“I’m learning to use my right brain again and have more fun in my life,” says recently retired medical technologist Karen Schorno, now creator of artistic memory quilts.
“Several friends and I have rediscovered the fun of having play dates. We do arts and crafts, get messy, drink lots of tea and coffee, and have good laughs. We all need to learn to play more.”
Born in Bartlesville, Okla., Schorno, a sickly, serious child, loved to read, catch bugs and embroider on her front porch. She developed a love for the medical profession during many medical visits and procedures.
“I was always interested in medicine but knew I didn’t want to be a doctor or nurse,” she says.
“Our family doctor’s daughter was a medical technologist, and she told me about her work. I checked out library books, read everything I could and found it had a strong emphasis on biology and chemistry, my favorite subjects. At 14 I made up my mind to become a medical technologist.”
Schorno attended Dewey High School in Oklahoma and despite her sense of fun breaking out when she and a friend learned to knit under their desks with pencils during science seminars, she graduated in 1962.
“I was awarded a nursing scholarship but decided to stick to medical technology,” she says.
Schorno received her bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University in 1966, completed training at St. Anthony’s Hospital, worked at Oklahoma University hospital and various doctor offices. She moved to Lawrence in 1988 when her husband, who’d completed post-doctoral work at Kansas University in the ’60s, was laid off from Phillips Petroleum. She joined the Lawrence Memorial Hospital staff and remained there for 18 years until her retirement.
“I spent most of my medical technologist years as a generalist doing all areas of laboratory work, and worked in microbiology for the last few years,” she says.
“It was very interesting work. When I started working in laboratories we used mainly manual testing. Most of today’s testing involves instrumentation.”
Once retired from her full-time job, Schorno wanted something to keep her hands moving.
“I always enjoyed making things and bought lots of fabric so I wanted something to help me buy even more fabric,” she says.
Schorno started out making individual baby-size quilts called “Remember Spring,” “Women Dancing for Rain” and “Raspberry Giggles,” but they now form a large memory wall in her home. People who buy her quilts often use them as wall hangings. She also does super-soft baby quilts called “Baby’s First Piece of Fabric Art.”
Schorno admits she misses her LMH work and colleagues, but having so much fun makes up for it.
“I love making these quilts. It’s a fun, creative process for me,” she says.
“I love selecting different fabrics, building patterns and watching new creations emerge. I give them different names associated with the memories and keep a strip to remind me of the pieces I sell. Every piece is different, and I’m able to capture some wonderful memories in fun fabrics.
“My memory wall now has 78 strips and continues to grow.”