A Place to Create

The dream of owning her own, local craft studio has become reality for Karen Baxter.

Known in the craft industry as Ms. Creative CEO, Karen Baxter is passionate about encouraging others and changing the face of what a crafter looks like. If you’re looking for something new to do in Fayette County or looking to experience some much-needed “woosah” moments, make your way to Artistic Fusion, her new craft studio and event venue in Fayetteville. 

Artistic Fusion is a place where creativity, confidence and community collide. Forget all you thought you knew about crafting — macaroni necklaces, construction paper, or perhaps grandma knitting in her rocker. Artistic Fusion offers opportunities to learn, create and experience crafting at a whole new level. A place for creatives, and for those who don’t believe they are creative, Karen is a master at evoking the creative spirit in all of us.

Born in West Africa to missionaries Joseph and Lillie Hines, Karen moved with her family to the United States. Raised primarily in Montgomery, Alabama, Karen graduated from high school in 1988. “My parents love people and wanted to help as many as they could.” Clearly, that desire was passed on to Mr. & Mrs. Hines’s only daughter.

In her early 20’s, Karen and her best friend Janeen Cousin would dream about businesses; not just any business … something creative. Their first launch was the ever-popular balloon basket business, teddy bears and all. Karen was always in the business of starting a business. “I’ve done it all — Mary Kay, Avon, Body Magic, health insurance, life insurance. I’m still a licensed real estate agent. When I say I’ve done it, I’ve done it. I am a chronic entrepreneur. I’ve run a tax agency. I’ve owned a tax agency. I’m a coach. I’m an empowerment speaker. I’ve done all these things and I’ve evolved into this.” What patrons experience today is a fearless, fun-loving, fun-making Karen.

Karen uses her creative gifts as a means of service and self-sufficiency, not just as a hobby. “Crafting saved my life, outside of God and lots of prayer.” After a particularly hard, stressful season, Karen picked up a crochet hook and went crazy making things. “It calmed me down and allowed me to focus. Little did I know it would be a pathway into crafting. It sparked something in me that was always there.”

Karen started sewing and paint pouring on FB live at different times of the day. She held paint marathons where 600-700 people joined online just to watch her pour paint. During those sessions, Karen encouraged people to have confidence when they create. Her inbox grew rapidly as she coached people to extend themselves beyond their comfort level and without fear. People began asking her to coach and mentor them.  “It took me a long time to call myself a coach because of my mindset. I didn’t think I deserved it. I didn’t think I was smart enough.”

Things took off for Karen in what she would consider unbelievable ways. “The big thing happened when I started making African maxi skirts. I made one and posted it. My daughter loved it, and I thought I was doing something when she wanted to wear it. Someone asked how much I would charge to make them one. That started a spark. You mean I can get paid to make stuff?”

The more Karen delved into the craft industry, the more people she saw making real money using their gifts — a new world of opportunity opened for her. “I worked hard and got better and better and better.” Karen started Nikai Designs — named after her two children, Niya and Kyle. Karen could support herself while doing the things she loves to do. “I didn’t understand what was happening to me in this process. I also didn’t understand that my corporate skills were transferrable to my creative business.” For way too long Karen believed that crafting and all the ways she could create, was not something a person could make a living from. “I was conditioned to believe you need a 9-5 to be able to survive in real life.” Karen’s journey included a period of learning, growing, and persevering. While she wasn’t always in an environment that supported creativity, her desire to create and want more for herself grew stronger, and in 2016, Karen found herself, her self-confidence, and her ability to bring Artistic Fusion into reality.

While July 23rd was the soft opening for Artistic Fusion, October 15, 2022 was the grand opening and ribbon cutting. It was also the third anniversary of Karen’s father passing. He would most definitely be proud of his only daughter.

The vision for the studio came to Karen years ago, but she didn’t have the confidence to trust the vision. “I am very transparent. You can’t be a change-maker or a change-creator without being honest about the change that you had to make to begin with. There are so many people out here ‘perpetrating the fraud’ for whatever reason . . . no judgement, but when you’re not being honest about your journey, it confuses the people who are following you. You haven’t shown them the real path to where you are now. So when things don’t happen for them, they get frustrated, discouraged, depressed and they just quit. No one has taught them that there is a process to get here. It is a process to stay here as well.”

The Artistic Fusion studio space lends itself to a “letting go” and creating something many people would not typically believe they could do — paint pouring, bath and body creations, jewelry making, you name it. The studio also offers a host of different creative workshops and virtual classes. Drop in during open studio hours — Wednesday thru Saturday from 12 pm to 6 pm and create something special. Choose from a variety of projects to scratch your creative itch. Beautiful handmade items are available for purchase, including wonderfully created aromatic oils.

Karen speaks from the heart. “Crafting can be a life-saver and a life-giver.” Research shows that crafting, regardless of the medium you use, can bolster mood, improve self-confidence, and reduce stress overall. Crafting has also been shown to improve mental agility, gross and fine motor movements, and a decrease in cognitive decline. Crafting additionally has been shown to be a natural anti-depressant. Research studies have shown that those suffering from PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia and any level of chronic pain have achieved a reduction in symptoms by incorporating crafting into their lives.

Artistic Fusion is located at 397 Glynn Street S in Fayetteville. The studio is a great place for milestone celebrations, Girl’s Night Out, book clubs, staff appreciation, business launches and business luncheons. You don’t need a reservation to drop in during open studio hours. People have been known to visit the studio during their lunch hour just to have a break from the work day. 

Karen has a wonderful vision for Artistic Fusion in Fayette County. A place where friends, new and old, come together to create and experience the beauty of creating. Karen wants to be the pebble that creates a ripple in a person’s life that extends far beyond what they can see as possible for themselves today. She believes that “God and his son are creators. If we’re made in His image, then there’s creativity in all of us.”

Visit artisticfusioncraftstudio.com to register for classes and workshops, and to reserve the studio space for a private party or special event. You can follow Artistic Fusion on Instagram @artisticfusioncraftstudo and Facebook @thecreativebosscollective. “When I can show people, even in the smallest way, that they can create something fabulous, it does something for their self-esteem. It does something for their self-confidence. Once this happens, it can unlock other things they didn’t think they could do.”

Pull Quote #1: "God and his son are creators. If we're made in His image, then there's creativity in all of us."

Pull Quote #2: "Crafting can be a life-saver and a life-giver."

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