Kendra Tornheim

Wire and Hand-Colored Brass Jewelry
Hyde & Seek

120 Hyde St
Newton MA 02461

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Artist Contact Info:
My mother is a fiber artist and my father collects antiques. I grew up carding wool, helping at craft shows, and searching for treasures at yard sales and flea markets. It is perhaps not surprising that I now craft jewelry out of antique keys, pieces of clockwork, and vintage-style brass stampings.

I have dabbled in a wide range of arts and crafts. At Newton South High School I was lucky to have the opportunity to work with stained glass, enamel, and a variety of sculptural materials, and in college I took classes in collage and visual art. I first began to make jewelry for sale in 2007 using the medieval cording technique of lucet braiding incorporating beads. Learning from books and from practice, I added new techniques to my repertoire: off-loom bead weaving — transforming glass into fabric by stitching tiny seed beads together — and later kumihimo, an ancient Japanese method of interleaved braiding. When I began working with wire towards the end of 2007, however, it swiftly absorbed my attention and began to dominate my work.

Wire is amazing stuff. I can hammer and punch it, but I can also shape it by hand or weave it like thread. Wire is simultaneously functional and decorative. In my early experiments with wire, I wrapped it around any number of objects I had collected — glass gems, shells, tiny bottles, old keys. The key pendants were particularly appealing both to me and to my customers. Keys have a strong, recognizable shape and a powerful meaning, especially when the keys in question have a past history of their own. Along with loops and spirals of wire, I decorate my key pendants with gears as if they were tiny machines, or with brass or glass leaves as if the keys have come alive to put out their own sprouts.

My appreciation for color has led me not only to use brightly colored wire in some of my pieces but also to decorate brass elements for use in my work with richly colored permanent alcohol inks. In a process of several steps, I blend or overlay multiple colors and then seal the pieces with repeated layers of weatherproof gloss varnish to give the look of enamels without using a kiln.

In addition to wire wrapping keys and sculpting wire pendants, I create earrings and hair ornaments featuring my hand-colored brass, and use woven wire and wire filigree techniques for a portion of my work. Over the course of the pandemic, I began to experiment with additional metalwork techniques — hand stamping words in metal, hammering heavy copper to make prong settings, weaving in patterns incorporating tiny beads — and additionally began a Patreon to encourage myself to continue experimenting and sharing my art: I look forward to the chance to exhibit my new directions.
Susan Tornheim, Kendra Tornheim, Lina Narovlansky
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