Karen Karnes and David Weinrib, Coil-built Fireplace, ca. 1975. Stoneware and iron grate. Collection of Black Mountain College  Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Abel Weinrib

Karen Karnes (Faculty and Resident in Ceramics 1952-1954) (b.1925-d.2016)

Karen Karnes was a potter whose work reinvigorated the public’s interest in functional ceramic vessels. Karnes, in partnership with her husband David Weinrib ((b.1924-d.2016), led the first Pottery Seminar at Black Mountain College in October 1952, initiating a turning point in the modern ceramic movement. Under Karnes and Weinrib’s leadership, the BMC Pot Shop hosted Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach, Warren MacKenzie, Robert Turner, Peter Voulkos, Bauhaus potter Marguerite Wildenhain, Daniel Rhodes, and many others. In contrast to Weinrib, and despite her contributions, Karnes was offered neither title nor compensation during her time at the college.

In addition to being a Potter in Residence at Black Mountain College, Karnes also taught at the Penland School of Crafts and at Haystack. She was an integral part of the Stony Point, NY artist community known as The Land, where she lived and worked for 25 years alongside fellow BMC alums and faculty M.C. Richards, John Cage, Stan VanDerBeek, and Paul and Vera Williams. 

This fireplace was built for the home Karnes and Weinrib shared at The Land. Following her time there, and until her death in 2016, Karnes lived and worked out of a Vermont homestead she shared with artist Ann Stannard.