Speeches and music from the funeral of Karen Finch, City of London Cemetery, May 1st 2018
Music on entry: Sounds of Odin (from ‘Vikings’)
On behalf of Karen’s family – her daughter Katrina, son-in-law Alan, grandsons Joshua and Jacob, and her sister Ruth – I welcome you here today. Yesterday the sky was weeping for Karen. Today the sun shines and we’re here to celebrate the life of an extraordinary woman. Many people want to bear witness to the light that Karen shone on numerous aspects of life so let’s hear from the first, Karen’s sister Ruth Sinding.
On the 8th of May 1921 in a farm in the middle of Jutland, Denmark, my mother gave birth to a little brown eyed girl, her first child.
My father is to have said that he did not mind that it was only a girl.
She was the first of eight children. After her came four blue-eyed brothers, blue eyes like our father, and three more brown-eyed girls, I being the second youngest, Karen being sixteen years my senior, and 18 years older than Inge. Søester was a beautiful little girl, fair, curly haired and smiling.
She wanted to learn something, go to grammar school in the local gymnasium, Viborg Katedralskole, 8 km away from our village, Rødding. My father would allow that only if she promised to become a teacher. Our teacher in the village, Miss Laustsen, had the ill fate of having been born with only two fingers on the left arm, originating from the elbow, and a few more fingers on the right arm, which was a bit longer, but not full length. She still managed to teach us history, geography, religion, sewing and knitting, but nevertheless, Karen was 10, and this was the only teacher she knew. At thirteen she would accept to become a teacher, but at this age, the headmaster thought, she was too old to be in a class with 11 – year old children, so she just finished her 7 years, every second day in the village school.
I have later reflected, if maybe it was an advantage, that she had not been taught all the “right” opinions. Maybe it was good that she had to form her own opinion about things. A fresh approach. She went to a Danish “højskole”, a Danish school, where young persons could go for three months and learn more Danish and arithmetic, hear of literature, sing together and exchange views, do gymnastics. At some point she also attended a school to learn housekeeping. At 18 years of age, I think, she was admitted to Kunsthåndværkerskolen in Copenhagen, where she was taught weaving. While she was there, peace broke out in 1945. Montgomery and his desert rats liberated Copenhagen. There were so many dances, and at one of them she met an English soldier, Norman Finch, and thanks to mother’s foresight, she could speak English, taught her by the teacher’s wife after school hours. Our mother’s attitude was that we could do anything we wanted. Norman and Karen fell in love and were married the year after in Holmen’s church in Copenhagen. Their honeymoon took them to Bornholm, which was now free from the Russian occupation. Karen went with Norman to live in England, and over the years she fulfilled her dreams for her work.
She had a little girl, Katrina, the most wonderful child in the whole world. They came to stay with us in Denmark for a year, when Katrina was 3 to 4 years old, because Norman had contracted tuberculosis in the desert war and had to be in a sanatorium, Krabbesholm, Denmark, for half a year with another half year of recuperation on the farm. He helped in various ways, and Søster got hold of a loom and put us all to work cutting up material for rug mats. She also made clothes for Inge and me especially. Norman’s English humour matched the spirit in Jutland so well. I miss them both very much.
When a young person dies, it can be a tragedy. When an old person dies, it is as it should be.
I’ve known Karen’s son-in-law Alan since kindergarten. Through him, her daughter, my friend Katrina. And through Katrina, her schoolfriend Susan who subsequently became and has been my partner for over 35 years. In the early Sixties, as a schoolgirl, Susan picked up needle and thread at Karen’s home and worked with and for her at a time before the TCC, when Karen was fighting to establish textile conservation not only as a subject for serious academic research and practice but also as a self-supporting business, a going concern. I’ve thus been privileged to have a glimpse into Karen the wife, with her incredibly supportive husband Norman, Karen the mother, grandmother, generous hostess, as well as Karen the businesswoman, fund-raiser and committed visionary who weaved the conscious conservation of textiles into the social fabric of life in this country and internationally.
To talk about this rich life, Katrina Finch, Karen’s daughter.
