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Christmas gift leads to resident’s decades-long love of art

Early in her life, resident Karen Wiley often felt like there was an artist hidden inside her waiting to get out.

“I was always interested in art but never had lessons or an outlet for it,” said Karen.

That all changed one Christmas when Karen’s husband surprised her with some lessons in China painting.

“He was impressed with the pieces a lady had brought in at work, so he wanted me to start,” said Karen.

For the next five years, Karen studied with an instructor in Wichita, however when her husband’s job required the couple to move, it seemed like Karen’s career in art was over just as quickly as it had begun.

“When we moved away, I didn’t have anyone to paint with, so I quit,” said Karen.

Eventually, Karen did try her hand at other forms of art, but they all seemed to lack the usefulness of China painting.

“I did oil paintings for several years, but you run out of room on your walls and then your family does too, so you just paint for the fun of it and stack them in your garage,” said Karen.

It was both the functionality and the intricacies of China painting that would lead Karen back to the medium.

“It’s a fascinating medium because there are so many aspects to it. You not only paint with a mineral, you also do enamel work and luster work. There’s just so many different effects we can get on a piece of porcelain. It’s always a learning situation,” said Karen.

After Karen’s husband passed away, she decided it was time to teach what she had learned with others. But she’s noticed that interest in the medium has begun to wane.

“It’s a dying thing, and it’s too bad because there’s so many great things we can do with porcelain,” said Karen.

In the meantime, Karen is doing what she can to keep the artform alive by entering a piece into PMMA’s Art is Ageless® juried art competition. This year will be the second time Karen will have participated and she has high hopes for the piece she’s entering.

“I took it to the fair last year and got a purple ribbon…we’ll see what happens,” said Karen.

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