Say Hello to Karen Franzen


Beyond The Front Studio, circa 1995
Located at 245 Carlaw Avenue, Suite 309
From left to right, Lisa Ridout, Karen Franzen, Robert Mitchell & Arina Ailincai
What happens when you take two ceramic artists and two metalsmiths and put them in an east-end studio together? They form a group called Beyond the Front.
I actually met Karen Franzen at the Craft Studios at Harbourfront Centre. The ceramics section was right next to the metal studio; so we, as a group had way more interactions together, just by the very way the craft studios were set up. Each resident is only allowed to stay in the Craft Studios for a maximum of three years, and then has to move along to make room for other recently graduated artists to have their turn as a Harbourfront Craft Studio resident.
Arina, Karen and Robert were all coming to the end of their residency and decided they would rent a studio together in the east end of Toronto, but they needed a fourth artist. My residency wasn't up for another year or so, but the thought of being in the studio once they were gone just didn't appeal to me. We had formed a real bond as artists in the Craft Studio. They asked if I was interested in joining them as their fourth person, and Beyond the Front (as in beyond Harbourfront) was born.

Mini Leaf Plates $20.00
Approximately 4" in diameter
Good for pocket change, as a spoon rest, or keepsake place

Small Leaf Plate $40.00
Approximately 8" x 4"
        Made in part by pressing leaves into clay that Karen finds in the Williamson Ravine near her house in the Beach Hill area of Toronto
Karen is best known for her uplifting, functional ceramic ware and tile designs. She is an Ontario College of Art graduate and Harbourfront Craft Studio alumnus. For over 30 years, Karen has been making and teaching pottery classes and workshops out of her home studio.

Cache Pots, fits 6" plants, $85.00 each
Shown with Lisa's Macrame Plant Hangars
Made with natural cotton cording & bronze wire details, $150.00 each
Continuing with our artist/friendship after I left Beyond the Front, I always remained in touch with Karen. I would participate as a guest artist in Karen's Annual Holiday Show in her studio in the East End for many years.
Beyond the Front was really the stepping stone for all of us to continue our artwork, but also was a doorway to each of the lives we now lead.
Thirty years later, we all have partners and families, and we live in different parts of the city. Except for Arina, who eventually returned to her home country of Romania.
With the advent of social media, we have once again begun to renew our artist contacts and connections, and our phone screens bring us together. So it was natural for Karen and I to follow each other on Instagram and an opportunity to work together presented itself once again. After Karen saw the macrame hanger I posted on Instagram earlier this year, she suggested that she would like to make some pots to go with them. What a great idea!

Rainbow 6" Cache Pot, $85.00
In Karen's words, "Although I love the quiet, strong beauty of simple vessels, my pottery is colourful and crazy with detail. With clay I allow myself to make playful, functional and humorous objects for everyday use. They are a feast for the eyes and will hopefully bring a smile for all to enjoy."
So the work Karen has brought to my show has a distinctly "garden theme". There are two sizes of cache pots. The larger 6" size, like the image above and the smaller 4" size below. For the 4" size, Karen has made some with smooth walls and some with "wavy" walls.  Both have her distinctive, very colourful glaze decoration.

Small 4" Cache Pots, $55.00 each
Assorted wavy and straight-walled pots with colourful glazes

10" Quince Planters, $150.00 each
These planters have drainage holes in the bottom, with matching water dishes

Watering Cans, $350.00 each
Wheel-thrown and hand-built with dramatic glaze decoration
I am so happy to once again be working with Karen and having her work in this year's Annual Artisan Holiday Show. Karen's beautiful and very colourful work is just another reason to come and visit my studio to do some relaxed holiday shopping. 
The show is on daily until Thursday, December 23rd. Book your online appointment here.  No line ups, comfortable seating for quiet contemplation of your gift choices, and gift bags and wrapping available at no charge.

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