It’s not easy to see your mother as others see them and it’s even harder if your mother is Karen Finch who is known throughout the world of textile conservation.
Because we shared the last 14 years of her life living together I had a chance to not only appreciate Karen as my mother but also to appreciate what made her able to be a woman who was so widely admired and respected.
The auspices didn’t look that good for my parents when my father brought his Danish bride to live in the broken East End – only to find that his wages from being a soldier in the war had been spent by his father and they were flat broke. I never met my grandfather – my mother crossed him out of our lives. My father was poorly educated and needed to find training and my mother was identified as a German and pushed back to the queue when picking up rations. Karen wanted to be a weaver of modern designs – this was not a promising start.
From the East End, they moved to a flat in Bayswater living on a pound a week. However no setback could deter my mother’s love of art, design, history, reading, knowledge – after all compared with breaking the curfew in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen to warn her friends in the Resistance that the Gestapo had been to the flat and leading art students through underground passages to avoid the German attack on the Royal Palace – this situation could be managed.
And it was. A chance visit to an exhibition at the Royal School of Needlework ended up with a job offer and here she worked till I was born. From my birth to the age of 6, she was a housewife and a textile designer taking on commissions and working till 2 in the morning after I was asleep. My father was an export packer, training to be a bookkeeper. Again a chance visit to the Victoria and Albert museum led to a job offer and the course towards textile conservation was set.
It was unusual in the 1950s when women were supposed to greet their husbands in a checkered pinny, bringing his slippers and ushering him into the house with the dinner on the table, to be a full-time working mother with a 6 year old daughter with a key round her neck. But my mother never wavered and I had an unusual childhood, travelling from the age of 7 on the underground to spend some of my holidays in the Victoria and Albert Museum with the lovely men in the art work room who gave me paper, paints, scissors, glue and so on.
My generation was born when the idea that children should be seen and not heard still had currency. My mother was a staunch believer that children were people and should be heard. I have at least in this respect fulfilled my mother’s wishes. Unlike English children in my first schools (it appeared to me), I was told of the atrocities of the war including what happened to the Jews. When I came up against anti-semitism in my primary school, I was well able to put those children right. When a nun interviewing me for a school place kept insinuating that I must be Jewish (because of my looks), my mother got hold of my hand and just said we’re leaving now.
Our homes were visited by people from around the world, many of whom pursued careers in the arts, potters, weavers, ballet dancers; textile experts in many different fields; museum curators etc – the idea that some nationalities were good and some bad was a complete anathema in my home. Any prejudices were harshly slapped down. Restriction of any kind was abhorrent to Karen – a sign saying trespassers will be prosecuted meant you had to go there.
It was a stimulating home. It was a home put together by a Danish designer who bought all her furniture secondhand – mainly from Portobello market – or took in handouts from friends. She made them beautiful and she created harmony in the feel of the pale painted rooms. She made my clothes, smocked frocks when I was little, and made my ballet costumes teaching the other mothers to make working paniers when we danced the minuet. At night after work she wove curtains for the house and wall-to-wall carpeting. She crocheted amazing objects with barely a look at a pattern as she watched television and played card patience all at the same time.
And when she set up her first studio in Acton, my parents’ bedroom was used, the bed going up against the wall, and the tapestry frames emerging to be put away before my father came home from work at 7pm.
She was an insomniac who used those night hours to write her diaries; attend to her correspondence; plan; and write papers/lectures.
I don’t know how she did it all but I do know it was at a cost to her health. Her spinal problems can be laid at the door of the weaving and heavy work involved in conserving tapestries as well as her impatience to wait for anyone to help with moving heavy objects. My father would often find the house transformed when he returned from work. She never acknowledged that her body needed tending to – only once she had collapsed. But there was something of the superwoman about her – right till the end her arm muscles could not be withstood and even though sadly her mind deteriorated.
There is no doubt that it was hard for the daughter not to be the centre of her mother’s universe but luckily time has healed those issues and now I am only thankful that Karen had the courage to fulfill her potential, to follow at least some of her dreams, that her absolute delight and enthusiasm for all that life could offer will always remain with us.
