6/8/09

Meet the Team -Interview with Jen Kahn





Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I was born in Miami, FL. I spent my childhood in Marietta, GA. I moved to Westchester, NY at age 10 and lived there until going off to school at the University of Vermont. I seem to have slowly worked my way up the East coast, despite hating the cold!I've always made things, always loved working with my hands but I didn't take it seriously until college. I was an English Major and I wrote poetry but I didn’t know how that would have real world applications. I loved my art classes more than anything and my teachers were very encouraging, so I became a double major in English and Art. I took every art class available but nothing quite struck me. I knew I liked working small and I most liked the working properties of clay. After working with PMC for awhile, I knew I wanted to be a jewelry artist.

Have any special hobbies?
Knitting and sewing.


What is your business name and website address?

Your shop address?

Do you sell in any shops other than etsy?
I sell my work at an outdoor Artist Market in Burlington on Saturdays during May to October. I also have my work in lovely accessory boutique called Trinket(http://www.jenniferkahnjewelry.com/trinket.html)


Reversible Moonstone Pendant


How did you find out about metal clay and then start working with it?
In 2000, during my senior year at UVM I worked at Frog Hollow Gallery in Burlington, VT. They carried Celie Fago's amazing jewelry. She was the featured artist of the month and they had a wall of photos of her working with PMC and a display showing a lump of PMC and her finished work. "This made that?" was all I could think. I couldn't believe such a material existed and it was coming along in my life at a time when I was looking for a medium that really satisfied me. I loved that you could work it like a clay but that the finished piece was pure silver. I also loved jewelry so the idea of making my own was very exciting.Initially, I ordered some and started working with it in the air, sculpting a little moon. It was drying and cracking before my eyes and the whole experience was very frustrating. I asked my pottery teacher to fire it for me and he was a bit put off using the huge kiln to fire this tiny little cracked moon. I took Celie's class a few weeks later and learned to work on top of Teflon and under plastic wrap, to delay the drying and cracking. The pieces were fired in a small jewelry kiln. By the end of the class I felt confident about working with this strange stuff. I became her apprentice through 2 semesters of Independent Studies, allowing me the money and time to work with PMC. When I graduated I became a live-in apprentice and I've lived here (Central, VT) ever since. I’m also her teaching assistant and accompany her on trips all over the country and abroad. She taught me everything she knew, so my learning curve was really small and before long I was coming up with my own techniques.

How long have you been working with metal clay?
Yikes, 9 years now.


What drives you to make jewelry?
Even before I touched PMC, I knew that I wanted to (some day) make a living from making art. While I was working at Frog Hollow I was trying to figure out what wasn't being made, what niche could I fill. I was very aware of the overwhelming amount of art in the world; I wondered how I could ever make something original. What was so appealing about PMC was the idea that it’s new and that anyone working in it was a pioneer, breaking new ground - at the time, there was only one book on the subject.I'm drawn to and inspired by primitive and ancient artifacts/adornment because of the meaning infused into them. These pieces tell stories. They are connected to rituals, history, the land; they carry powers of protection, prosperity. They are culturally rich and full of identity. These days, its hard to feel connected, to feel meaning. Everything is so anonymous and mass-produced. I like the idea of reaching back into time, reaching out into distant lands and pulling those primitive styles forward; adding my voice and giving them a contemporary edge.I'm fascinated by the way things are put together: patched, hinged, riveted, stitched and often incorporate such connections in my pieces. I gather inspiration from a pattern on a textile; the texture of a leaf; beautiful, old rusty things. I'm constantly trying to fuse old and new, industrial and natural, urban and ethnic.


Are you disciplined or do you go with the flow and work when you feel like it?
I’m pretty disciplined. I think you have to be when working for yourself.


Won any awards for your jewelry? for anything else?
In 2003 I won second place in a national juried exhibit by Fred Woell called "Positively Precious Metal Clay". Last year I won “Best Craftsperson” in my local paper Seven Days.



Eclipse Earrings


Do you do any other type of art?
Photography and graphic design.

What is your art sensibility - precise or organic? Mostly organic I guess but sometimes precise, depends on the piece.


When did you feel you had more confidence in your abilities?
As I mentioned, Celie advanced my whole learning curve early on which really allowed me to feel confident in my work and to come up with my own techniques. I wrote several articles on setting stones in PMC after firing and finally a chapter on that subject for Tim McCreight’s book “PMC Technic”. I was so honored to be a part of that!


What is your favorite tool for working with metal clay?
Celie’s Nesting Tube Set! She makes a set of brass tubes in 8 different sizes that all telescope on a beautiful spiraled holder.


Where do you work?
At my desk in my room.





What is your favorite thing to make?
I love making my “Modern Relics”. First I make tribal, ancient looking pieces out of Bronzclay and then I make PMC settings to hold them. The settings are very precise and the interiors are very primitive so I get to work in very different ways with the materials which is very satisfying.


Do you ever add commercial components?
Yes, I use lobster clasps on some of my necklaces. I also buy chain by the foot which I patina and polish.


How do you work, and when? (for ex. assembly line or one at a time)
I work 2 days a week for Celie. On Saturday's I sell my work at my booth at an Artist Market in Burlington, VT. The rest of the week I'm working on jewelry. Not sure how many hours a day, anywhere from 6-8. I generally work in "batches". In a given week I'll work on 10-15 pieces for the Market, work them all in the clay stage, then refine them all, then fire and finish, then wire work and beading. The latter I often do while watching movies at night.


Do you have any kind of creative ritual?
Not so much a ritual - I do most of my work at my desk in my room so I always tidy up my room before I sit down to work.


How do you hold onto ideas that you don't have time to pursue NOW!
I jot them down on the nearest piece of paper.


Silver Spiral Pendant


Do you ever use a sketchbook? I keep a few sketchbooks, I'll start one and too much time will pass so I'll start another and before I know it I have 3 half used books sitting around. More often I'm sketching on the back of receipts or envelopes. My sketchbooks aren't organized at all. I guess I think of them chronologically and can find things that way.


Do you ever teach classes and where?
I assist Celie with her classes. I might be teaching my first class in the fall…


Do you make a living at it?
Well, being a live-in apprentice, “my living” isn’t a usual one. I try to keep my expenses low following the logic that the less you have, the less you need to make. So, yes I am “making a living at it” in my own way.


Do you do custom orders?
I do custom orders within the realm of what I already make. If someone wants something I already do in a different size or with a different stone, I’m happy to oblige but that’s as far as I go.


What are you working on currently?
A little bit of everything! More “Modern Relics”, lots of earrings for the Artist Market (including bronze and copper clay). Also my next catalog!

4 comments:

HappyDayArt! said...

This is a good read. I love your catalogs Jen! They are works of art themselves. You are an inspiration.

Catherine

Ruth said...

Such a great story! And you have found your great niche.

Clever Endeavor said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story Jen! Its was interesting how you discovered metal clay.

Lou said...

great to meet you Jen, love those eclipse earrings :)

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