Connecticut artist Karen Rossi gets choked-up when asked why her whimsical work resonates with the public.
“I just feel like it’s some gift from above that lets me make these creations and lets people have joy,” she says, from her wonderfully cluttered Norfolk studio filled with her colorful designs influenced by New England folk art. “It’s a way to spread good and positive will.”
Now this creator of original metal sculptures, displayed in area hospitals and museums, is encouraging others to make art with her Fanciful Flight parties, which give women, often moms, the opportunity to express themselves, make a homemade holiday gift and enjoy a night out.
“They are able to tell the story of the character they are making and portray, perhaps, themselves — a self portrait — or someone else that they love,” says Rossi, as several people gather to hand-paint a laser-cut female figure, originally conceived as a “kitchen witch,” adorned with tiny doll-house baubles ranging from bird nests to frying pans.
“Every time a group of women get together, even when they don’t know each other, something special seems to happen, especially when they are making the Flights, because they start to share why they are picking a charm and who they are portraying.”
Some participants create pieces to memorialize a deceased loved one. “People have shared some personal stories with me of revelations that they’ve had,” says Rossi. “I suppose it’s a time to stop and reflect, and we don’t have time to do that in our lives.”
Rossi’s parents owned a welding shop, where she crafted her ideas. Thirty years ago, the birth of the Fanciful Flight, originally inspired by Gabriel the Herald Angel holding a horn, gave this unique artist a signature style.
“It was so well received that my entire career grew from these copper … Fanciful Flights,” she says. “Today we make them out of steel.”
After licensing her designs to Silvestri Gifts in the mid-2000s, the Flights were sold all around the world, prompting Rossi to call them her “global ambassadors.” Her work has been exhibited at the White House and sold at such stores as FAO Schwarz and Neiman Marcus. Now that the relationship with Silvestri is over, Rossi is back in full control of her creations, celebrating various jobs and characters, from Mark Twain to Santa Claus. “It’s amazing how life brings you full circle so many times.”
The private workshops are one way that Rossi is re-inventing her business. For $40, she invites folks up to her rustic studio, surrounded by evergreen trees, recently lined in white during the area’s first snowfall, for this bonding experience. Or she can provide an on-site party for a good-sized crowd. Rossi is proud of the creativity she inspires: “Certainly it’s a way to make a homemade Christmas gift and I always encourage that!”
>>For more information about Rossi’s house parties, log onto www.karenrossi.com