In conversation with Claire Kahn

Interview  /  Artists   BehindTheScenes
Published: 14.12.2015
In conversation with Claire Kahn.
Patina Gallery
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Claire Kahn. Necklace: Untitled, 2015. Glass beads, shaded spinels, blue sapphires. 127 cm long. Claire Kahn
Necklace: Untitled, 2015
Glass beads, shaded spinels, blue sapphires
127 cm long
© By the author. Read Copyright.

American jewelry artist Claire Kahn creates beaded necklaces and bracelets using fiber, glass, metal and stone. Her latest collection features pieces inspired by the color and beauty of Italy, a place that from a young age she has known intimately. An exhibition of her latest work opens Friday, December 18, 2015, at Patina Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Patina, the artist’s exclusive global representative, will present The Colours of Claire Kahn through January 10, 2016. In anticipation of that event, she paused for a conversation about her art and her latest pieces.

Italy inspired you to create a new body of work. How so?
For me, the Italian experience represents a deep, profound respect for beauty and quality, highly crafted work, and the historical places, all of which are imbued with splendor. Contrast is the main theme of this collection. Some pieces combine unlikely relationships: beach pebbles with high-karat gold or diamonds. Others contrast color: warm and cool, light and dark, bright and dull. Contrast in Italy is between grand, expansive vistas and beautifully crafted details.

Why is it important to you that you create pieces meant to be worn?
I’m fascinated by the ways wearers make my pieces their own. My jewelry isn’t complete until it is worn. My work is intended to be flexible, allowing the wearer to double, triple, tie and wrap the work to suit any preference. Portions of a given piece can be worn to emphasize a favorite passage in the work’s variegated pattern and color.

What new did you see in Italy, that old, familiar place? 
Italy is both rustic and refined. There is old and new. For example, the architecture of Carlo Scarpa in Venice and Verona was inspired by the history and materials he knew so well as a Venetian, but was completely his own, fresh, very personal and beautifully crafted. The Italian Gothic in Siena and Orvieto, the graphic dark green and white stripes of the cathedrals and the complex mosaic treatments of the facades. The color of Florence is subjective, for me it’s deep red and warm neutrals that contrast the elegance of the city’s gold, pale green and white.

How do you describe the influence of Italy on your necklaces and bracelets?
I’m very excited about the new materials I’ve found and how they’re cut or originated, and I’m inspired by the idea of contrast, such as rustic and fine beach pebbles with diamonds for instance. Seed beads and often gemstones combine to construct a larger mosaic. The linear character of the bead rope lends itself to transition and the variety of color and texture offers the opportunity to create endless patterns and progressions.

What is your creative process that blends bold patterns with pure design?
A mathematical loveliness informs my crochet bead works, which incorporate a series of numbers that fall into place. When the numbers are elegant, I know the finished work will be sophisticated, refined and a wearable object of great beauty.