From the archives: Studio visit with jeweleress Jeneca Klausen
When I learned that art school existed, I was so excited my mind just melted. - JK
Jeneca Klausen is a jewelress, queen of her craft. She takes jewelry to the next level by making more than mere baubles but rather pieces of wearable art that can entice even the most avant-garde fashionistas. She chooses Saint John, NB to make her home and artistic inspiration, and thus brings her jewel-art to our doorstep.
Klausen is a well-known name around the Saint John arts community; Jeneca’s father Jorgen Klausen owned and operated Klausen’s Framing and Gallery for almost 30 years and was instrumental in filling her childhood with art and artists. It was a perfect incubator for a budding artist, needing only the right catalysts and connections to pick a direction and really get going. She has grown her practice over the years and is now established with a recognizable aesthetic and reputation for superior quality and strong original design. Her style is elegant and elaborate yet at the same time raw and restrained, using rough-cut crystal, stones, silver and other materials to create her work. She sources her material as ethically as possible, and recycles as much of her material as she can. When I first encountered Jeneca’s work I was struck by how original it was, and very intrigued. This artist I had to meet!
After a chaotic morning of packing the girls up and dropping them off with a friend, I arrived at Jeneca’s new studio/apartment and felt immediately at ease as she welcomed me in and offered me a drink. We bonded over our shared appreciation for bran muffins with cheddar cheese and chatted about cats and kids (hers and mine, respectively). Although only newly moved in, her space is an effortless combination of modern meets homey, full of found items and art. Her studio is in the front room, separated from the rest of the apartment by handy french doors. One striking piece of furniture is her library card storage cabinet which is perfect for storing her crystals, beads and bits and pieces. Artwork created by friends and family is tastefully arranged around the room, each piece with a story to be told. From the pottery pieces by good friend Darren Emenau to a marble sculpture by her father, Jeneca’s home reflects her artistic milieu and is an extension of her creative spirit. Check out her work, but be forewarned, you may develop an addiction for Jeneca Klausen jewelry and ask for nothing else for Christmas! (and your birthday, Valentine’s day, etc…)
How did you become an artist?
It had a lot to do with not liking school and not liking sports, feeling separate from all that. Being an only child I always loved art, I did a lot of drawing and a lot of colouring, and art class was an escape for me. I spent a lot of time outside, my family went on a lot of road trips, we visited many beaches but not the nice sandy ones, always the rocky Bay of Fundy beaches. My dad had a rock tumbler, and I started to figure out that I could take these stones and make something out of them. That’s where the jewelry stuff started.
People used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I’d just make something up. Because my dad is an artist and owned a framing store, art always been around, it was just normal. I don’t really remember when I decided to be an artist, but when I found out about the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design I decided to do that after high school. I knew that I was interested in jewelry, but in the first year of the program you try several different mediums. I loved weaving, and I thought I loved pottery so I took it asone of my two specializations, but after about two weeks I realized that I hate clay. It’s so messy! I admire potters so much because there is so much involved, it’s so dirty, gritty and wet. I realized that I really like tools.
So I stuck with jewelry and never looked back.
What kinds of materials do you use?
Mostly sterling silver, gemstones, a lot of quartz crystal. I love crystals, I’m very connected to them. I would love to use gold, but it is very expensive. Sometimes wood will appear in my work, and I love rocks too. I’ve set myself up gradually and didn’t get a whole studio right away. Instead I’ve built it over time, getting one piece of equipment every year. As I get more tools I expand my repertoire of ideas. For example I got a torch and grew around that. I don’t know everything and don’t want to get stuck in my ways. I love to explore, to keep learning and growing. I’m open to using all kinds of materials, no restrictions.
How has your aesthetic changed over time?
In very funny ways. In high school there were a lot of beads involved,and tumbled rocks... I’d glue little caps on them. I’ve changed very much from that, but not really in a way. My aesthetic is still not very refined or polished, it comes from a place of raw material and imperfection. I leave a lot of room for finding new ways within the material to express my design. The process is really important to me, it’s very organic. That word is a bit overused but it applies. I try things out, take it apart and put it back together. I have two lines; my geometric line is very minimal, and my afternature line is highly embellished. I make them asymmetric, hang chains... they are almost like little sculptures. It’s a bit ridiculous but I love doing it.
How does your studio space work for you?
It’s a place that’s only for me, where I can work and be in the zone. I’m not the kind of person who can work and hang out at the same time. I have to focus.My studio is quite organized, in my mind, anyway. I have my jewelry bench in the corner, where I have my tools, files, sandpaper, saw. it’s the main area where things happen. Beside it is another table is where I do the soldering, and in between is where things get put together.
What does a typical day look like? If there is such a thing…
I wake up... this is boring. Not interesting at all. I wake up, have coffee, then I might look at my computer, see if I have any emails, look at my website, figure out what my week will look like based on orders. Right now (before Christmas) I really need to get down and dirty. It depends on the time of year. Sometimes it’s structured and sometimes it isn’t, but these days things are much more scheduled. I’ll have a day where I just make earrings, or parts of things.
I could stay inside all the time. It only bothers me because I know it’s not healthy. I usually go for a run at some point, get some fresh air. I feel much better if I do that. That would be something that would interrupt my day at some point. But otherwise I am here, working away!
What inspires you?
Jewelry is such a part of fashion. Like fashion it can be very individual, but it can also be tied to trends. You have to keep your eye on it, but not be ruled by it. I try to stay focused on what I am attracted to, like stones and quartz. When I am creating a piece I think of the person wearing it, the qualities the person may have. I think of talismans, which might be cheesy, but there is meaning in my work and in the material I use. Nature is definitely an inspiration, it’s so beautiful, so interesting, but I’m very adamant about the fact that I’m not trying to copy nature. I use the term “afternature” which means inspired by nature, like the word afterlife, a whisper of where it came from. I don’t want my designs to be literal, like a straight-up symbol, I want them to be subtle and to invite conversation.
How do you see yourself navigating the art world? Where do you fit?
I struggle with that. I want to be involved in the art community, I hope I am! I don’t see myself as a main player, more behind-the-scenes. That’s just my personality and my mentality. I do really well on my own, and I appreciate the friends I have, but I’m not an overly public person. The networking and the whole business side I find difficult, but you need to make money and can’t just expect people to just come to you. I have to work at it. It’s a struggle for me to talk about my own work and get it out there. I love other people’s work and have no problem supporting them as much as I can! I am lucky that I have some great friends in the artist community who have been so supportive.
What do you love about NB?
Well, I honestly don’t know what it’s like to live anywhere else. I lived in Halifax for a few months once, but that’s it. But I love so many things about New Brunswick. I love the ocean, the fresh air, which you can get when you get outside the city... the tides are amazing. I love the trees, the weather and how it is always changing, I could go on.
The people here are really great too. I’m a pretty down-to-earth person, so I need down-to-earth people around me. This is a good spot for that.
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