Tree girdle: Karen Gubitz stands outside Gallery Pink where her work is currently on exhibit near one of the trees she 'basket bombed.'Photos by MEG POWER/Staff

It started with a gift from her sister. Karen Gubitz’s older sister gave her a calendar with an activity specified for them each month. One included a trip to a basket making class at Sievers School of Fiber Arts, where she made her first basket. That was 20 years ago.

“I was hooked,” she says, standing in the Arts District’s Gallery Pink, “the moment I did this whole woven structural form.”

This past year, Gubitz made it official and left her full time job in a Chicago law office and became a full time Oak Park-based artist. It has paid off. She won the Artists Choice Award at CraftBoston in March, essentially the blue ribbon from the other artists at one of the largest craft shows in the nation.

As a fabric artist, Gubitz looks to nature to inspire her work. “I’m constantly looking at nature,” she says. “The smallest piece of nature, the smallest leaf is exciting to me.” She says she tries to look at the whole picture of nature and “tries to visualize shape and movement and that’s what inspires me.”

Gubitz works with different materials, often not knowing what the end result will be. She pulled apart tree wrap, a paper product to protect tree bark, to expose an inner core and wove them together. The final piece resembles the mountain ranges that inspired Gubitz. The piece which she named Journey was created as she made the decision to become a full time artist.

Leaving the office job and focusing on her art has helped Gubitz not only find her passion but has helped her overcome some inherent shyness. At her first showing, an open section of Art Chicago called the Artist Project, she received an immediate positive reaction to her work and had no trouble talking to people.

“When you talk about your passion, or what you’re really excited about, the words just come, it’s just so easy,” she says. “And people are excited about it and they want to hear.

They want to hear the stories. So I’ve become much more comfortable with me, with me! I’m 60 years old and I’m finally becoming more comfortable with who I am. And I think it’s because I’ve found my voice.”

Join the discussion on social media!

One reply on “Oak Park artist weaves nature into fabric”