Karen Russo is a figurative ceramic sculptor in Elmira, Oregon. She has made Western Oregon her home for the past 26 years. She moved from Northern California with her husband Nicholas to start a family, and to build a beautiful place to live and work.

Her artwork celebrates the feminine and nature — sculpted in a tapestry of color, texture and shape. The female figure may be as a tree rooted to the earth; upright, withstanding storms or reaching out and dancing. Whether expressing her sensuality or deeply contemplative nature, the gesture of the figure shows an inner strength of character while maintaining a human vulnerability.

Karen's process includes working with coil, slab and solid construction as each sculpture is hand-built in either stoneware or earthenware. Once the sculpture is formed, it is cut into multiple sections, hollowed, compressed and then reattached. The sculpture goes through a slow bisque fire that can last a week. Depending on the size of a piece, it may be fired in several sections.

The clay figure takes on a life of its own as pattern and texture are carved into and/or painted onto the surface. The palette is earthy; inspired by nature and place. Italian frescoes, weathered architectural remnants, blue-green patina, rust, dried flowers and spices. Color is obtained through layers of oxides, mason stains, under-glazes, clay paint and encaustic. The surface may have added elements of metal and fiber. A sculpture may go through several firings to reach the desired effect.





Karen Russo is a figurative ceramic sculptor, living and working in the hills of western Oregon. She uses clay, a medium that comes from the earth, and her art equally expresses a deep connection to nature. Her subjects are women from different eras and origins, all exploring feelings of strength, sensuality, and contemplation.

In Karen’s most recent collection of work, “Hope & Despair,” each sculpture responds to a world out of balance. Their bodies — bent arms, backs, and legs — are weighed down by their posture. Floral patterns both obscure and highlight their emotion and spirit. But as women connected by a common thread, their kinship rises above their own isolation. Vulnerability inspires resiliency.

From her studio, Karen follows an art practice of layering materials, textures, and color which she has honed over the years. Beginning with stoneware or earthenware clay, she hand-builds each sculpture from coil, slabs, or from a solid mass of clay. As she works, she constructs an internal armature to support the piece until it's finished. Once the sculpture is fully formed, it is cut into multiple sections, hollowed, and compressed before being reattached.

Patterns and textures are carved and painted onto the surface. Her color palettes are specific to places steeped in nature, ranging from the forests of the Pacific Northwest to the patinated cities of Tuscany. The finished work may have layers of oxide stains, underglazes, clay paint and encaustic wax. The sculpture initially goes through a slow bisque fire that can last as long as a week, and will go through several more firings. Karen may add elements of fiber, metal and other materials before or after a kiln firing, creating a sculpture as multifaceted as the women and nature she emulates.

Karen received a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1982. She also studied in the Masters Program with a concentration in Sculpture at the University of Oregon from 1986 to 1987.



Website Design: Sean Danaher

Portrait Photograph: Dennis Galloway

Copyright 2018: Karen Russo