Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Karen Clarke

Karen’s original music fuses her love of rhythm, smoky vocal delivery and a sensitive eye on life. The influence of both her Ngati Kahungunu and Celt lines are heard in the mix of contemporary folk, blues and femme styles. With an onstage style that critics describe as anything from raw to sassy, Karen is known for a strong, emotive performance.

I like it when Karen performs.

I talked with Karen about the place that creativity holds in her life.

Wayne: Was there a time in your life when you realised that you were creative?
Karen: Suspect I always knew. There were only two faces to our family life – work and guilt about not working when not working. My release from this tyranny was to cry to the moon and self comfort with words and song and movement and visualization all aimed at projecting me beyond the concentration camp into the life that I saw others had. I find that holding a “creative identity” such as “musician” in front of others is hard. Because I am not all trained and learnt up I often lack the confidence to hold my ground. Its often safer to be creative alone or in trusted enclaves where self concept is not at risk at the same time the musical offerings are. Yep, holes in my cheese.
For me each creative project has an internal process that accompanies the external process. The song is made and I am made simultaneously.
There is a Maori proverb that says in respect of carving a meeting house something along the lines of The man does not make the house. The making of the house makes the man. I know this well in myself.

Wayne: How would you describe your creative process?
Karen: I need to be still enough - creative time has to be tightly held and protected time for me because all of life’s “urgents” steal the gently held times for themselves.
Writing daily and a contemplative practice every day helps me find the place to create from.

Wayne: What would you say to others who want to explore their creativity?

Karen: Find ways to enter open space … Get out of mind …. Find permission for many, many experiments in, of and through yourself.
Be surprised and delighted with every little bit of fresh growth in a creative project – expectation and “thinking you know what its going to be” are tantamount to paraquat in my experience.
Do something - anything – to start. The creative process needs a spark …
If all else fails, pretend you are 6 or 90 and see what happens next

Use “dummy lines” and “holding ideas” to keep the flow even if the fit isn’t right yet
Get a creative coach to partner and share process. Hinemoana Baker was mine for a time – and there was love.

You can get more of Karen at

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