Few can be better placed to talk about Karen’s standing in and impact on the world of textiles than Frances Lennard, Director of the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History at the University of Glasgow and the first UK Professor of Textile Conservation.
I first met Karen in 1982 when she and Dinah Eastop interviewed me for the textile conservation programme at Hampton Court. I felt very lucky to be offered a place and, many years later, I’m now the Director of the Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History at the University of Glasgow, the successor to the TCC which Karen founded in 1975. I led the textile conservation programme which she established, from 2001 until last year when my colleague Karen Thompson became the convenor. Of course many other people have led the programme, taught on it and been involved in its development over the years, but I feel privileged to have played some small part in carrying on the work that Karen began.
Karen’s love of textiles continued when she came to the UK, and she worked at both the Royal School of Needlework and the Victoria and Albert Museum. At the V&A she was a pioneer in developing techniques for the conservation treatment of historic textiles as opposed to repair or restoration. She set up her own practice at her home in Ealing and found herself working with students who came from all around the world to learn her techniques and to work with her. In 1975 Karen founded the Textile Conservation Centre, in Grace and Favour apartments at Hampton Court Palace. There she established the three-year postgraduate diploma in textile conservation validated by the Courtauld Institute of Art, a huge step forward in the training of textile conservators and a qualification held by many of us working in the field. From its inception the TCC included a conservation services section where trained conservators worked alongside the students and teaching staff, to the great benefit of both, and she set up an apprenticeship scheme for specialist training in tapestry and upholstery conservation. Karen was Principal until her retirement in 1986 and her huge achievements in the field were recognised by the award of an OBE.
Karen taught me during my student days and I remember her great knowledge of textiles and her enthusiasm, and I think we all recognised the determination which enabled her to set up the centre. I still think of her especially when I’m teaching our students about textile technology, and when we talk about different sheep breeds and the wool they produce. I was talking to another former student yesterday, who now works at Glasgow Museums, and she told me that, quite simply, Karen had changed her life. I think many of us feel that.
The TCC moved to a new building on the Winchester campus of the University of Southampton in 1999 and at that time Karen’s achievements as its founder were acknowledged by the award of an honorary doctorate from the University of Southampton. Following the closure of the TCC by the University in 2009, the textile conservation programme was incorporated into the new Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History, established at the University of Glasgow in 2010.
Karen’s legacy is tremendous – she made a huge contribution to the establishment of the field of textile conservation in the UK and worldwide, and was invited to lecture all over the world. Well over 100 students completed the postgraduate diploma offered by the TCC at Hampton Court, and very many more studied on the subsequent MA programme offered by the University of Southampton and now the MPhil in Glasgow. Students on the programmes have come from around 40 different countries and now hold positions in museums and private practice in countries all around the world.
Teaching was always a key motivator for Karen and, even after retirement, she maintained her passion for textiles and their conservation and kept in touch with her wide network of friends, colleagues and former students around the world.
She retained her interest in developments at the TCC and later the CTC in Glasgow. Her legacy is still felt – we still use the Karen Finch Reference Collection every day, and although the programme has developed over the decades, elements are still recognisable from the early days. My colleague Sarah Foskett wrote on our blog recently about the continuity of our annual open days from Hampton Court right through to the present day. In 2015 we celebrated 40 years of textile conservation education and Karen presented the inaugural Karen Finch Prize, a prize which is now offered each year by the Textile Conservation Foundation to an outstanding student.
Clare Meredith, Chairman of the Textile Conservation Foundation, our supporting trust, was sorry not to have been able to be here today but she has summed up Karen’s achievements, “It’s hard now to imagine our heritage sector without textile conservators, but that professional community is Karen Finch’s exceptional legacy. Karen was a true pioneer and her vision, over 40 years ago, was to establish the first recognised training course in textile conservation. Her achievements are legendary, but my memories of meeting Karen in recent years are – above all – of the palpable pleasure, interest and pride she took in past and present students.”
