Karen, who is a ludicrously youthful 40, told us that she didn't even pick up a needle until she was in her 30s, when she decided to do a BTech. Her particular passion is lace, and she loves to upcycle vintage lace into new pieces, especially if it is damaged and would otherwise never be seen. She explained that she stitches her pieces, in the main, with cream thread, and then paints them with procion dye in order to get the watercolour effect that she likes.
Karen's work caught the eye of fashion editors even while she was studying and her striking structured head-pieces have been used in many fashion shoots as embellishments. She has been commissioned by TV companies and magazines to create work for them to buy or hire, and has also created pieces for collections at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, and Gawthorpe Hall.
For her Foundation Course, she made a huge skirt which was inspired by vintage fairgrounds. Karen incorporated lots of techniques into this piece to show off her skills, including trapunto, devoré, digital printing, and hand and machine embroidery.
The "Big Skirt"
Details from the big skirt
For her Degree Course, she selected some of the techniques which had been more successful during the creation of the "big skirt", and created a cape inspired by coral. Keen to carry out primary research but unable to travel to a coral reef, she went to the Natural History Museum and drew and photographed coral for her primary design source, but says that sometimes it is impossible, and has no problem with taking inspiration (duly credited) from the internet.
The Coral Cape
Details from the Coral Cape
For her Masters Degree, she created three veils which were photographed at Gawthorpe Hall and Lytham beach. They were based on Victorian mourning veils and were made from vintage wedding veils. During Karen's research for these pieces she discovered some vintage Cornely embroidery machines, which do surface stitch on net and fragile fabrics.
The first veil is black and represents heavy mourning, and is embellished with moss stitch. When done on the Cornely machine moss stitch can be easily be pulled out of the fabric so this illustrates the fragile state of the Victorian woman in mourning.
The second veil is purple - Victorian widows and female mourners were allowed to introduce certain other colours into their wardrobe after a year and a day of mourning, purple being one of them. This veil is embellished with moss stitch and also chain stitch, which is more resilient. It also includes pearls, a symbol of tears.
The Purple Veil
Details from the purple veil, showing the Cornely embroidery
The third veil illustrates the progression from mourning towards a freer life and this was photographed on Lytham Beach to give a more airy feel.
Karen chose the name "Tulle and Candyfloss" as her identity to give her the freedom to try different things and not be tied down by the title "textile designer", for example. As well as giving talks and teaching at workshops, and her media work, Karen creates bridal head pieces and other body-worn ornaments such as corsage cuffs.
Karen's website is : http://www.tulleandcandyfloss.co.uk
Also at the meeting, we stitched signatures for the Campaign for Creativity.
"The Campaign for Creativity is employing suitably creative methods to bring its message to life. Supporters are asked to stitch signatures which will form part of a unique cloth petition. The petition began its journey at The Spring Knitting & Knitting Show in London in March, and is now travelling across the UK before being presented to the Education Secretary.
Stitched signatures can be made at or brought along to any of The Knitting & Stitching Shows and The Festival of Quilts during 2017, or sent to the campaign’s headquarters at the Campaign for Creativity, Twistedthread, 58 White Lion Street, London N1 9PP."