The Calder stories were the first of many strong influences on Karen. Her parents started their own aerospace welding business in the garage of their home. Struggles involved in running a fast-growing company consumed the entire family. During Karen's high school years, the '70s exposed her to politics, people, folk music, and storytelling. She loved nature and drew scenes from around her home, studying human life in her daily surroundings.
Karen's passion for art continued through university life where she studied foreign languages as well as a traditional foundation in painting and drawing. After college, she found community and a sense of belonging by volunteering and teaching children art, while taking classes and experimenting in different mediums. She took welding lessons from retired State of Connecticut Parks Department worker, Joe Coreale, and created a welded trout from mild steel, which she had to convince her welder father she'd crafted herself. Karen's dad was so impressed with her piece, he immediately set aside space for her in his welding shop. Once there, Karen found her father's love of metalworking infectious, and quickly started experimenting with steel, titanium, copper and brass on her own.
Soon, Karen was invited to show her works in metal at an emerging New England folk art gallery. She sculpted Gabriel the Herald Angel, often portrayed on the mastheads of ships, antique signage, and weathervanes. Her work caught the eye of several large Connecticut galleries, as well as restaurants, hospitals and corporations. Karen began to add broken crystals, charms and pieces of jewelry to her artwork. Inquiries for her charmed pieces skyrocketed, fueling her imagination and resulting in the development of more than 500 original characters celebrating the seasons, holidays, professions, friends and family, children, hobbies and a host of other life-inspired themes.
After years of attending trade shows and marketing her original works, she developed a plan to license her designs. Managing both fine art and licensing careers consumed her. She licensed her artwork to several manufacturing companies, eventually signing a contract with Silvestri®. Within two years of the initial January 2000 release of 12 three-dimensional metal characters for that company, retail sales of Karen Rossi's Fanciful Flights by Silvestri® topped $30 million annually. Karen is currently licensing her characters to a variety of firms who produce and market embroidery design cards, dolls, promotional and stationery items, scrapbooking and papercrafting supplies, gifts and decorative products, and garden statuary and accessories.
Karen relates art to the healing process as artist in residence at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, Conn., and considers this work to be the most meaningful part of her career. Participating in charitable endeavors and showcasing her works in the places where everyday life is played out continue to be of paramount importance to her. She holds fast to her New England roots and will forever be influenced by her family and interactions with others. Today, in her studio, Karen Rossi continues to create her stories in metal as well as in paintings, murals, and clay. It's a gift for which she is very grateful and feels compelled to share with the world.