Summit Right Brain: Breckenridge artists collaborate on ‘Wearable Art’ exhibit
November 8, 2016
The artists scrambled around the Breckenridge gallery last Tuesday, painting walls and display shelves and setting up cardboard cutouts to be adorned with jewelry in preparation for a new exhibit. Instead of the usual paintings or photography hung up on the featured artist wall, the gallery members created multiple displays for the small pieces. It's the first time for a collaboration of its size at the Arts Alive Gallery co-op, as five members who create all different styles of wearable art come together to showcase their work.
"Wearable Art — Jewelry and Textiles" will be on display throughout November and December at the Breckenridge gallery. An opening reception for the artists will be Saturday, Nov. 12 from 4–8 p.m., with a second reception held Dec. 10 at the same time. From necklaces to bracelets and scarves, the exhibit will feature the work of local artists Yvonne Kuennen, Diane Nims, Leslie Hancock, Patti Thornton and Lin Rosborough.
Although many of the artists work in different mediums, crafting jewelry is a skill that most have been doing for years. Hancock, who has been in Summit for 18 years and with the gallery for seven, grew up watching her mother and grandmother crochet and embroider. With their influence, Hancock started sewing quilts and even her own clothes at a young age.
As sewing branched into beading on wedding dresses, jewelry was a natural progression for Hancock. Now she does what's called bead weaving, applying individual beads while holding the piece in hand. She also does a wire working technique, and some of her wire-wrapped bracelets integrate crystal.
"I like to work with quality materials; I like to work with sterling silver and gold-filled," she said.
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It's no surprise with her background that a bead embroidery technique is her favorite when it comes to crafting the colorful creations. She has now been working with jewelry for about 20 years, and even does custom work for clients by repurposing old jewelry into something new.
"If someone has a locket, say it's broken, but the cover reminds them of their grandmother because she wore it all the time, I'll do bead embroidery around that and repurpose the jewelry so you can wear it again," she said.
Nims likes to be free flowing in her work, not sticking with any particular type of design. Her jewelry integrates beads from around the world, with preferences for African beads.
"I jokingly in some of my write-ups say I do anything from pewter to pearls," Nims said.
Nims finds inspiration for her pieces in her travels, particularly spending time in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The artist has owned a house in Placer Valley in Park County for 35 years, and now that she's retired from a career as an art teacher with Jefferson County schools, she lives there full time. Nims has been with the gallery for eight years, and has a background in ceramics, although she mainly sticks with the jewelry.
"Art isn't always what you hang up on the wall," she said.
Thornton enjoys all forms of beading and thrives on the challenge of learning new techniques.
"My pieces are guaranteed to be one-of-a-kind," she said. "My hope is to create pieces that my customers will treasure."
Kuennen's work varies from the group with her work mainly in precious metal, clay and fine silver. She first got into the craft right after high school, when she began beading using Hawaiian beads and selling them in the natural science museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she was living.
"I couldn't keep them in there," she said.
Kuennen has lived in the same house in Breckenridge for the past 30 years and has been with the gallery since its inception, starting out as the first and only jeweler in the co-op. She has been instrumental in the creation of Arts Alive's educational outreach program, which works with Snowy Peaks High School, the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center and Wounded Heroes, providing the organizations with art classes taught by instructors from the gallery. She was inspired to create the art program in 2011 after an accident left her looking for outlets to heal.
"I started working with these people who were injured, and seeing how palliative it was for them, just their attention being off their constant pain, for such a long time, they were amazed and totally engrossed in whatever project we provided," she said. "[In] one group we had a woman who couldn't use her arms, and she had the paintbrush in her mouth, and did a magnificent painting."
In the textile realm, Rosborough creates vibrant scarves, shawls and other wearable art. She has been weaving for over two decades, working with fine fibers such as tencel and silk. The Breckenridge resident has lived here full time for 14 years, and began showcasing her work in the gallery in 2008. She said she finds inspiration for her pieces in color.
"Everywhere there is color," she said.
She and Nims have been displaying their work together for a number of years. When the idea for a five-artist collaboration recently came about, the artists decided it was an opportunity to use the space in the gallery to showcase the variety of jewelry and textile work that's created in the county.
"A lot of people think of this as an art gallery with just two-dimensional paintings and that kind of art, but there's a whole other aspect to this gallery that is wearable art," Hancock said.
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