Sunderland artist launches new studio to help others after being inspired by the death of her sister

A self-taught artist, who has used her sister’s death as inspiration for her work, is looking to launch workshops for anyone who wants to use art to support their mental well-being.

Monday, 3rd May 2021, 7:00 am

Sunderland artist Karen Hughes, 42, was devastated when her sister Claire Trueman died of cerebral vasculitis in 2018.

The brain condition causes healthy blood vessels to be attacked, which makes them swollen and narrow, affecting the flow of blood.

At the height of her grief, Karen began to develop her artwork on the theme of hearts as she and Claire had matching heart tattoos.

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Karen Hughes is looking to launch workshops for anyone wanting to use art to support their mental well-being.

This eventually led her to creating her KT Heart Art business in 2020.

The business has grown, leading to Karen’s decision to open her own studio. She has leased a unit at Washington Arts Centre Washington on Biddick Lane.

She acquired the lease at the end of 2020, just as England was being put under another lockdown.

But with the easing of lockdown restrictions, Karen has been able to open the studio and now hopes to launch a series of workshops for anyone wanting to use art to help their own mental health.

Karen has leased a unit at Arts Centre Washington.

Karen said: “When Claire passed away, I didn’t think I would paint again, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. I’m not a trained artist, it’s just something I love. The grief and losing my sister has led me to realising this dream.

“I remember sitting in the courtyard having dinner with my sister and told her one day I would have one of those units for my art. She always encouraged me and said, ‘Yes, yes you will’.

“Through the workshops, I want people to have safe space where they can express whatever it is they are going through.”

Karen’s business venture has been helped by Nickie Kilkenny, who is a local enterprise manager at NatWest as well as an accredited Women in Business specialist.

Nickie has supported Karen as she set up her new business and introduced her to a local accountant for support. Karen was also introduced provided with FreeAgent, which is an accounting software programme for small business owners.

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