About Me

I was a professional marine biologist at Oregon State University for many years and my art is often inspired by my scientific background, but my interest in textiles and in all things Japanese extends back to my childhood. My grandfather was a zoologist who lived and worked in Japan at the turn of the century and I remember loving his stories of the adventures he had there. My mother is a painter and illustrator and needle worker and helped foster my interest in Japanese design.

As fiber art gradually became my medium I took up first embroidery and then quilting and surface design. In 1994 I was introduced to katazome, or stencil dyeing, which uses a paper stencil to apply rice paste resist before dyeing or painting the fabric. I had studied and adored traditional Japanese stencil designs for nearly 30 years, but carving my first stencil was a turning point in my artistic life and I have never looked back. I have also been privileged to study with the American katazome expert John Marshall.

While I enjoy the subtle patterns of the hand dyed fabrics many fiber artists use, I prefer to make my own fabric with recognizable imagery and finely detailed patterns. Katazome allows me to separate the production of the image from the application of color, a process more akin to printmaking than to painting.

I began carving stencils using mostly traditional Japanese patterns, because they could teach me so much about cutting techniques and the layout of the design. (see Allinson Gallery for lovely examples of antique stencils.) I consider the time spent carving those stencils my "apprenticeship". I am now designing my own stencils, inspired by the images which speak most deeply to me, organic patterns and the plants and marine animals of the Pacific Northwest. I have also been teaching katazome for classes across the US and Canada.

- Karen Illman Miller.

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