pattern pieces. These pieces are cut from pellon and then transfered to regular batting. Usually this is determined solely on the piece and what supplies I have. Once the background is complete, I add the shapes, layering things farthest away to closest. Deciding to add or not to add is always the best part.  Most times the placement has less to do with the original plan but how the background worked out. I finish with whatever ever needs to be done, extra leaves, branches and even the occasional house might be added. Rarely is the finished piece similar to the original.  In ‘Fishing BC’ the original didn't have long grass or tree root.

Written by Karen Thatcher.  Edited by Barbara Spence.


  1. Fabulous work! How wonderful that Karen landed on your radar and we are all able to enjoy learning about her process and her quilting journey. Thanks or sharing

  2. OMG Karen! I admire your artistry! Terrific depictions of some wonderful outdoor vistas!