a few thoughts on Thursday . . . about those details . . .

Last week I made a special linen ditty bag for a friend ... like my basic little linen ditties, but just a bit bigger for her knitting projects.  She just messaged me about how much she loves the bag and that every time she pulls it out, she loves it even more.  Needless to say, that kind of feedback pretty much makes my day. 

I didn't take a pic of that one, but it's a lot like these ...

little linen ditty bag base kathy van kleeck
little linen ditties kathy van kleeck
little linen ditty with kvk stamp kathy van kleeck

One of the things I love about these little bags is their simplicity.  They're very basic, but with a few nice details to make them special ... vintage homespun linen, a KVK icon stamped inside with Japanese ink,  hand stitched details and hand-plied linen cord with a couple of my little fine silver gravel beads to grab hold of.

Lately I've been going on about "god is in the details" and my friend's message got me to thinking ... about design choices, when to go crazy with over-the-top details and when to rein it in.  When I look at my jewelry over the last few years I see that I can go off in either direction.  

My work can pretty much run the gamut from zen-like minimalism - my classic coin necklace is a pretty good example ...

 my earliest and still favorite minimalist design ... pretty much a classic

my earliest and still favorite minimalist design ... pretty much a classic

... to the other end of the spectrum - my Urban Primitive mixed media pieces.  Here's two from my Amber/Sun Goddess theme. 

 the Epic Sun Goddess piece is overflowing with terrific details and elements ... love all those dangly bits

the Epic Sun Goddess piece is overflowing with terrific details and elements ... love all those dangly bits

 and this Amber Goddess has one of my favorite design elements ever . . .

and this Amber Goddess has one of my favorite design elements ever . . .

  ... this leather closure with a sliced opening for a rutilated quartz nugget button

 ... this leather closure with a sliced opening for a rutilated quartz nugget button

What I've noticed since I started making the Urban Primitive mixed media pieces, I can only focus on one style at a time.  When my brain is in minimalist mode, god forbid if I had to make one of the mixed media pieces.  I could probably manage to go the other way, mixed media to minimal ... but the other direction, not too likely.

For years I tried to "do minimal" ... tried to rein it in, tried to design pieces that were clean and elegant in their simplicity, edited down to their most essential elements.  But the work always seemed forced, borderline tortured, decidedly not fluid or zen like.  I was hugely inspired by Tim McCreight's amazing work, the very essence of (seemingly) effortless restraint ... I always wondered, I mean really ... how does he do that?  One of my favorite pieces ...

 Tim McCreight brooch, fine silver and 900 gold

Tim McCreight brooch, fine silver and 900 gold

It was something of a revelation when I finally got it, when I finally got there, dare I say ...  it was an epiphany.  We were living in Port Townsend and my work was getting more and more complex ... more like convoluted.  It was loaded with stuff just for the sake of more stuff.  It was August 2005, I had just finished a whole bunch of crazy, over-the-top pieces.  We were going to Seattle to pick up Dave's mom for an extended visit and I decided to go fishing for new accounts and took the new work to one of my favorite shops.  Can't even remember its name, but it was a no go. 

Bummed, but not the end of the world.  Mom comes to visit, no making for me for a while and then when Mom's gone, I pull that crazy work out and I can barely look at it.  Something happened over those 3 weeks of not working.  I couldn't believe I'd thought it was amazing, that I'd taken it out in public, I was horrified!  I took it all apart, ditched it all.  I cleared the worktable and sat down to see where I would be led. 

Turns out it was to the "promised land."  I have no idea what happened, but that's when everything changed.  I reevaluated everything and the stitched silk series was bornThrough a friend I connected with a pair of amazing sales reps who got my jewelry into galleries and museum stores I'd only dreamed of ... SFMOMA, Seattle Art Museum, Ansel Adams Gallery and the Real Mother Goose just to name a few.  I even had my double strand coin necklace featured as the centerfold of the SFMOMA '06 holiday catalog!

But now, all these years later, how I finally "got it" is still something of a mystery.  Maybe it's like riding a bicycle for the first time.  Or maybe it was that Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours thing.  But there it is and once you figure it out, you can't imagine why it was so hard.   

Hmmm, guess I'm rambling a bit here and now I'm wondering how to wrap this up ...

It seems to be about the choices I make.  Selecting and creating a palette of materials.  Play is essential.  I really think I had to take my work to the absolute limit of what I thought was good design to finally be able to strip it all away to its very essence.  It was only then that my authentic voice began to appear.  And once that voice was clear I began to develop a personal design vocabulary and build it into a design language. 

I now have a big fat design dictionary.  My details, oh yes those glorious details, are my voice, my design language and I can design in any form ... haiku or epic poems, zen minimalism to baroque complexity.  Whatever form my work takes, wherever my muse leads, the details and my design language will always shine through. 

When my voice sings loud and clear through my work, I know that I am deeply blessed.  It is a gift that I never take for granted.

with deep gratitude - kvk

p.s. I just added the new Super Chunk Pendants to the shop along with 9 pairs of earrings - a couple of old faves and a few brand new designs ...

super chunk pendants kathy van kleeck