Karen Casper - the young mum from Helmshore creating waves in the design world

Her weird and wonderful designs are creating waves for a young mum from Helmshore. Amanda Griffiths reportsoften

Karen Casper had never touched a sewing machine until the age of 31. But when I met the mother-of-two five years later at her Helmshore home she had just graduated with a first class honours degree in contemporary textiles from Blackburn University Centre. Not bad for someone who has had to learn from scratch.

‘I have always been creative, but never did anything with it,’ says Karen who previously worked as a personal assistant at the BBC. ‘My sister taught me to hand sew and I just thought that if I don’t take it further now I never will. When I first started I remember my tutor having to show me how to thread the sewing machine needle!’

Soon she was using needles to create beautiful embroidered designs on fabric and that has led to even more innovative designs and materials. Techniques include devore, quilting, embroidery, fabric manipulation and embellishment to produce fine art pieces and commerical items.

‘I’m known for a particular piece using glow-in-the-dark wire,’ says Karen. ‘I like to give texture and depth to the pieces I create whether it’s a textile for the wall or a cape to wear.

‘I always start off with a textile but it often turns into something wearable. I mainly do one-off pieces but have been spending the summer looking at creating more for sale, things like head pieces and fascinators for fashion shoots or special occasions like weddings or the races. I don’t like to use just one medium, I tend to use mixed media like embroidery, screen and digital prints in my work.’

Karen’s reputation is growing as an innovative designer and maker of items from the vintage era to the futuristic but she intends to continue her education with a master’s degree in Manchester. ‘It’s been hard going back to college, studying and looking after two young children, but I have loved every single minute of it.

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‘I’ve always tried not to hem myself into one particular box so that I can grow and develop. My tutors say my talent lies in costume, so who knows what the master’s degree could lead to, maybe collaborating with other mediums like sculpture?

‘I would love to work with a team doing editorial and costume pieces. The work Sarah Burton is doing for Alexander McQueen is amazing – that would be my ideal job producing avant garde couture in a place like that. I want people to interact with my work, to touch it.’

People will soon be able to do just that. Karen has been selected to take part in a project being staged at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.

You can see more of Karen’s work at http://tulleandcandyfloss.blogspot.co.uk. The pictures in the feature were taken by Andrew Farrington www.andrewf.com and Kirsty Thompson

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