Karen Karnes was born in 1925 in New York City from Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants. She studied and became a potter in residence at Black Mountain College in the late 1940's and early 50's. It was here that she met international potters Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada and Marguerite Wildenhain. In 1954, she moved to Gate Hill in Stony Point, New York, where she established her own studio and kilns.
Karnes was largely inspired by The Bauhaus, and her work was both functional and decorative. Using old firing practices such as wood and salt firing, she made many casserole dishes, teapots, bowls, cups and jars, and later winged vessels and slit forms. She was a recipient of a gold medal from The American Craft Council, the Vermont Arts Council Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1997, a Medal of Excellence from the Society of Arts & Crafts in Boston in 1990, and the Craftsman's Award for the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976. Her work has been acquired by many international public and private collections, including the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
"After all these years as a potter, I am still conscious of the privilege of my life. There is still the deep pleasure of making pots on the wheel, the excitement of firing, and kiln opening, the challenge of new forms. It is a life of so much variety and one for which I am fully responsible — a rare quality in work today. " - Karnes