Karen Patricia Smaby, Photo credit: Linda Ottis
The Northwoods Fiber Guild had a Celebration of Life for Karen Patricia Smaby on September 23, 2020. The celebration took place on Karen's Christmas Tree Farm on Pike Lake Road, Grand Marias, Minnesota.
Some of the Fiber Guild arrived early to decorate with pom poms, pagodas, valentines, and flowers. As friends arrived, everyone was invited to sign cards that would be sent to Karen's Mom, Pat. Participants were invited to write a message to Karen from one of her hand made books with perforated pages. She used her Grandmother's Singer sewing machine to create the perforation. On two tables were gathered artworks that Karen had created.
When all the group arrived, Barb LaVigne opened the ceremony with beautiful flute music.
George Wilkes pointed up & drew our attention to two small flocks of Sand Hill Cranes flying high overhead. They were sending their blessing to us and Karen as well.
Linda Ottis encouraged all to share stories of Karen; they shared freely with readings & heartfelt anecdotes about our wonderful friend, Karen.
In Viking style, we sent Karen messages through the smoke that sent skyward.
The weather was warm and the trees were sharing their beauty for all.
Karen, Photo Credit Cam Norman
Nan Backlund sang Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," with the help of the crowd. Some of us sang quietly due to tears.
Nan Backlund, Photo credit: Linda Ottis
Karen taught classes at the Northhouse Folk School, and when the Jessa Frost, program director learned of Karen's passing, she sent this lovely note out:
August 24, 2020
I have sad news to share this August afternoon. I heard from Cheryl Larsen earlier today that Karen Smaby passed away peacefully yesterday of pancreatic cancer. Karen began teaching at North House in 2011, and taught more than thirty classes to over 300 students. All of her coursework-- whether penny rugs or dying in the steambox or bookbinding-- reflected her love of color and her special eye for combining textures and ideas in many different forms of fiber. Karen was instrumental in her quiet and understated way in bringing about the close relationship between the Northwoods Fiber Guild and North House, something that was not always so in earlier days. One of Karen's other passions was working with the high school art students each year to do a bookbinding project: you may have seen the work for sale at the Java Moose, which funded the materials for the following year. Her warm spirit will be missed.
phone: 218. 387. 9762
Post Office Box 759 500 West Highway 61
Grand Marais, Minnesota 55604
A beautiful obituary with more details about Karen's life was published.
Valentines created by Karen
When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.
When I fall
let me fall without regret
like a leaf.
One last story that was shared after the celebration. A man named Scott worked with Karen on bookbinding and sharing his expertise with her. He was offered a job at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, and told Karen that it was tough for him to leave Cook County. He did move, live and work in Washington DC. One December, the intercom buzzed and the UPS driver said that he had a package. Scott went down to find a six foot box. He took it upstairs, opened it and found a Christmas tree from Karen.
Autumn beauty in Grand Marias; photo credit Linda Ottis
"Love is what carries you, for
it is always there, even in
the dark, or most in the dark,
but shining out at times
like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery."
The story continues with three friends celebrating Karen at her Christmas Tree Farm on year later, August 31, 2021.