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T H E S T O R Y
KAI WOLTER is an 'alchemist' - hammering/coaxing/transforming sheets of copper and brass into stunning, organic, sculptural jewelry. When I saw a photo of one of his pieces on Instagram, I was immediately 'hooked' and contacted him about a studio visit for CHASING.
When I stepped into the courtyard in front of Kai's studio, I was greeted by his enthusiastic assistant IGGY PUP and a collection of charmingly-eccentric garden pieces.
Then, I walked inside and found a diminutive gallery showcasing Kai's current work - including his lyrical TENDRIL COLLECTION - hand-forged jewelry pieces in bronze, brass and plated sterling silver that have evolved from his larger sculptural work.
They are bold, sensual, primitive, and contemporary at the same time; each piece unique wrapping a wrist or neck elegantly. They have a rich, heavy look, but when you slip them on they are light and comfortable - like a vine delicately wrapping itself around your body.
A beautiful gallery display...
Kai graduated with a masters degree in metalsmithing from CRANBROOK ACADEMY OF ART- one of the leading graduate schools of Architecture, Art & Design. And when his former Dean - Gary Griffin - retired from the department in 2006 and moved to El Rito, New Mexico, Kai was invited to be his studio assistant.
Although his metalsmithing background encompassed blacksmithing and decorative ironwork, for the past eight years he has focused on sculpting - taking his smaller-scale metalsmithing techniques and crafting sculptural pieces directly from actual material rather than working in clay and casting the final piece. "I wanted to see how far I could take those skills into the sculptural realm." And that sculpting practice has morphed into creating his organic jewelry collections.
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This is where the Magic happens...
Tools, tools everywhere and all in their places!
All the bits and pieces of a current project are tucked into silver dishes on a rolling cart that he can take to his various work stations throughout the large, airy workshop.
When I commented on his neat-as-a-pin studio, Kai explained that even as a kid he was tidy. "My sisters would get mad because they thought I was 'sucking up" to my parents, but I was just being neat; like putting away logos as soon as I finished playing with them."
Great stuff hanging out on walls and tabletops...
Bronze work starts out flat, explains Kai, and then extruded and formed like the piece above, or this amazing neck piece from the Tendril Collection.
And here Kai is beginning his version of a concho belt buckle by using a repousse technique - working/hammering on the reverse side of a special malleable steel material to form a design on the front.
Thanks Kai for taking the time to show your studio and work and indulging my penchant for taking a zillion photographs.
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