Claire Kahn’s finely crafted necklaces and bracelets are hand-crocheted using tiny beads from Japan. They’re embellished with gemstones, such as jasper, diamonds, sapphires and diamonds, and pebbles harvested from a beach. Comprising as many as 5,000 beads, each of these intricate masterpieces can take up to 40 hours to create.
“I don’t sketch out my designs by hand or on the computer in advance,” explains Kahn, who has designed a selection of necklaces and bracelets for “Peaceable Kingdom,” a show opening at Patina Gallery on December 16. “I test my designs by doing them.”
Among the pieces in Kahn’s show are a white and gray necklace lined with sapphires and a pair of necklaces inspired by an array of traditional fall colors. “One of the necklaces includes gold and tourmaline,” she says. “It’s a color palette I plan to use in more pieces.”
Making jewelry is a relatively new endeavor for Kahn. After graduating from Stanford University, she designed textiles, facades and courtyards for a San Francisco-area architectural firm. Her next job was designing large water features for a California-based company with an international clientele. In 2005, she started crocheting with beads. “I thought it would be a hobby at first,” she recalls. More than a decade later, she’s focused her attention on crafting elegant jewelry with beads that may be no larger than a grain of rice.
“The crochet process is mechanical by nature,” she adds. “I can listen to music when I’m crocheting. But designing a piece and stringing the beads require one hundred percent of my attention.”
Last summer Kahn said goodbye to 60 years of living in the Bay Area and moved to northern New Mexico. In just a matter of months, she realized that her new surroundings will be reshaping her creative approach.
“In the past, I’ve worked with predicable, geometric designs,” she explains. “Things are more mysterious here. The natural landscape doesn’t work on a grid. I’m trying to find ways to get these unpredictable, mysterious feelings into my work.”