Meet artist Karen Goulet at Watermark Art Center during the Pine to Prairie Fiber Arts Trail Weekend, April 9-10, where she will display her Star Quilts and mixed media pieces.
Goulet has been showing art both nationally and internationally for twenty years. She creates a variety of textile art, including needle art, quilt making, surface design, weaving, mixed media, and knitting. Some of her most recent creative efforts have been teaching herself to make star quilts, which are hand-embroidered with innovative color schemes, design elements, and threadwork. “I love material and I love color,” explained Goulet. “Each quilt has a story. It is grounded in something that’s familiar to me.”
Goulet has worked in textiles and fiber for most of her life, learning the craft from her family. “My mother sewed everything,” Goulet recalled. “My grandmother was a very skilled seamstress. And my father taught me embroidery, which was my first step into fiber arts.”
It was for a project in grade school that Goulet chose to do an embroidery piece. Her father helped her with the project, teaching her how to embroider – and from then on, she was hooked.
Goulet grew up in Washington state, but traces her family history to Bemidji. Her maternal grandfather was the first Native to buy property in Bemidji, where her mom grew up as the oldest of 10 children. Goulet visited Bemidji often throughout her childhood. “I really wanted to come back to this area to live,” she said. “So as soon as I got the opportunity, I returned.”
In 2006, Goulet officially moved to the area, connecting with the place of her heritage – a concept that is also apparent in her art. “The work I do connects me to my ancestors and my history. I was raised to appreciate this art through my family’s work. Being able to craft well and make useful and beautiful things was part of our world.”
In addition, Goulet’s work also blends past with present. “I try to avoid labels like ‘traditional’ or ‘contemporary’,” she explained. “Rather, as an artist, I feel my job is bringing things together in my own voice.”
Goulet earned her BA in Fine Arts and Cultural Education from The Evergreen State College, her MFA in Sculpture from The University of Wisconsin – Madison, and her M Ed from University of Minnesota Duluth. Throughout her career, she has worked primarily in education, most often with Indigenous institutions and programs.
Goulet is an enrolled member of the White Earth Ojibwe Nation. She lives in White Earth and is currently the director of Gizhiigin Arts Initiative, a tribal entity serving artists on the reservation. She is also art instructor at White Earth Tribal and Community College.