Massotherapist, visual artist, art therapist: Karen Kurak’s life and career have taken an organic path, and that’s how she likes it.
Never one to be constrained by a single definition, she regards her art—including hand-woven textiles, hand-dyed scarves, and mixed-media collages, among other mediums—the same way. “The baby blankets are, like, these super-alive kinds of things,” she says. In other words, the blankets, which she sells at MiCA 12/v in Over-the-Rhine, don’t follow a preconceived blueprint; the designs reveal themselves along the way.
Kurak says the baby blankets were born of necessity. With the larger, made-to-order throws she sold previously, it was nearly impossible to color- and pattern-match to precise client requests. “It’s really hard to do, and when you work with someone who’s not an artist, they don’t always understand the process,” Kurak says. With the baby blankets, it’s all on her terms.
She’s most inspired by the colors and textures that present themselves through the journey. “I love trying to figure it out and feeling my way through it; the creative process is not a logical one.” And it’s not a simple one, either: In her home studio in Loveland, Kurak hand dyes each raw strand of cotton, painting on vibrant hues of fiber-reactive dyes. After she rinses and dries the yarn twice, it’s then dressed onto a loom and woven, where contrasting threads reveal delightful waves of alternating colors in each blanket’s final pattern.
When Kurak’s not creating, she’s working with her husband at their Blue Ash therapy practice. She’s been a bodyworker for 27 years, but her specialty is art therapy.
Kurak counsels patients of all ages, helping them bring their emotional stressors to the surface through art. “They’ll be drawing something and not really have a conscious awareness of it,” she says. “It’s like you’re talking to yourself through this creative medium.”
The treatment is so effective, she explains, that she has been practicing her own creative process as art therapy.
As for her career trajectory, Kurak tends to think it was in the cards all along: “I didn’t really understand it as it was happening, so my creative process, the art therapy piece, and the bodywork piece—mind, body, spirit—it’s kind of come full circle.”