ode boutique

Artist Interview

Jen Kahn

July 8, 2014

After the third Ode customer mentioned Jen Kahn's name, we decided it was time we sought her out. Her jewelry has the kind of nuanced simplicity that we so love in our accessories. Hand-wrought, bold shapes in vintage patinas. Her attention to the minute details make each piece unique and one-of-a-kind. You can meet Jen and shop her collection at Ode's July Art Bazaar on July 11th, 6-8pm. Here's a little from the designer:

How did you get started?
I worked at Frog Hollow Gallery in Burlington, Vermont, during my senior year at UVM. There I met renowned jewelry artist Celie Fago. I was so inspired by her amazing work and the medium she worked with – Precious Metal Clay. I quickly became her apprentice and upon graduation, moved in as a live-in apprentice and teaching assistant. For 9 years I accompanied her in her travels around the country and abroad. During that time I also honed in on finding my voice as a jewelry artist.

For the past decade I’ve mostly been selling my work myself (through Etsy and a local, outside Artist Market). This year I started my wholesale line and I’m seeking out new shops. I’m so excited to have Ode as my 10th new stockist and my 1st in MA!

What do you love about your job?
I LOVE coming up with new designs. It’s always such a thrill to go from an idea to a sketch to hashing out the actual design to the finished, wearable piece. I also enjoy spotting my jewelry on lovely ladies all around town.

Where do you find inspiration?
I'm drawn to and inspired by primitive and ancient artifacts and adornment because of the meaning infused into them. These pieces tell stories, they are connected to rituals, history, the land; they carry powers of protection. They are culturally rich and full of identity. Nowadays, it’s hard to feel connected, to feel meaning. Everything is so anonymous and mass-produced. I like the idea of reaching back into time, reaching out into distant lands and pulling those primitive styles forward; adding my voice and giving them a contemporary edge.

I'm fascinated by the way things are put together: patched, riveted, stitched and often incorporate such connections in my pieces. I gather inspiration from a pattern on a textile; the texture of a leaf; beautiful, old rusty things. I aim to fuse old and new, industrial and natural, urban and ethnic.

You have been selling at the Artist Market in Burlington, VT for a while now. Can you tell us a little bit about the scene there?
This is my 10th year at the Burlington City Arts Artist Market. This juried market takes place on Saturdays from the end of May through the end of October. It goes from 9-2:30, but if it’s raining it’s cancelled. There’s a bit of everything: jewelry, clothing, pottery, henna, paintings...it’s just wonderful. The immediate feedback I’ve gotten through the years is invaluable and it’s shaped my line. All of the vendors are friendly and fun and some of my best friends I’ve made through setting up beside them. It’s a great way to combine work life with social life. We love figuring out what we’re going to eat next from the farmer’s market next to us and people watching and dog watching. It really is the hub of downtown on Saturdays.

What's your favorite line from a movie, song, or book? 
“Out of all those kinds of people, you’ve got a face with a view”.

I’m pretty obsessed with “This Must Be The Place” – Talking Heads. Got to see David Byrne sing it last year, I also love The Lumineers cover of it. My husband and I like to play it on mandolin. Such lovely lyrics.

If you were a piece of clothing, what would you be and what color/pattern?  
This is hard one…I guess I would be a scarf/shawl/sarong (something that could double as a skirt or top or dress) soft and comfortable and long with a tribal indigo pattern.

What is your dream destination?
I dream of going to Italy…of eating in Italy…of wearing a floral dress, riding a bicycle through Tuscan hills, stopping for a picnic of fresh bread and cheese and olives and wine, by a vineyard. Something like that…

What is your favorite word, and why?
I guess my favorite word is wabi-sabi which doesn’t directly translate from Japanese to English. It essentially means the effects of time (and weather) on an object and finding the beauty in that imperfection. It has to do with being in tune with the natural rhythms of growth and decay, being able to do with less, and appreciating authenticity. If one word was used to define it, it would be rustic. It’s an esthetic that I aspired to before I knew the word/concept.

What's your go-to "happy" song?  
Lately nothing gets me out of my chair like Pharell’s “Happy” or Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky." I will stop everything and start boogieing if I hear them. I can’t help it!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Well, regarding jewelry making, Celie gave me this great piece advice: All aspects of a given piece should be thought out, nothing should be unfinished, it’s all an opportunity for creativity. The back should be as compelling as the front…for this reason many of my pendants are reversible.