ECHOES OF THE PAST: Kopious jeweler Kristin Wood finds inspiration in family, nature and mid-century modern design
Last summer and fall, Kristin Wood of Kopious Jewelry was scooping up used mid-century rattan furniture to refurbish and sell. Sometimes, she kept it for her own home, which she shares with husband Garrett and their 2-year-old Savannah (a.k.a. Van). Obsessed with the sturdiness of the wood and its carefully woven technique, Wood was inspired to make her 10th jewelry collection, Echo, which will make a gallery premiere in downtown’s New Elements as part of the Fourth Friday Gallery Walk this weekend.
“My jewelry has been fashion-driven up ‘til now,” Wood tells. “It’s been go-go-go on the fashion side, but I come from the art world. I was into art, sculpture and photography. Now I am going back and fulfilling a dream I had since I was a high-school student . . . [upon] receiving the National Honors Society art award for an African mask I made.”
As a mere teenager, Wood set a goal for herself to one day show her art in a gallery—“and then 20 more,” she remembers with hopeful confidence. However, another passion began once she learned about wine and how one sip could cull an entire timeline of weather at a particular vineyard of a particular time and day.
“I was more intrigued by the art of winemaking and the care the people in the vineyards were taking to craft it,” she says with a laugh. “I was always more right-brained, even in wine sales, which wasn’t so good when it came to dealing with numbers.”
A car accident in 2011 led Wood to rethink her career path moving forward. While in the hospital recuperating, she began sketching and drawing again. It sparked an intensity to get back to creating with her own hands. Fashion had always been a passion, so she decided to launch He and Me, which focused on wrap scarves that could be worn numerous ways, even as a dress.
She eventually evolved into jewelry-making and changed her business to Kopious. Wood would hammer sheet metal to make earrings and necklaces, and include trends like tassels, while also creating simple pieces that could be layered to combine her love of Bohemian style. By the time her fourth collection for Kopious rolled out, she found herself going back to sculpture by casting wax to make one-of-a-kind rings and bracelets, pendants and earrings. Her business cards at the time read “art nature fashion,” each inspirations she held close. Such would be seen in “Of Land and Sea.” Wood hand-carved porcupine quills, arrowheads and seashells. Her next collection showcased a love for organic elements, and featured rings with hand-carved succulents and leaf petals. Then she switched to clean and modern lines, and designed the next collection with geometric shapes at the forefront. At that time her jewelry was in 12 stores.
In 2015, a happy surprise occurred: Wood found out she was expecting. She took a break from doing full-blown collections to focus on caring for herself and her soon-to-be little girl.
“I did a few capsule collections, but really only from a design standpoint,” she says. “I wasn’t casting as much, and I chose to scale down and only be in three local boutiques—Island Passage Aqua Fedora and Tusk.” She continued to sell older work and refill racks as needed. “Hoops are the one touchstone [from] the first collection [that] I still make, and they sell out constantly,” she says.
During her nesting period, she and Garrett visited his hometown of Savannah, Ga., and numerous SCAD galleries, where Wood, self-taught, had dreamed of attending. Though taking home a painting for $2,000 wasn’t necessarily in the budget for two expecting parents, a handmade piece of jewelry—“a statement piece, a time piece” as Wood calls it—absolutely fit.
“It will remind me forever of my time in Savannah while pregnant with my first child,” she says. “I, too,want my jewelry to be time pieces, wherein a buyer can remember the day they got it—or years down the road, it goes to friend or family member and becomes its own timeline of life.”
It’s how Wood reveres numerous large pieces of jewelry her father, a documentary filmmaker, left behind for her after his death. “My dad was eccentric,” she says with a gleam in her eye. “He would have these stacked bracelets, and each piece came from his work trips. I now look at them and think, They have life: This is his life; these were movies he made. And that’s what my collections represent because they’ve warped into so many things over the years.”
