Karen Cantine celebrates seven decades as a metal artist


Internationally recognized artist Karen Cantine is marking almost seven decades as a metalsmith with a new Alberta Craft Council exhibition called "Karen Cantine: A Metalsmith at 80."

"I couldn't do anything else. I'm driven to do it because it's the way I speak ... it's the way I say who I am," Cantine told Taproot.

The Edmonton exhibition was initially meant to be a small sampling of Cantine's current work, celebrating that she is still working at 80. But as the show came together, it evolved into a retrospective of her career — including the first drinking vessel she made by hammering out a flat disc in a process called raising, and an early pin she designed with her father as a gift for her mother.

The show also features a variety of new work, including copper wall sculptures and jewelry.

Cantine was initially drawn to metalsmithing as a 12-year-old growing up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, when she started taking classes to learn the craft.

"It was the novelty of it, and once I started working with metal and learning how to saw it and file it and shape it and hammer ... you can change its contours so beautifully," Cantine explained. "(Sterling silver) is such a cooperative metal. It was so much fun to learn that this metal that looks permanent, solid, and hard, was cooperative when you tell it what to do."

Cantine also works with copper and other non-ferrous metals.

A shiny metal pitcher with a brown, flat handle

A pitcher, made specifically for the exhibition, Karen Cantine: A Metalsmith at 80. (Supplied)

Cantine, who moved to Edmonton in 1965, has been working full-time as a metal artist for most of her life except for about a 10-year period when she was raising her three children.

"But I never stopped thinking about it. Even while I was doing the laundry or washing the dishes ... I would be thinking, 'This is not a very practical piece. How would I design it if I were to come up with a better tool,'" Cantine said.

"Your mind is always working on what your niche is. Just because you're not actually in the shop working, doesn't mean you've left it behind."

Cantine plans on creating in her studio for years to come, with ideas for several new wall pieces and a series of bowls she was inspired to create through the development of her current exhibition.

The show, which runs Nov. 27 to Jan. 22, is at the Alberta Craft Council Discovery Gallery on 106th Street. It can also be viewed online.