Art From the Heart
This Connecticut-based artisan gets the inspiration for her work from her everyday life. The final creations are fun-filled pieces that can be used throughout the holiday season or all year long.
Karen Rossi says that her passion for art goes back to her childhood. “I would be terribly bored in the summers,” she says. “I grew up in a rural town. My mom would always say, ‘Go out and do something.’”
As a child, Rossi loved to paint and draw. Her passion for the arts continued when she entered college, as she continued to draw and paint.
Upon graduating college, she began to teach art to children and continued to take art classes and experiment with different mediums. She also started taking welding lessons from Joe Coreale. Under his guidance, she created a welded trout that she made from mild steel. Rossi’s parents ran their own aerospace welding business out of their garage in their South Windsor home. When Rossi brought home her welded fish to show her father, she had some trouble convincing him that she had created it herself. He was so impressed by her project that he gave her a spot to work in his welding shop. Rossi quickly became addicted to welding as she tested out different types of metals.
After displaying some of her work at local galleries, Rossi’s sculptures eventually became popular throughout Connecticut, and she began to create smaller versions. She says, “My original flying people started out as smaller versions of my sculptures. I started by attaching broken jewelry to their arm. I then started getting requests for more personalized pieces. I began to hand paint them too.”
In January 2000, Rossi signed a contract with a U.S. manufacturer, Silvestri, to license her designs. Within two years, the 12 three-dimensional metal characters that were originally released by Silvestri had retail sales of more than $30 million per year. The Fanciful Flights ornaments that she creates represent a variety of professions and people. Some of these year-round ornaments include a teacher who holds a notebook, white apple and pencil charms, and a gardener who holds a bottled flower, frog, trowel and butterfly charms. She continues to create new originals all of the time.
Rossi has also licensed her designs to a number of other manufacturers to create an ever-growing list of items, ranging from fabric goods like quilts, clothing and embroidered kitchen products to garden sculptures, decorative metal pins, goblets, manicure sets, books and calendars, plaques, frames and even puzzles.
Rossi also creates menorahs for those who celebrate the Jewish holiday Hanukah. She began making menorahs about 15 to 20 years ago. “I was commissioned to make the first one,” she says. “It was four or five feet long by the time I was done with it.” She brought the piece with her to a New York trade show, where the customer decided that it was too big. Rossi says that the menorah created such a stir at her booth that she started to make more of them after that, but in much smaller versions. The menorahs that she creates offer a unique flair to the Jewish holiday. Her Transportation Menorah is a colorful metal formation that depicts several modes of transportation, including a fire engine, police care and school bus. Her Boutique Menorah is geared towards shoppers or storeowners, and includes a woman who is running to a sale. The store has hat, purse and shoe charms hanging in the windows.
Rossi’s work is available for purchase on her online store, as well as at the open houses that she holds the second Saturday of each month in her Norfolk studio. At open houses, visitors can enjoy some type of event or demonstration as well as view the works that are currently in progress.
Each of Rossi’s creations I based on her original artwork, some of which is available for purchase as well. “My work tells stories,” she says. “I enjoy people and the stories that they tell. I am inspired by different characters.”
Visit Rossi's online store here.
This story was originally published in HomeLiving Connecticut Magazine.