Karen Willenbrink Johnsen
was raised in southwest Ohio, the naturalist daughter of
a naturalist father. Many a day were spent on the forays
through the woods, exploring fossils, animals and trees-all
the while being imbued with a love of the natural world.
I’m constantly inspired, revitalized and awed by
the power of nature.
ever-evolving experience with glass began after I received
my BFA in sculpture from Ohio University and glass soon
became the driving force in my life. I spent several years
developing my skills in the Catskill Mountain region of
New York, and have lived and worked since 1987 near the
Cascade Mountain range in Washington State. Sixteen years
of working with glass artist William Morris has taught
me to follow my own unique vision and let the enthusiasm
of my spirit guide my ideas. My passion for the nature
that surrounds me has taken root in my work, forming an
have a natural inclination for adventure, and have traveled
North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, drawing on
the diverse environments of these regions as inspiration
for my work. I also find a creative spark in observing
diverse varieties of animals, complex interaction with
humans, and their relationship with each other. Venues
such as dog shows, a rodeo, or an intense bird-watching
expedition, most always provides a burst of lasting creative
I have developed as a glass artist, my conceptual urges
have become intrinsic-my work arises from a need to experience
and acknowledge the essence of living things. It is the
passion that drives me to further explore and intensify
the expression of my craft."
After earning her BFA in sculpture from Ohio University,
glass quickly became the driving force in Karen’s
life. She moved to Washington State in 1987, and soon afterward
she began working as an assistant to the legendary glass
artist William Morris. Karen’s unique vision and
passion for glass is evident in her work, which has been
shown extensively in galleries and museums throughout the
country. She co-teaches sculpting classes throughout the
world with her husband and collaborator, Jasen Johnsen.
“I have always had a strong desire to create things.
Working with glass continually pushes me into new realms,
satisfying my inclination to use my hands and drawing on
my tendency to think about things technically and precisely.
Each project is an adventure, testing my strengths and challenging
my knowledge of the material. It is natural for Karen and
I to work collaboratively. Bird watching is something we
both really enjoy. It is all about observation – really
seeing, and not just watching. We look at so much more that
the birds, we discuss the pattern, colors and textures of
logs, flora, rocks and animal tracks, and how they can be
translated into glass.”
Jasen Johnsen served as the head studio technician at Pilchuck
Glass School for nearly 10 years. He worked as teaching assistant
for Pino Signoretto and Hank Murta Adams, before beginning
to co-teach classes with his wife, Karen.
glass guitar by Jasen Johnsen
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