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Potter and photographer, Karen Keyes’ work will be on display at Valdese Heritage Arts Center in Valdese.

Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 9:56 am | Updated: 9:59 am, Thu Apr 11, 2013.

Special to the News Herald

VALDESE, NC — Karen M. Keyes, owner/operator of Karen M Keyes Photography, is an artist of talent, integrity and energy, inspired by her deep Christian faith to showcase the natural beauty of her world – a world that has presented her with many challenges. Through her photography, pottery and writings, she gives life to her credo, “Capturing God’s creation as an act of worship.”

Growing up on the Jersey Shore in a devout Christian family, Keyes went to college in New York State. At Nyack College she met her future husband, David. After their marriage they settled in White Plains, N.Y., where Keyes worked at what she calls her “favorite job” as director of graduate admissions at Long Island University. Armed with a master’s degree in education, Keyes taught school after their move to Atlanta while David earned his M.S.

David Keyes was offered a position as social worker at Catawba Memorial Hospital, and in 1990 the family moved to Hickory. It was here that their twins, Katie and Geoffrey, were born. The family was actively involved in the church, with Christian missions always a focus.

Keyes has, in fact, made several trips to Scotland to serve as missionary assistant and to photograph historic sites and the lovely Scottish countryside. Keyes said, “Faith is a sustaining factor in my life.”

The family had just moved to Mountain View in 2000 when the Keyes’ lives would prove that their faith sustains them. In a freak accident David Hayes suffered a severe injury. Though no novice to the task, he was cutting a limb in his pastor’s yard when a heavy limb fell on him, damaging his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed. After months of rehabilitation at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, David and Karen returned home to be reunited with the twins. He now works part-time as a psychotherapist at Catawba Valley Behavioral Healthcare in Hickory and volunteers at the Mimosa Christian Counseling Center in Morganton.

With family being very important to both David and Karen, they undertook home schooling the twins so that they could spend more time with their father. She taught Geoffrey and Katie all the way through high school. It was during the children’s high school years that “Keyes Kreations” began as Karen Keyes began to help others design invitations and specialty gift items with the photo- graphs that she had taken. With the twins both working and attending WPCC, this opened up new opportunities for Keyes to expand her love of photography to start Karen M. Keyes Photography, LLC. (Katie and Geoffrey are now 19 years old and graduating from WPCC in May. Geoffrey plans to go into the Air Force while Katie has been accepted at St. Andrews in Laurenburg, and plans a career in physical therapy.)

Taking pictures with a deeper purpose began as a “healing project” in 2000, the year of her husband’s accident. Karen Keyes had always taken pictures. “I can’t remember when I didn’t use a camera,” she said “even as a child.” As she confronted the changes in her family circumstances and worked through her grieving, Karen Keyes wrote “Discovering Beauty,” a colorful celebration of nature, featuring photographs, meditations, essays, and reminiscences, which reveal the essence of the artist.

Privately printed, “Discovering Beauty” is available for Internet view and purchase at It may also be seen as part of Keyes’ collection at the Valdese Heritage Arts Center on Main Street in Valdese. Along with photography, Karen Keyes has found pottery to be a way of learning to surrender to changes that came with her husband’s injury. Her one of-a-kind pieces: “Surrender Pots,” are a metaphor for the potter and the clay. There is a story and purpose for each photograph and piece of pottery. Discovering Beauty shares some of these stories.

Also available at the Arts Center are Keye’s framed photographs, canvas enlargements, bookmarks, embossed gift cards, desktop backgrounds, photo coasters, and photo greeting cards, these often in categorical collections such as waterfalls, clouds, butterflies and more. Great ingenuity is evident in the way Keyes presents her creations. She does her own matting and framing.

In her photography, she prides herself on using natural light and presenting images as they are, without manipulation or editing: “it’s about the truth in the moment.” Keyes’ work validates her stated intent of “capturing images in nature that display the wonder and grandeur that surrounds us all every day.”

Even as she favors a “natural look” she is landscaping her own yard to provide a variety of natural backgrounds for her portraiture work.

Karen Keyes specializes in what she calls spiritual journey portraits, where people who have had their lives changed through difficult circumstances can actually see how God has transformed their hearts.

She has travelled to other states to accept commissions, and hopes to travel more and add to her on location experience in the future. She also accepts bookings for senior and family portraits, engagements, small weddings and events or parties.

Keyes became a member of the VHAC in February of this year. Because of the demands of her home life, her marketing is limited. She has done several shows and has a website

Every year she participates in the Hickory Christian Academy Christmas Gift Show. Keyes’ office is in her home, available by email at

Valdese Heritage Arts Center members said they are blessed to provide a major outlet for the unique work of this gifted artist.