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Conversations with the Inspiring Karen Kliethermes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Kliethermes.

Karen, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Ever since I was a little girl, I have been utterly fascinated by the natural world. I lived in New Mexico for the more memorable years of my childhood, and I was wild for the exotic desert life. I was outside often, collecting crystals I found on the land, making plant “potions”, and creating homes for the local stink beetles that most found repulsive. Every living being had a bright, unique light that I was deeply drawn to, especially animals. I was also drawing ever since I could adequately hold a crayon, and always had a variety of creative endeavors growing up.

During both high school and college, I was ill with severe adrenal fatigue syndrome for five years. It was quite debilitating, and the adversity I have faced has very much shaped me into the woman I am today. While Western medicine did not help me, Eastern medicine did; I saw dozens of practitioners in many different fields of alternative medicine and loved every minute of it. I was introduced to a world of divine sanctity, of grand interconnectedness that wasn’t up in the heavens, but rather in all that we experience here on earth and beyond. One of the treatments that fascinated me was energy healing. I had the great pleasure of experiencing a variety of energy workers and had significant breakthroughs and leaps in my healing process because of it. When I was 15, I got my first Reiki attunement and later on received my Master/Teacher/Practitioner training when I was 20.

I originally planned to do Reiki as my full-time career, but the universe led me in a different direction. During the year after my college graduation, I built my savings at a 9-5 job that did not satisfy me, and also didn’t allow leftover energy to work part-time for myself–neither in Reiki or art. I then took a leap of faith to work completely full-time on my own for a year. While my Reiki business still wasn’t working out as a full-time focus, what did work out was my art; I spent nine months creating my own animal oracle deck. In addition to creating the artwork and designing the deck, I carefully wrote the descriptions. I did extensive research on the naturalistic attributes (behavioral patterns, biology, physiology, history, etc.) of each animal, and applied a spiritual message to them that I felt reflected their unique attributes. My intention with this project was to get everyday people more connected to the natural world through admiration of the animals in the deck.

I also have been very blessed with stumbling upon many divine connections that got me into collaborating with non-profits over the last few years, where I use my artwork to raise money for their causes and also support my business. During this time, I have also tremendously expanded my learning on environmentalism and the climate crisis. Due to opening my eyes to these harsh truths, my life path and career have been further molded and directed towards conservation efforts through the contributions I can make as a passionate artist.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It certainly hasn’t always been smooth. Although I have valued the challenges that have surfaced since I believe they are all divine opportunities for growth. While I have had some magical experiences and miraculous opportunities that popped up out of nowhere (and those were effortless and smooth!), I have also worked incredibly hard on building myself and my career, not to mention constantly tending to all of the many facets of my business. And it definitely hasn’t been glamorous. When I took a year to work full-time in building my business, I limited my non-art expenses like crazy; for instance, I would spend only $30 a month on food. I lived extremely simply and frugally and worked 60-80 hours a week. I have made a lot of sacrifices to make my dream come true.

As far as advice I would give to other young female entrepreneurs, I have a lot to say:

1.) Google is your friend! Art school taught me nothing about real-life application and business, so I learned everything entrepreneurial through tutorials and articles online.

2.) Do what works best for you; don’t conform to society’s standards, and be a demonstration of what you believe in. One example is that I no longer wear make-up to not only save money/time/energy, but I found out that many ingredients in our skin products are toxic. Not to mention that having a ‘naked’ face better reflects my environmentalistic and minimalistic brand and personal focus in life.

3.) Be creative and adaptable! Finding ways to be innovative in your choices and what you offer will set you apart from others and help you be seen. When there is a wall in front of you (and you can guarantee that there will be a number of them on your path), flow like water around it, only to find other opportunities on the other side that are often better than you imagined.

4.) There is no shame in working part-time here or there to build your savings, or even taking a break from aspects of your business to focus on you; self-care and preservation are not selfish luxuries, they are requirements for you and your business to thrive.

5.) Know that YOU are the one in control of your dream; you truly have the ability to manifest what you want, so hold onto that vision and know your desires with every fiber of your being. Literally imagine and feel the experiences you want to see occur in your business and life, and opportunities will come to you. I once vividly imagined receiving an email from a new client wanting to buy my art, and within an hour, got an email from a new client requesting $1000 worth of my artwork–no joke! Manifestation works–try it, and in all aspects of your life!

Tell us more about your work.
Mainly, I am a fine artist, but also an illustrator, instructor, speaker, author, eco-advocate, and Reiki Master/Teacher Practitioner. I am deeply passionate about preserving the life on this planet, and my main objective is to do all that I personally can to contribute to the cause through my work. I find that there are so many ways that one could go about this, which is why my work is so multi-faceted. (Which can certainly be chaotic at times, not to mention often stretching me thin!)

What I am most proud of are the products I have created thus far, including “Animal Essence Oracle Cards: Mammals”, and “Save the Bees! Educational Coloring Book for Adults and Teens”. I have channeled my lifelong fascination of nature into these products, combining extensive research on the appropriate subjects with art elements to further reach people on the topic of environmentalism. I currently have several other projects underway that I hope to bring to fruition in the near future, including a birds oracle deck. I am also extremely proud to frequently collaborate with multiple non-profits that support endangered animals, and I have raised thousands of dollars in donations through live-painted artworks at fundraising events. I have learned so very much from working with these dedicated specialists in nature-related fields from all over the country, and manifesting opportunities to work with them and support their causes is truly a huge honor.

Honestly, I think a lot sets me apart from others. By description, I fulfill nichey roles and do nichey things in my everyday. In my work, I synthesize elements of art, nature, and spirituality to materialize creations that I can only hope to contribute positively to the natural world. Also, I am a pretty hardcore perfectionist which can help me accomplish quite a lot but can also be self-destructive at times. Additionally, I think few people are as passionate about the climate crisis as me. I have transformed my life to be as sustainable and accommodating as I possibly can in this consumeristic first-world nation.

Perhaps most significantly, I eat a vegan diet of mostly whole foods (which often limits packaging), avoid international flights, and have officially made the decision to never procreate–all of which are some of the most impactful things an individual can do to limit their footprint. Not to mention I’m in the process of getting my Permaculture Design – Certification, so I can eventually contribute to building food forests in non-productive land pockets in the Denver area. As the extraordinary, inspirational Greta Thunberg says, “I know we need a system change rather than individual change. But you can not have one without the other.”

I believe that no one is too small or not proficient enough to make a difference–every individual has their own expertise in different areas, and can apply their specialties to positively contributing to this vital issue.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
I love seeing women in any leadership role in our patriarchal society. Especially in politics. (Not to suggest that we vote for a candidate just because she is a woman, as we should vote on policy no matter what the candidate’s identity politics are) While I think women and men can do anything they wish and are equals in many ways, women have been wired and shaped over history to work in community as gatherers and caregivers. While society is certainly different than that of hundreds of years ago and women are now widely in the workplace, studies show that women are still inclined to be more relationship-oriented, empathic, and intuitive.

With that knowledge, wouldn’t we want more female leaders wielding the power to create change in our world, to make it a better place as a whole? Even though greed is pervasive throughout our society and can affect all, perhaps having more female leaders may assist in shaping our society into one that further benefits all life, not just wealthy humans. Especially when it comes to the climate crisis, we need to care for our natural world NOW on a colossal scale if we want a remotely promising future for our children, let alone ourselves.

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Karen Kliethermes

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