Home > Artist Database > Bio-bibliographic Database > BULOW, Karen

Artist Database

BULOW, Karen

Denmark, 1899
, 1982
Biography synopsis
Karen Bulow was born in Denmark and immigrated to Montreal in 1929. She began to sell handwoven goods such as scarves, bags and belts and quickly developed a following for her skill and design sensibilities. To keep up with the demand for her fabrics, she founded "Canada Homespuns," said to be the first professional weaving studio in Canada. Her studio employed as many as 70 weavers, some women working on small items from home. In 1933 Bulow also established her own weaving school from her studio, instructing until 1949. Many of her students went on to work for her, and several became influential instructors themselves. Interior designers sought out her fine drapery and upholstery fabrics noted for the Scandinavian influence of Bulow's aesthetic. She could work both on a small and large scale, was capable of rapidly thinking up designs for interior and commercial commissions, and creating one-of-a-kind wall hangings. Karen Bulow neckties became iconic Canadian items, selling in the thousands each year across the country. Eventually, Simpsons and Eatons stores as well as more prestigious design shops carried her products. Bulow received many significant commissions, including those for Trans-Canada Airlines, CN and CP railways and the Bank of Nova Scotia Headquarters in Montreal. In 1960 she sold Homespuns, which was renamed "Karen Bulow Ltd." under the new ownership. In 1969 she was asked by the Government of Canada to participate in the development of the Pangnirtung weaving project. In 1976 she was awarded honorary membership in the Canadian Crafts Council and admitted to the RCA.
Media used
Royal Canadian Academy of Arts
Canadian Crafts Council, 1976
File & Archive locations
Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, ON
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
University of British Columbia - Fine Arts Library
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts / Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, QC
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC

Writings about
Alfoldy, Sandra. "Struggles for Recognition: Canada's Textile Pioneers." Crafting New Traditions: Canadian Innovators and Influences. Gatineau, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, 2008: 77-86.
Crawford, Gail. A Fine Line: Studio Crafts in Ontario from 1930 to the Present. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1998.
Cross, L.D. "Nuvisavik: The Place Where We Weave (Review)." Arctic 56.3 (Sept. 2003): 299-300.
Flood, Sandra. Canadian Craft and Museum Practice 1900-1950. Gatineau, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2001.
Gotlieb, Rachel. Danish Modern: Suzanne Swannie Textil. Halifax: MSVU Art Gallery, 2008.
Gotlieb, Rachel. "Suzanne Swannie and Danish Modernism in Canada." Danish Modern: Suzanne Swannie Textil. Halifax: MSVU Art Gallery, 2008.
Harris, Jennifer. 5000 Years of Textiles. London: British Museum Press, 1993.
Hickey, Gloria A.. Making and Metaphor: A Discussion of Meaning in Contemporary Craft. Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1994: p.85.
Holden, Alfred. "Are You 'Modern' or 'Borax'?" Taddle Creek, 2001.
Houston, Alma. Inuit Art: An Anthology. Watson & Dwyers Publishers, 1988.
Lesser, Gloria. Ecole du Meuble. Montreal: Le Chateau Dufresne, 1989.
Mancuso, Rebecca. Faces of Change : The Danish Community of Montreal. Montreal: Danish Canadian Society of Montreal, 1997.
McLeod, Ellen Mary Easton. In Good Hands: The Women of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild. Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1999.
Storey, Walter Rendell. "Fabrics for Diverse Purposes Come from Karen Bulow's Looms." Handweaver and Craftsmen Winter 1953-4: 14-17, 53.
Von Finckenstein, Maria ed. Nuvisavik: The Place Where We Weave. Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Civilzation, 2002.
Wood, Eizabeth Wyn. “Canadian Handicrafts.” Canadian Art 2.5 (Summer 1945).
Wright, Virginia. Modern Furniture in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.

Search by: