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Interview with Jewelry Designer Kelle Kinser

September 30, 2010

We ran into Kelle at the Cody Critcheloe & SSION – BOY opening at the hole. We were really into her foxtail she was wearing. Turns out she made it, and makes some really incredible jewelry. We caught up with her again to ask a few questions about her new venture in jewelry making. There are some pretty cool pieces we think you all will be into.This post is for the ladies!

Enjoy. – The Ballast

1. Give us a little background, how did you get into art, design?

I’ve always compulsively made things as long as I can remember. I majored in fine art in college, but nothing I learned ever set my heart on fire. I was terrible – really, really bad! It felt like there was always a pressure to explain, or validate, to make something significant, or profitable, and I let that pressure crush me. All I ever wanted was to make something fantastic or lovely (or both). It’s taken me a long time to figure out what I want to make – I didn’t make anything I would call art for 7 years. I dabbled in graphic design, and I’m handy in photoshop, sure, but you really need to have a passion to be successful in a creative field. The competition is so intense, you’ve got to love what you do. It’s such a relief to have come back to art and to feel fulfilled by my medium.

2. What lead you to beginning to work with jewelry?

One day in 2007 (? let me check this date for you – LOL – my brain is too tired for math) I needed to fix a vintage bracelet I had purchased. When I swiftly replaced the clasp and several connections with pliers and remnants I had scavenged from the remains of my grandparents’ jewelry store, there was an a-ha moment. I’ve always loved shiny, tiny, and tools, so this made perfect sense to me to pursue. In 2009 I moved to the east coast, where classes and suppliers are abundant (not to mention time being suddenly abundant as well!). I decided to use my savings to learn how to work with metal. When the money runs out, I’ll decide at that time what the next step will be.

3. You seem to draw inspiration from nature, specifically plants, what draws you to this?

This seems to me like a new development, but really it is returning to the things that inspired my childhood. I lived in Connecticut from age 5 until I was 10, and had never returned until we moved back this past year. In rediscovering the natural beauty of the woods and rocks and streams, I reconnected with that long lost sense of make believe and magic. I like to make fantastic things that are based in reality, as though your backyard playthings have sprung to life. My backyard currently is a forest.

4. What is your process in creating these pieces?

Wildly varied. As I am still learning a great deal – I took my first class a year ago, prior to that i was completely ignorant – I am forced to incorporate a lot of happy accidents into my work. The more I make, the more I learn, and am able to plan accordingly. But I always begin by drawing. Sometimes I start with an idea, and draw it, or the idea comes as I doodle. Then I transfer the needed shapes to a template for cutting out of sheet metal, and begin assembly. For very complicated pieces, I sometimes make portions out of paper to make sure the scale and proportion are correct. It’s pretty rare that the finished piece will look like the original drawing, but lately those odds have been improving! The wreath of olive leaves, for example, took about 32 hours of work, not including conceptualizing the idea, and that one went very smoothly. There are also so many variables involved, according to the metal being used (brass, copper, or silver), the finish I want in the end (matte, shiny, aged), the general engineering of the thing – that’s probably the most fun. How it will interact with the body is always a challenge, and something that’s very difficult to anticipate with a new design. I started keeping a blog where I share my work, as well as detail the process involved. I always end up writing a lot in the end, but it is immensely helpful as a reminder of the lessons learned. I hope it can serve as an honest reference to other artists who are just starting out like me.

5. Who do you envision wearing your work? Do you think about this when you work on designs?

This is my favorite thing to base a design around – an individual. It takes my mind to places I would not ordinarily go for myself. I love to make things as gifts especially, the element of surprise heightens the pressure I put on myself to make it fantastic. I would love everyone to wear my work – i would love for my work to be seen on stage or in a magazine at the same time someone is wearing it to the office or the grocery store. It’s all about playing dress up and having fun, lifting at the very least one finger out of the mundane. It’s unisex and ageless. I like to see the same ring on a bohemian flowery young girl, a chic sophisticated elderly woman, and a punk guy picking up his kids after school. My grandmother is a big inspiration for me. She always had oodles of costume jewelry – the good, rhinestone encrusted marvels from the 40s-60s. We would play dress up for hours with what I considered to be serious pirate treasure. I love the idea of adornment for every day, as well as pairing tough street pieces with refined formal wear. I am so happy that jewelry is making a comeback in all styles and all scenarios, and I hope to contribute to the art form.


6. What are some new pieces you are working on, What are your plans for the coming future?

I’ve been very much into these headpieces lately, and the natural motifs are beginning to recur so much that I might be working on these for a while! I’d love to make some bridal pieces as well, treasured heirlooms. Art pieces that look as lovely on display as they do being worn. I plan to start learning how to work with metal clay (PMC – incredibly fascinating stuff) so that I can form three dimensional objects on my own without waiting for the casters to get around to it. I need immediacy, or the project gets brushed aside. My space is so limited, and my capital so small, so the PMC is a perfect solution for now. I have several sketchbooks full of ideas, and I can promise you the next group of reproductions will be heavily inspired by a trip to Morocco I took in May. I’m not leaving the forest behind any time soon, but I have been spending more time in the city, which is bringing out a sharp, quick, honed edge to things that I am really getting into. I can promise, whatever I make, will probably be just a bit dangerous. This Friday I am launching a new line, called GrandMarie, after my grandmother, of reproductions of some of my favorite original designs. I am making everything by hand (aside from the actual casting of the wax and the plating of the hand-finished object) so it’s quite an undertaking, but I am hoping this will help generate a bit of funds so that I can keep making new pieces. Every artist struggles with selling their work, so I welcome the opportunity to be able to be an artist at all.

Make sure to head over to her site where you can purchase this great stuff! http://grandmarie.com

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 1, 2010 3:07 am

    All of it looks fabulous!

    I love the simplicity of the white earrings in contrast to the intricacies of the more complex pieces. It looks like she can do it all.

  2. Jay permalink
    October 1, 2010 6:16 pm

    That long ring is killlllllller.

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