Last year the opportunity arose for Wood to make a true forever piece. Her friend David
Copley Koebley asked her to make his wedding band. “It was the biggest honor,” she tells, “to see him wear a piece that’s going to be meaningful to him for the rest of his life.”
As fate would have it,
Copley’s Koebley’s neighbor, New Elements Gallery owner Miriam Oehrlein, attended the wedding. When Oehrlein and Wood started to chat, the topic turned to the large sculptured succulent, the Annona Cocktail Ring, on Wood’s finger. “It was kismet in every way,” Wood recalls. “Miriam said, ‘I’d love to see your new stuff.’ I said, ‘I don’t have new stuff—I took a break two years ago to bring a baby into the world.’”
Still, Oehrlein requested Wood’s older collection. Feeling more inspired than ever, she went home and pulled works to sell in New Elements’ display case. She then ordered wax, went back into her home studio, and began ruminating on the rattan furniture and stylized lines of designers like Paul Frankl, Arthur Umanoff, and Frank Albini. “It ignited a fire,” she tells. “I remember looking at the rattan and thinking, Man, I wish I could wear that—the lines, the structure, the composition.”
As the block of semi-hard wax beckoned her, she carved and molded, and wrappd various gauges of wired wax. “It’s a very long and meticulous process, and things break once you finish them,” she tells. “You are carving away at the block in order to find the ring inside; you are literally taking pieces of wax and sculpting them into something you foresee being wearable.”
Wood’s jewelry was selling so well at New Elements that Oehrlein called her up to ask if Kopious’ next collection could have its own art show at the gallery. “You mean of jewelry?” Wood remembers responding, stunned. “I immediately teared up. It was truly my childhood dream come true. Miriam didn’t know our conversation had inspired me to create Echo; it was serendipitous she called me in the midst of me working on the collection.”
Nineteen pieces make up Echo, named as such by being a representation of the past—i.e. the mid-century rattan furniture Wood adored. Fifteen will launch on Jan. 26, with four designs coming at a later date.
“I strictly work with 100-percent solid brass, white bronze (silver) and bronze (rose gold),” Wood says. “I put a very high polish of micro-crystaling wax on each piece and do the final polishing myself, so it looks like 14 karat gold, sterling silver and rose gold. Over time the tarnishing/patina/oxidizing takes place minimally. But the metals can be easily washed with dish soap and lemon.”
Echo only will consist of earrings—one of which is a half hoop with a multi-ring wrap to mimic the rattan wood being woven—and necklaces. The latter includes pendants of oblong, tear drop and even eye shapes, some of which take on Celtic appeal, “which is fine with me,” the artist says. “My family are Scots-Irish.”
She also has included her own hand-cast beads she will place asymmetrically on the necklaces, along with red clay and marbled beads she purchased. “They’re more like raw slabs with a hole through the middle,” she clarifies. Most are strung on an adjustable,1.5 milliliter leather necklace, available in brown, black, nude, and white, with turquoise possibly coming for summertime wear. Only one pendant will be hung by a chain. “Leather is more comfortable, doesn’t knot or break,” she notes.
Wood’s work will be displayed at eye level on mannequins so onlookers can view the art as if it’s a piece hanging on a gallery wall. The artist will take custom orders Friday night (with a 20-percent discount), with pieces ranging from $50 to $250.
As far as her future, Wood wants to take Echo on the road, hopefully, to Southport, Chapel Hill, Asheville, and Savannah. As well, she will continue working in metal only. “I have so much respect for people who set stones,” she tells, “like I Like It Here Club and Whistlepig Workshop and Melissa Tyson Design; I respect them and I know the time it takes to do what they do. But it’s not where I am going. . . . I really just enjoy watching people wear my jewelry. Fashion is an obsession, but art is my soul. That’s why I feel like I had my daughter again: Echo came from my soul.”
Opening of Kopious jewelry collection from Kristin Wood
Jan. 26, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. • Free
New Elements • 271 N. Front St.
encore regrets the misspelling of David Koebley’s last name in the print version of “Echoes of the Past.”