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Meet Trailblazer Karen A. Dombrowski-Sobel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen A. Dombrowski-Sobel.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Born in Buffalo, NY to a mother from Berlin who cherished the environment and health and an American father who grew up in the rust belt and was very creative. I created art throughout my childhood. In a private HS, I majored in art, learned to print my photographs in the darkroom, and went on to NYC to study Interior Design at the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.). I worked in retail architectural offices, starting as a draftsman and worked my way up to project manager on projects such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nieman Marcus, Marshall Field’s and the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck.

While working in the design field, I had a darkroom in the closet of my Manhattan apartment. I also collected crystals and created one of a kind jewelry pieces out of the crystals. These hobbies helped me to relax after a stressful day at the office and gave me the freedom to create whatever I felt compelled to. Shortly after marrying Wally, after 12 years of dating, I lost my job. Federated Department Stores went bankrupt, and after major consideration, I decided to go full time into my arts.

Living on LI and now married, I was creating headshots for models and musicians, photographing babies and creating one of a kind, hand-colored home portraits for homeowners in the Hamptons. I began selling my hand-painted photographs through a gallery in Southampton. My work at the time moved into creating art nudes and flowers, mostly in black and white. I also created crystal jewelry for healers that were using crystals. I felt happy to be able to live the life that I had.

When tragedy struck New York City on September, 11, 2001, the art market changed for me, and my husband was unable to work. He lost all of his clients and had PTSD. I opened a gallery in Manhattan with a friend who owned a photo lab, and we ran it together for two years. It was a difficult time to be in NYC.

Eventually, my husband, Wally and I decided to sell our home and travel the country in search of a new place to live. We traveled for a year and moved to Tucson, AZ. When I settled in, I was moved to write an environmental book, after seeing how poorly our trees are considered before clear-cutting for building. It took me eight years to write, “Trees Speak; Healing Ourselves and Our Planet”.

Every summer, we would escape the heat for a month and visit our children on Boulder, CO. In 2013 they were in a head-on collision, which left them seriously injured. We then decided to move to Boulder, which we had hoped to do at some point anyway. Since being in Boulder, I have been the photographer for the Boulder Symphony, on the board of the NoBo Art District, and in the Open Studio Tour 5 times. I sell my jewelry through Adorned in Boulder, my fine art cards through Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary and supply in Boulder, and all of these through the Glass Teepee Gallery in Ward, CO. My fine art cards are all made from my own artwork and are available online, as is my book.My ebook is available on Amazon. My latest crystal work is “Feng Shui Crystal hanging and mobiles for the home and office. I am currently looking for more outlets.

My artwork now has become a voice for the living things in nature that cannot speak for themselves. I work with the hope of creating a love for the natural world that will keep other people from killing needlessly.

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? Any advice for other women, particularly young women who are just starting their journey?
In a way, it was smooth, with lots of challenges, though I didn’t see it that way as I was going through it. The architectural field was almost completely run and worked by men, and I was one of the first young women to be a job captain in that field. I was tested daily by men twice my age who were from other countries with language barriers here that prevented them from running a job. I tried so hard to make the people who worked on my jobs like me. After being pushed nearly to tears by an older man who was getting a kick out of testing me, I finally realized that I didn’t need these people to like me. I had a job to do, and so did they. It was then that I grew to see that these men respected me when I no longer cared whether or not they liked me. This was a lesson that has helped me in many areas of my life.

My advice to young people starting their journeys is always to do what inspires them and makes them happy.

It is difficult when money is an issue and you need to make a living. I lived in Manhattan and it was so expensive. When I started working right out of college, I had to take a job that was as close to the design world as I could get. I sold custom furniture, then did window display. Then, I watched for other jobs, always with my eye on what I wanted to do, and eventually worked a draftsman position into a design position and moved up the ladder. After sticking with it for years, I reached a position where I made great money and was in a highly creative field surrounded by very creative people.

The problem was, I chose that field because I didn’t think I could make enough money in the art field. When I lost my job, I was devastated and couldn’t see that it opened up my life to the possibility of doing what I truly loved to do. Looking back, I learned a lot from pushing myself and working hard. Now I can be creative and work in whatever medium attracts me. I used to think back to when I was a child and had a lot of time to do whatever I enjoyed doing. I enjoyed drawing, painting and making jewelry, and now I am doing that.

We’d love to learn more about your work. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a brand, organization or service provider? What sets you apart from others?
This is how I identify my work and what it does:

“Raising Earth Consciousness Through Art”

and

Photographic art, dedicated to raising awareness for the environment and making you look beautiful!

Having a strong connection with the environment has created a desire to share my feeling of nature’s sacredness and how ephemeral the land is. I use my photography and my book to do this. Each tree, plant, and animal has a great impact in making our lives happier, healthier and giving us a brighter future. I like to give these beautiful creatures a voice through my work, in the hope that people who see it will learn something about nature or see something they hadn’t seen before, and in turn will be kinder to their surroundings and the Earth in general.

“Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.” ~ jane goodall

I create my art mostly from nature. Sometimes I paint on or embellish my prints with layers of textures. I may use colored pencils on a cotton print, or acrylic on a canvas print. I love working with paints.

With my portraits, I like to show the hidden beauty of a person, that they themselves may not even know is there. Somehow, I have this gift; to be able to see the best in each person and capture it in a photograph.

The crystal healing jewelry that I create uplifts the person I make it for and is created with a healing purpose. I love designing one of a kind pieces. It makes me happy to share the love of crystals and gemstones and to teach other people how to create their own jewelry.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
Some of the biggest barriers to female leadership comes from our own personal beliefs of not being good enough.

Are there any apps, books, podcasts, blogs or other resources that help you do your best in life (at work or otherwise)?
Though I am inspired most by nature, I am always looking at other artists’ work for inspiration and joy. I love to read, though I often need to be doing things with my hands, so often listen to books online.

I read a lot about spirituality, which has played a big role in my life. I have had some very deeply metaphysical experiences through meditation and becoming aware of the moment and my dreams. I have read Deepak Chopra’s books, Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, and many Buddhist writers, such as Gangaji. I also enjoy listening to these gurus on YouTube.

As for the environment, there are classics, such as Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson and the Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann. I am currently reading and almost finished with “The Overstory” by Richard Powers, which is a powerful book as related to trees.

Regarding photography, I read as much as I can and taught myself many of the photographic processes that I know. I studied a bit with John Paul Caponigro and find his website a wonderfully educational and inspiring website: https://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/

There’s an app that I recommend to people who use their phones as a camera, Snapseed. It is free and easy to use with great results.

As for the crystals, there are many wonderful books and guides to using crystals, and I think each person will find the books that they are meant to find. Going to the gem shows, especially in Tucson, opens up your mind to the array of stones, crystals and minerals that fill this beautiful world.

In closing I would like to reiterate that my love is for the beauty of the people and all living things of our world and I hope that my art expresses these feelings.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All photos by me, except my portrait in the woods, by Christopher Knappett

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