Rock and A Soft Place

Karen Madden’s metal artwork fea- tures a popular “Sun Series."

Local artist Bob Madden shapes his creations out of granite and marble.

Tucked away in nearby Poughquag, Rock and A Soft Place Studio is a haven of artistic creativity. Artists Bob and Karen Madden have turned their home into not only a functional studio for their respective mediums, but also a space to display their creations. The space will feature prominently in the first ever ARTmostNY Open Studio Tour next month.

The story of Rock and A Soft Place Studio began as a second career. Following thirty years of employment at IBM, the Maddens retired to undertake a new challenge. “We were both interested in the arts,” explains Bob Madden. “I’ve been working with stone for a long time, and Karen has been working with fiber for a long time, so it seemed like a natural transition for us.” The pair decided to leverage their backgrounds in science and business and create Rock and A Soft Place where they could pursue their artistic visions. Adds Karen, “It was fun to take the skills that we learned in our first careers and apply them.”

Karen Madden identifies herself as a “process artist” working with different mediums. The process of creating is what she enjoys. For many years, Karen has worked with wool as well as synthetic fiber to create wall hangings and floor coverings. Recently, she has started to work with metal and is learning techniques to sculpt with metal including cutting, bending, polishing, and most important, welding. “I enjoy the process of making something,” explains Karen. “For me, welding is like knitting with fire.”

Bob Madden creates his art in stone. “Stone is a hard material, and I turn it into something graceful,” he explains. Working with granite and marble, Bob often draws inspiration from science and mythology, creating pieces using abstract shapes. “I like to tell a story when I do a piece,” he adds. Though the duo work in different mediums, they enjoy helping each other through the creative process. “We’re always trying to solve each other’s problems,” says Bob. “We’ve been having a lot of fun.”

The Maddens have lived in Poughquag for 34 years. Karen’s upstairs fiber studio is a fully functional workspace complete with an array of fibers and fabrics. In the dedicated stone-carving studio across the driveway, Bob shapes his ideas into existence, surrounded by rocks and stones. Just in time for the ArtmostNY Open Studio Tour, Karen will open her brand new metal studio to the public.

The ARTmostNY Open Studio Tour is an event created and developed by Bob. A unique aspect of ARTmostNY is that it encourages visitors to observe and interact with artists while the artists are in the process of creating. “A lot of techniques need to be demonstrated,” explains Bob. “You need to show people what kind of tools you use, and how they work. Plus there’s a certain energy level that artists apply to their work.”

ARTmostNY will be held on Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The event will feature nine different artists in seven locations, including handcrafted bird homes from Jim and Amy Barry, collagist Donna Castelluccio, painter John Colantuono, photographer Lonna Kelly, interdisciplinary artist Linda Pennachio, and iPhonographer Bill Prickett. The Crystal Park nature retreat and art park in Holmes will also be part of the tour. Bob and Karen Madden will be hard at work at Rock and A Soft Place Studios on each day, ready for visitors to observe their techniques and the creative process. “It’s a real opportunity to show people the work,” says Bob. “We want to experiment with a new way for people to visit and experience art.”

For more information about Rock and A Soft Place Studio, including a full gallery of artwork, visit online. For more information about ARTmostNY, visit online.