Now we’d like to hear from Karen’s friend Rosalind Janssen, Lecturer on Ancient Egypt and Treasurer of the Early Textiles Study Group.
It is a great privilege to be here today as a representative of the Early Textiles Study Group to honour the extraordinary person that was Karen Finch.
I first met Karen in 1980 when I was a young curator at the Petrie Museum at UCL. I went to a workshop at the TCC, chatted with her afterwards, and we immediately set up an arrangement whereby the TCC would conserve the Petrie’s Egyptian textiles gratis. Things were easier in those days, but it was Karen’s vision that ensured it happened so quickly and so smoothly. It was an arrangement which lasted for the next 18 years until I left the museum, and saw the conservation of a range of unique textile treasures including a bead-net dress, a sprang cap still in situ on the head of a female mummy, a rag doll’s wardrobe, and an inside-out sock.
Karen was a most loyal support of our Group, and regularly attended and contributed to our bi-annual conferences in Manchester. Hero Granger-Taylor, one of our committee members, who is present today, remembers that it was her mother – Barbara Granger-Taylor – who, when secretary of the standing committee on Museums and Galleries was able to help Karen set up the TCC. Hero recalls that Karen had a wonderful understanding of techniques, particularly of what we now call minor techniques. For example, she remembers Karen explaining to her how warp twining was done when the ETSG had a visit to an exhibition at the Museum of Mankind. Karen painstakingly followed this up by sending Hero a photograph of Danish children doing warp twining.
Karen’s legacy lives on in the library which begun with her. Our secretary Susanna Harris is using the TCC library in Glasgow, in her capacity of Lecturer in Archaeology there. This is what Susanna has to say. ‘I certainly think of Karen when I go in those stacks. It is not only me using the TCC library but all the archaeology Cloth & Clothing students. It is invaluable to have a library with many fundamental and now rare textile books, journals and leaflets that have been collected over decades. It’s not possible to build this from new. It is a wonderful legacy and the Archaeology students are benefitting from the TCC collection’.
Of course Karen’s legacy lives on in the conservation students – now professional conservators – that she trained over the years. To quote a personal example. A couple of years ago it was suggested that a large 25 ft. tapestry in my church – the Dutch Church in London – needed a good clean. My colleagues on the church council would easily have resorted to a vacuum cleaner, but I of course told them that it needed highly specialised conservation. The name of Poppy Singer and her colleague Annabel Wylie, two of Karen’s 1980s students, immediately sprung to mind. I re-established contact, and thanks to their expertise the tapestry was transported to Belgium for cleaning at the De Wit Royal Manufacturers in Mechelen. It was then returned to Poppy’s studio in St. Albans for the painstaking hand stitching of its new cotton backing. Both conservators attended our reception to mark the rehanging of the tapestry, and I gained a few Brownie points with my Dutch colleagues on the church council in the process. When I emailed Poppy last week to tell her about Karen this is what she wrote: ‘the end of an era! What a woman – she did so much!’
I can do no better than to conclude with the words of another of our ETSG committee members, Ruth Gilbert. “Having started on textile history later in life and without any formal qualification, Karen was one of the people who took me seriously from the start and encouraged me to carry on. She was always generous with her knowledge and time and she radiated enthusiasm. Karen’s smile was hers alone.”
Thank you, Karen. You were inspirational, much loved, and will never ever be forgotten.
As we’ve heard, Karen’s interest wasn’t confined to the physical creations of peoples around the world but encompassed their belief systems and weapons too. Denmark, of course was famous not just for Viking longships but also for the fearsome Double Axe. Arguably it wasn’t until the 20th century that the Anglo Saxons came up with their own riposte with double acts of their own like Flanders and Swann or Morecambe and Wise. Here’s Karen’s favourite double act, Joshua and Jacob Cohen.
