Karen Healy

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to know how things were made, and tried to make many of them myself.  Encouraged by my hands-on parents, I had books on how to recognize edible wild plants (I collected sumac berries for “lemonade.”), how to make Native American items (many pairs of beaded moccasins followed.), how to weave cloth on a child’s simple loom, the fundamentals of drawing and painting, knitting and sewing, and woodworking, which was my dad’s hobby. I still have the blue-painted tool carrier I made for him when I was 12.

At university, I studied meteorology, thinking I could continue developing my abilities in crafts on my own. As it happened, meteorology soon became the side interest, and producing crafts the occupation.

With Lance Howell, a skilled and creative woodworker, we began a wood business during our winters off from commercial salmon fishing. Most of what I know about working wood I learned from him. For about 30 years we worked together making Shaker oval boxes, rocking chairs, looms, and furniture.

The great satisfaction of working with wood is, for me, its intrinsic beauty, which remains hidden until the successive stages of shaping, sanding, and finishing reveal the grain and color, different for each species.  I particularly like using wood when I’m also familiar with the tree--some everyday local trees have wonderful surprises inside.

Somewhere along the line I learned to do stained glass, wonderful for its property of adding color and light to architectural spaces.

About 12 or 13 years ago I took up blacksmithing--that is, ornamental forged iron.   It had interested me for a long time, as many cottage-scale manufacturing processes do.  I heat steel to an orange-yellow heat in a coal-fired forge, and hammer it into table bases, hooks, railings, hardware and similar useful objects.

I’m obviously not a specialist. I try to combine the media I work in—an intricate wood window frame for stained glass; hand-forged hardware for furniture and cabinetry; hand-woven upholstery on a chair, and forged stands for stone slab or wood table tops.

I pursue what I think of as an integrated life.  My small shop, my garden, home, Nature, friends and family are all close together in an incomparable Northwest landscape.