Karen discovered at an early age that she loved making things with her hands, drawing, painting and sculpting, playing with forms and experimenting with color. She explored a variety of mediums from the time she was able to hold a paintbrush and crayons through College. Choosing a career in the arts, Karen began College in 1984 at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in the Theatre Arts Program. Her first two years were spent studying Acting, Set Design, Lighting and Costume Design at their state of the art Performing Arts Center.
Though she enjoyed her classes, the winters in Amherst were a bit too cold. In 1986, Karen decided to transfer to a much warmer climate at the University of California, Santa Cruz. After moving to the west coast, she shifted her focus of studies to Film and Video Production. Karen earned a Bachelor of Arts from University of California in 1988. She spent the next few years working in the Film and Video industry, until she met the glassblowers at San Jose State.
Although Karen had worked in a variety of art forms, she had no experience working with hot glass until she stumbled upon her future husband at an open studio in the winter of 1990. Dana Robbins, a graduate student and Teaching Assistant in the glass program, was demonstrating the art of glass blowing with his classmates at the hot shop on campus. Karen was immediately intrigued by Dana and his talents. Before she knew it, she was capturing the students on video, working with hot molten glass. Soon after, Karen and Dana entered into a relationship and began the start of a lifelong partnership. As her passion for glassblowing increased, so did her opportunities to work closely with glass. The instructor of the class, Mary White who was co-coordinator of the conference, asked Karen to videotape all the demonstrations at the Glass Art Society annual event in June of 1994.
Her exposure to this art form was continually building until finally Karen decided she wanted to learn how to blow glass. In the summer of 1995, right before she and Dana were married, Karen had an opportunity to go to the word renowned, Pilchuck Glass School. It was here, finally, and for the first time, she picked up a blowpipe and tried to work with hot glass. A six week adventure at Pilchuck was so influential, it motivated a career change from producing videos to creating blown glass art. Her trip to Pilchuck also inspired a life changing decision to move with her husband to the country and build a hot shop! They decided to make a drastic move from an apartment in the Bay Area to Dana’s family cattle ranch in rural New Mexico.
Its been over 26 years since they moved from California to New Mexico. After all this time working together with hot glass, Dana and Karen work very closely and are the best blowing partners. She does the majority of the design, shape and color selection, and assists Dana in creating the glass. He is responsible for the skilled execution of each piece, and does all labor intensive polishing and finish work. In addition to working in the hot shop, Karen takes care of all the marketing, customer service, inventory control and business management. In return, Dana handles of all the technical needs of their shop, keeping the equipment running properly. Lots of hard work and a team effort have made their marriage and their business a very successful partnership.
Dana and Karen blow glass full time on their ranch located 45 miles southeast of Santa Fe. They produce a line of sculptural, decorative and functional art. The majority of their work is hand blown glass, both hollow and solid sculpted forms. In addition, Dana creates a line of wearable art, dichroic glass that is cut, polished and set in one of a kind fabricated sterling settings. The two participate in juried arts and crafts festivals annually in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. An elite selection of their art glass is also available in specialty gift shops and museum stores throughout the Southwest. For more information, please call Robbins Ranch Art Glass at (505) 832-2272.