Josh: I’m so lucky that at the age of 37 I still had a Mormor. It’s impossible to relate all of the thousands of memories I have of her from my earliest days, to just about a month ago. But one of the overriding feelings and memories is of a warm and loving Mormor, always ready with a hug and a smile. Always wanting to go for a walk with me and Jake, always smiling at the trees, ponds and birds of our local forest. Every time I went out, no matter what I was doing, she always wanted me to ‘have a nice time’. “Mormor, I’m just going down to the bank, I’ll be back in a couple of hours”. “Ok, have a nice time.” Also, often she would ask “Have you got enough money?, ready to hand me 10 or 20 pounds from her purse. “Yes Mormor, I have a job, I have enough money.” More often than not, she would still give me some money and tell me to spend it on something “frivolous”. Invariably, I think I did.
Even just a few weeks before she died, when I was lifting her from bed, a few feet to her chair, and back again, when we as a family were turning her in her bed, she would hold my hand and smile into my eyes with love and concern.
Jacob: If you were asked to draw a stereotypically ‘sweet’ grandmother she would probably look very similar to Mormor but Mormor was not your average grandma. She was, as we know, not average in any way. As a child, one of the key ways I understood this was when I looked at my costumes. Other children had store-bought generic plastic ones; I had real chainmail and an authentic Indian headdress! (This last one won me, ‘best costume in school’ I seem to remember). The time and love that went into these costumes was so clear that even my young, self absorbed brain could pick up on it (A bit). It not only convinced me that my Grandma was clearly better than the other grandmas; after all, knitting is obviously the central activity of ‘grandmas’ (as a people) and my own clearly did it better than all the others. She would here insist that it is mentioned that she did not knit; she weaved and she crocheted. These great costumes not only allowed my imagination to run riot they also helped develop my keen interest in history and mythology- which we shared throughout our lives.
This emphasis on imagination and creativity is something that has definitely stayed with me (more than it should have done probably) but I certainly see part of her legacy in my life as being the ability to focus single-mindedly on creative outlets and a sense of the importance of such endeavours. This is probably connected to another trait which we all know Mormor also possessed; stubbornness. The type of stubbornness that allows someone to doggedly follow her own ambition to join the school of art despite pressures to remain on the farm as a young lady and the eldest child; the stubbornness that allows you to come to a new country and completely revolutionise the way things were done in that country (as she did with textile conservation- her OBE being the recognition of this fact), the stubbornness to be able to, despite being ‘deaf’, and in a wheel chair, manage to struggle up the stairs to get to the newspaper before anyone else even knew it was there.
While Mormor was certainly not lazy when it came to putting effort into the things that mattered; one trait we also shared was the liking of a good sit down. I don’t think I am alone in one of my abiding memories being, being with her as a child as she sat in her chaise-long and played solitaire. This liking of a good sit and an aversion to sport was highlighted by one particular story; during a trip to the park with the whole family, Norman (Morfar) was organising a cricket match for the family; even at the age of 5/6 I could tell that Mormor was not going to be playing; so I thought for a second and said ‘Mormor can be the crowd’ she was very happy with this solution and it became a family story from then on.
Josh: I remember Mormor and Morfar taking me on days out all throughout my childhood. There were trips to the park, like other people’s grandparents, but they would also, more often, take me to museums all across London. The Natural History museum, the V and A, the British Museum, the Science Museum. Other historical sites, perhaps those containing tapestries Mormor had worked on. I learnt so much about the world, about history and culture from those trips, with Mormor always insisting that she read every last bit of information in every single display. She continued that tradition until she was probably 93 or 94, in her wheelchair, among the deep crowds at the British Museum.
Out on those day trips, other memories centred around the food we shared, and Mormor’s willingness to try new things, even if only through sheer love of her grandson. The first time I tried sushi, it was with Mormor, in Ealing, when I was around 10 or 11. I still love sushi and eat a lot of it in South Africa. I think it was Mormor’s first taste of sushi too, though I’m not sure that Mormor ever had it ever again. The first time I tried Nandos was with Mormor, in Ealing. People might be surprised to know that until she was about 92 or 93, Mormor loved Nandos. Even when she was off of her normal food, you could take her to nandos and she would happily eat half a chicken with chips. One time I even convinced Mormor and Morfar to take me to Macdonalds and was suitably embarrassed when she asked for a knife and fork to eat her burger.
