Whilst sticking to the familiar theme of interviews with writers on a Friday, we’re walking a different path again today. This pathway will take us through some of the same questions we ask everyone else but will probe a little deeper into PoetsIN and the people behind and in it.

Who better to continue with than another member the PoetsIN team that you will no doubt know from the Facebook group and amazing visuals that you constantly see. If you didn’t, you are just about to find out all about her – it’s Karen.

So grab a palette of paint and a slice of northern realism and meet her.

The very unique and priceless Karen

Who are you and what do you do?

Hey, I’m Karen (also known as kaz, kazza, kazoo, kazzatron, k and sometime even oi!) mum of two crazy kiddies and graphic designer here at PoetsIN.

What is your relationship with words and images how has that evolved over time?

I’ve loved to draw since I could hold a pencil. I spent a lot of my childhood drawing random things – from crazy ass ideas in my head to real life things I could see to pages full of doodle-type patterns. When I was around 10 I received an A3 sketch book, my first set of graphite pencils, charcoal and putty rubber for Christmas – best Christmas ever btw! It was this present that set me down the art path, learning to blend and shade fascinated me and my passion for all things creative spun from there. Whilst studying for a foundation degree in Art & Design I completed a project where I took a Bloomsbury quid book and created a new story by choosing a word or words from each page, akin to blackout poetry but in story form and design each page around that word – old school style though using pens and paint as this was in the day before computers were mainstream. Looking back I think this was a real turning point for me – I knew then design was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So then degree, working in the industry for 18 years and here I am, still doing things of a similar nature but more often on the computer these days – not a bad life is it? 😉

Writing however is not my bag, hence why I colour in for a living 😉 Don’t get me wrong here, I do love words and I’m constantly inspired by them in everything I do…I’m just shite at writing! Really wish I’d listened a little more in English class at school, I was most likely wagging it to finish art homework haha.

Even though I am a lady of few words, (it is my job to listen after all – and hopefully ask the right questions) I do have a massive appreciation for you eloquent types. I love a good book and read as often as the kids will let me, of late it’s been mostly biographies or the personal development variety.

Colouring in for a living.

How long have you been creating the beautiful?

I’ve been working at PoetsIN from the start – and loved every minute of it.

Mental health is something you feel strongly about. Why?

Looking back, I think I’ve had anxiety all my life although I didn’t realise what it was until I’d suffered with PND and anxiety quite badly after the birth of my boy. I’ve been battling the black dog ever since and I’m very grateful to have people in my life who’ve supported me through my dark days. It’s those people who’ve inspired me to do all I can to pay it forward and do all I can to raise awareness and support.

Tell us about the journey that led to your involvement with PoetsIN.

I worked with Sammie and Paul in a former worklife where PoetsIN was originated. Back then it began with the prison creative writing workshops and reading through some of the writes really surprised me, I have to admit I wasn’t expecting there to be such talented writers. Hearing some of the stories on how they’d ended up in prison was a bit of a realisation for me; how one small, seemingly insignificant at the time, decision unravelled into their incarcerations. I feel lucky to have seen their writes progress throughout the workshops and also hear how their focus and mental wellbeing had improved over the course.

Working with Sammie, Paul and the rest of the PoetsIN team really is fab. They’re such a down to earth, straight talking bunch who aren’t afraid to be honest and upfront about their own mental health, which I think’s awesome. There’s no bull, no crazy marketise language, no facade – just a group of like-minded creative minds working hard at it.

More design genius from Karen.

The last year has been a roller coaster, how do you feel?

Beltin. Yes I’m from up north so I can say that. Yes it’s been hectic and had it’s ups and downs but seeing how the PoetsIN community has grown is testament to Sammie, Paul’s and the teams determination and dedication.

What does your average day look like?

Mum duties aside, my day is spent creating the graphics you see on our instagram, facebook and twitter accounts; workshop packs and behind the scenes pitch docs; book covers and internal layouts; infographics and fundraising event material.

Do you create your best stuff when in a rage, heartbroken or fighting depression, using writing as a venting mechanism?

I create my best work at 3am, no kidding. The quietness of the night allows my creativity to wander without interruption. I think all of the emotions mentioned above can both fuel or hinder how I work, I suppose it depends in that very moment if I recognise and use those emotions in a productive way.

Share your favourite piece of YOUR work with us.

For PoetsIN it has to be the PINner of the Month pieces. Love reading them, love creating the artwork for them, love thinking that they might end up framed on someone’s wall 😉

Outside of PoetsIN I’m a sucker for a branding and packaging project – so here’s one I loved making…

The PINner of the month work Karen loves.

If you could collaborate with anyone out there (alive or dead), who would it be and why?

Kate Moross for sure, love her energetic, fluid style and how she takes influence from everyday life rather than engaging in culture in the traditional way most people do. Saul Bass, because I’d be mad not to if I had the chance. Morag Myerscough because I just love love love her supergraphic environmental design.

What are you reading right now?

Making friends with Anxiety by Sarah Rayner.

Writer’s block, is it real or a myth?

Real. As is creative block. I’ve had moments where my mind has just decided nope, it ain’t happening. When that happens it’s time to grab a brew, step away from the flaptop (as I call it) and take a few mins for yourself.

What single achievement are you most proud of?

Becoming a mum. My kids are the best thing I’ve ever done, they are my reason for being and without them I wouldn’t be who I am today.

“My kids are the best thing I’ve ever done”

What do you personally want to achieve in 2019?

I’d really like to create my own typeface from scratch and also learn to code, two things I keep putting on my to-do list! This is the year they will get done. I am a type geek and have a bit of an addiction to purchasing them.

Finish this sentence… art is the epitome of…

Creative expression

Where would you like next for you and PoetsIN?

To continue to work on all things creative for the team and see the PoetsIN community continue to thrive. I’d really like to open a PoetsIN merchandise store too (watch this space).

Massive, heartfelt thanks to Karen for everything she does for PoestIN. She is a huge part of our DNA as well as our brand. She really does bloody rock.

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