Scratching the Surface
Jewelry is one of the few art forms we carry with us out into the world, notes Deb Karash. “It invites comment. It says something about who you are and what’s important to you,” she says. Those who wear the Bakersville artist’s bold one-of-a-kind brooches, necklaces, earrings, and cuffs are willing to openly declare their love for craftsmanship, color, and strong forms. What isn’t as forthright, however, is the layer upon layer of work—some 30 plus steps—that goes into each vibrant piece.
Karash’s jewelry emerges slowly from a flat sheet of copper, brass, or silver, taking the shape of organic and abstract forms, from flowers and leaves to circles and spirals. For inspiration, she looks to vintage fabric designs and wallpapers, a lot of which display botanical imagery. Filing and sanding texturize the surfaces before fixatives and colored pencils are employed—the mark of her signature style. In the places where color has been added, the metallic surface appears warm and soft, almost as if it could be stained, polished wood.
Karash’s particular method for drawing on metal surfaces is original. “I knew of another artist using color on copper vessels,” she says, “so I began experimenting.” Her first attempts in the early ’90s were aimed to complement the radiant gemstones she was incorporating into her jewelry at the time. Nowadays, she no longer uses the sparkling stones; the color and texture alone make each piece vibrant.
A professional jeweler for nearly 20 years, Karash credits her love for adornments to her mother, who was an antiques dealer. “I started collecting antique jewelry, and was curious about how it was made,” says the Illinois native. Her dabblings at workshops led to a full-blown passion for the craft and eventually a master’s of fine art in metal jewelry-making. The opportunity to teach at Penland School of Crafts drew her to Western North Carolina, where she settled in 2007, taking up residence in Marshall High Studios. She cofounded FLOW, an artists’ collective gallery, and occasionally teaches workshops at her Bakersville studio and craft schools across the country.
Karash’s complex and polished surfaces affirm her skill and attention to detail. While she practices consummate craftsmanship, she aims to infuse each piece with a little levity. “This is not serious jewelry,” she says. “It’s bold and fun.”
FLOW will host an exhibit of Karash’s work October 12-November 10. Find her jewelry at Heartwood Gallery in Saluda, Grovewood Gallery in Asheville, and Crimson Laurel Gallery in Bakersville.