Mormor’s devotion was there all of my life and she would always say that even when she was no longer there in person, she would always be with me, watching over me. The night before she died, I dreamt she had passed away. Afterwards, mum and dad told me that she would often have flying dreams and I love the idea that she flew over to cape town to see me, continuing her love in to forever.
Jacob: A few days before Mormor passed away I was lucky enough to spend an evening together with her in which she was in good form with moments of lucidity in which the Mormor I knew and loved seemed to rise up from the depths and the old, loving and slightly mischievous sparkle returned to her eyes; she did not speak much, though the words she did say are worth repeating. I had just changed the channel on the TV and a programme about the history of early Christianity was on. It showed a series of statues of angels and saints against a blue sky and she turned to me and said simply in a tone of peace and readiness “in a little while”. She was not fearful and was clearly (rightfully) satisfied with the life she had lived; at that moment we shared a moment of eye contact which I felt confirmed both this and the love we felt for one another. Whatever our beliefs about life and death, Mormor has now joined the ancestors and I would imagine that she would be an honoured guest of the Wyrd Sisters (known in Norse mythology as the Norns: 3 mythological women who work at the loom of fate) and knowing Mormor I don’t think it will be too long before she teaches them to weave properly in the future.
Just a reminder that there are collection boxes discretely dotted around for contributions to various charities. Before our last homage, I’d like to remark that the care her family – Katrina, Alan, Joshua and Jacob – lavished on Karen in her final years was a measure of the love that she inspired. I think this exceptional care and devotion should be acknowledged. So, finally, Alan Cohen Karen’s son-in-law, friend and latterly carer will conclude for us today.
A kindred spirit
The funeral notice, written by Katrina, says that Karen and I were kindred spirits. I don’t go for astrology, but the fact that we shared a birthday, May 8, was more than just an inconvenience because Karen’s birthday celebrations nearly always overshadowed mine (and no doubt she’ll continue to do it posthumously – imagine the fuss they’ll make in 2021 for instance). It also seems symbolic of the many things we had in common, of the rapport we had from the first time I met her, helping Katrina to move into the house near Parliament Hill Fields which we rented along with several other eccentrics.
Today is also a symbolic date of course: the First of May, the day of international working class solidarity. And even if Karen and I didn’t share the same political views, as Katrina has shown, she always had a deeply international outlook, towards her work, her research and towards everyone she met. But the old labour movement also chose the First of May as the day for a strike across national borders because it had always been a festival associated with throwing off restraints, with fertility dances and secret trysts in the greenwood, with Robin Hood and Maid Marian, with fairy tales and pagan myth. And in our interest in all that nonsense above all, we were kindred spirits.
The music that accompanied us as we entered the chapel was recommended to us by the guy in the Viking Shop in, of all places, Wood Street, the old Anglo-Saxon settlement in the forest that is also our local shopping street. It’s called Sounds of Odin. Odin was the war leader and chief shaman of the Vikings, and as Karen always insisted, the Vikings have had a bad press in England; to cite from the rap Jacob performed (on a boat sailing the Thames) for Karen’s 80th: “They were just poor farmers, never meant to harm us”. They came over to England from Denmark to further their careers, and what if they had to shatter a few icons to make any progress? We did of course consider a Viking Funeral for Karen, as she would have wished, but longboats with dragon prows are a bit costly these days, and, apparently, sending them off to sea engulfed in flames is against Health and Safety.
But while Karen and I both loved the old myths and tales for their own sake, we also agreed that they provide indispensable clues to understanding the history of humanity. She even thought that my interest in shamanism could be used for the benefit of her students at the TCC: she actually paid me money to come to Hampton Court to talk about the many-layered symbolism of shamans’ costumes. This concern for what historic artefacts meant to the people that made them was, as others have already mentioned, key to Karen’s whole approach to conservation.
