After more than twenty years of trial practice, Karen Paden Crouch traded her law office for the welding shop and began learning direct metal sculpture.
She works in bronze, copper and steel to create organic pieces for the house and garden. An avid gardener, Karen grounds her work in the structure and movement of living things.
Her work was recently featured in Dwell Magazine, where Karen’s welded-bronze sculpture, “Abracadabra,” is photographed. View the article in Dwell Magazine.
I work because I must. It is my passion, and every day that I am allowed to make something is an unexpected blessing. I work for the pure satisfaction of putting things together.
From my teen years forward I wanted to write. I attended colleges and graduate school with that goal in mind. Instead I found myself becoming a scholar, partly because I was afraid and partly because I was young and had little to write about. I left graduate school in the middle of my dissertation after my revered and well-meaning advisor praised a paper rich with analytical insight although sacrificing some of the spontaneity of my earlier writing. That did not seem to me, even at 25 or 26, to be a fair trade, and so I went to law school where, as I saw it then, I would have a more direct experience, an experience not derivative from another person’s art.
For more than twenty years I successfully and passionately advocated for a client’s position. I was in the thick of things, but I was safe behind the cover of advocacy. My plea, no matter how gutsy, was for someone else. Now I am sculpting and writing. Nothing I have done has been so frightening because this is about something directly from me. Whether it is good or bad, understood or misunderstood, trite or significant, it has come from within me. It is put out there for any passerby to embrace, ignore, or dismiss. I am proud and excited to run new hurdles.
My metal sculptures are grounded in the structure and movement of living things. When I work in bronze, I begin with a flat sheet from which I cut shapes. I heat these shapes with a torch and beat them into contoured pieces which I then weld into the sculpture’s form. Files, various abrasives and chemical patinas give the sculpture its final finish. Although I begin with a vision, the sculpture takes its own direction; if I will listen it will be a better piece. The found metal pieces grow from collected shapes. Sometimes I have an idea; sometimes I just start juxtaposing parts until an image emerges. My studio mate Marshall Milton once told me that sometimes the very piece that sparked the idea will be the piece that gets cut out as the sculpture evolves. That is true, even though it is always hard to make that choice. But I have always lived by instinct and, with assembled pieces, as well as the bronzes, the sculpture will tell me where to go if I am patient and listen.
My work is dedicated to the memory of Bill Thorp and in honor of Pat Webster. More than ten years ago atop a high North Carolina mountain these two, my shaman, set me on the restless path to living. While I hope each sculpture stands on its own, every piece I make reflects some part of that precious experience. Thank you Pat