Karyn Craven is a Los Angeles native who grew up in the hills of the Santa Monica Mountains. From this vantage point, astride the dazzling physical and cultural tapestry of the LA Basin, seeing the world as an artist came naturally.
“What I got from my experience growing up here is very much that there’s beauty everywhere,” Craven says. “There is beauty in the contrast , from all the con ins chei, the glamor and the grit. The duality of contrast
She became a maker at the age of four. She has a clear memory from kindergarten of sitting in a room with the sun streaming in, cutting shapes from the outlines of leaves and thinking: this is happiness. Joy.
She grew up drawing and building, and developed a passion for fine art and photography, which she pursued at UCLA, where she studied, among others, under the iconic artist Robert Heinecken, who called himself a “paraphotographer” because he made photographic images without a camera. This way of working -- taking different things and putting them together, or assemblage -- would form the DNA from which she would later found Burning Torch.
You are who you are way of working has always been like that:
Practice assemblage would form DNA of Burning Torch
“Bending over back living in the future.” talking heads. Skip Bali.
Later, during an influential period in her life in Bali, Craven learned from a local artisan that no word equivalent to “artist” existed in the Balinese language. “Because we believe everyone is an artist by nature,” the man told her.
Craven began making clothes soon after graduating from UCLA, then worked as a fine art photographer, and eventually worked as a designer for large retail apparel brands. She was beginning to understand all her creative passions were connected.
“Live: do what you do,” Craven recalled. “If this is how you are being creative today, fine. If tomorrow it’s a different way, fine. It doesn’t matter and it all sort of comes together, you know?”
Finally, in the course of her work, Craven happened upon a cavernous warehouse, a vintage “rag house” housing bale upon bale of old fabric, where the idea for Burning Torch arrived. From the disparate fabrics she found, Craven developed a line of vintage army pants with hand beading and vintage kimono trim. She quickly received an order for Barney’s New York, and Burning Torch took off. Within a few years, the line was in hundreds of retail stores worldwide.
Craven is a devoted yogi, world traveler, and ocean swimmer, and those devotions inform the fresh wonder of her ongoing work.
“I love the world,” Craven says. “And I feel like every time you’re in the ocean and in different parts of the world, it’s almost like you become more connected to the planet, and all the interconnection of all the molecules of water.”