Back to the music. Philip Sykas has written a very moving obituary for Karen and he insists that she was a party girl who loved to dance, and Karen herself has talked about the art students of Copenhagen organising dances under the Nazi occupation. So we have looked into the music she might have danced to at the time, consulting not only Google but Karen’s sister Inge in Denmark. It seems that there was a ‘Golden Age’ of Danish jazz in the 1940s, and one of its foremost proponents was a violinist called Svend Asmussen: we are going to play his theme tune, June Night, as we leave the chapel. But for dance music I have chosen May-Fair Boogie by the Harlem Kiddies. The title fits in with our date symbolism, but more importantly, the Harlem Kiddies were a Copenhagen band made up of white and black performers, and their singer, Raquel Rastenni, was Jewish, a shocking example of race-mixing that must have enraged the Nazis. Dancing to them would have been an act of defiance in itself.
In the later days of living with us, Karen would from time to time make the enormous effort of walking on her crutches to the cabin at the end of the garden where I keep my piano, and I would play a boogie to remind her of her dancing days. So at some point in today’s reception, those who want to can come to the garden house to hear another boogie for Karen. Karen always said that when her end finally came, we shouldn’t be gloomy but should throw a party, so now, click your fingers and tap your feet to the Harlem Kiddies.
Music: June Night (Svend Asmussen)
Speeches from Karen’s burial ceremony at Rødding Church in Denmark, May 26th 2018
Faster, Moster, Sister, Mormor, Mor, Mother-in-Law, The wife of Norman, Family Woman, Textile Conservator, Friend, Globetrotter, Presenter, Writer, Organizer, Trendist, “Jyde” and “Londoner”.
Karen had many titles and showed great spaciousness in many respects. Her great interest in her whole family and the outside world characterized her. She was very generous and hospitable to many, both family, friends and students. Her well-developed ability to make each individual feel unique and very special resulted in the feeling for everyone of being well encountered and seen and heard. Many also made the way past her home. The place where she was multi-tasking while making a solitaire, watching TV, eating dinner, charging her batteries, and devising new strategies for her work.
Her love for her family meant that she always remembered us and brought joy and gifts throughout her visits to Denmark through all the years. It was a big sadness for her when she in the last years was limited in traveling around the world and especially in visiting Denmark.
Karen was passionate and very persistent in bringing on her knowledge through a long life in both small and large contexts. Karen’s flame burned in most of her life in particular because of the love of her craft, namely textile work. However, it burned to a great extent by virtue of Norman’s tireless, talented and loving support, which made it possible. Karen’s enthusiasm was contagious. She was constructive and could show indulgence, as you could feel what she was thinking… as she showed the way to go.
Karen’s students were also illuminated by her enthusiasm, which became a bonfire of wisdom within Karen’s special field, textile preservation. One could say that her passion and field of work spread like a steep fire among professionals worldwide.
Many special events, such as celebrations at the Textile Conservation Center at Hampton Court Palace, Karen’s appointment for honorary doctorate in 1999, the 90th birthday, and the visits to Ealing, Walthamstow, and even Honiton with my family and my father have given us happy and festive memories to bear with us. When I was working in Bromley close to Kent, I enjoyed living in Katrina’s old top room in Ealing and being spoiled by Karen and Norman.
Later Karen invited us to a trip to Kew Gardens and on a fairy tale in London to experience the ‘Peter Pan Musical’. An experience she would like us to make together, so we could remember it forever. Like Peter Pan, Karen understood that it’s about believing in your idea to make it turn into a success.
With great sense of humor and creativity, she lived in especially the children’s lives. Joshua and Jacob got her eyes to light up, and nobody doubted how much she loved her grandchildren.
Karen was born on a Sunday and died a beautiful sunny Sunday. It must be called with due diligence. Just as she spread her arms to life, she also did it to death. I am grateful and pleased to have been allowed to follow her on her way both in life and against a beautiful and worthy end of life together with Katrina and Alan in Karen’s personal and beautiful cave in their very hospitable home. Without their unremitting, long-standing support, and loving effort, we had not had Karen with us for so many senior years.
With all my heart: Thank you very much for it all.
Karen and her love for us lives on in us!