Karen Klinefelter

Klinefelter says her leather-and-metal bracelets are designed “with the comfort of a watch in mind.”

Sometimes inspiration is right under your feet. That’s exactly how jeweler Karen Klinefelter designed her Mesh series. “It all stemmed from a piece of rusted metal mesh I found on the road one day while running,” she explains.

Intrigued by its texture and geometry, Klinefelter took it home with the intention of hanging it on the wall. “It had a fabric-like quality,” she says. “I wondered what it would look like cast, and decided to sacrifice a small piece to make a mold.” The resulting sterling silver and 18kt gold castings have a beautiful finish and a soft texture.

Karen Klinefelter

Her first full line has a similar story. The Thai collection was inspired by a ring Klinefelter saw at a street vendor’s display in Bangkok in 1998. When she finally resolved to make the purchase, the vendor was gone. So she returned home and recreated it from memory. “I love the shape, the feel, the simple lines and pattern hammered into the ring,” she says.

Klinefelter’s metalsmithing career started with answering an ad to be a goldsmith’s apprentice. After a year of repetitive basics, she was hired by Timothy Grannis to work at Designers’ Circle Jewelers in Burlington, Vt. She stayed on for 12 years, mastering everything from soldering and forging skills to production schedules and customer service. When Grannis changed the nature of his business and launched Grannis Gallery in 1998, Klinefelter decided to move on.

She began working in earnest on her own jewelry in 1999 and opened her Burlington studio in 2005. Today, she’s exploring a new series called Intention, based on castings of tagua nut carvings. “It’s new to me,” Klinefelter says. “I’ve always handcarved things out of metal. I’m excited by the challenge of carving a new material.”

This article was first published in the Summer 2009 edition of NICHE magazine. To see Klinefelter’s current work, go to www.klinefelterstudio.com