Art beat // Hand-made objects of desire

More than 250 artists and artisans are expected to travel from around the country to the American Craft Council’s three-day show in St. Paul this month, but for some the journey will be as easy as a drive across the river.

Among the locals appearing this year are several craftspeople with Southwest ties, including Judith Kinghorn, a jewelry maker who keeps a studio near the intersection of Aldrich Avenue and West 26th Street in The Wedge neighborhood. Kinghorn was apologetic when she received a visitor there in late March: Her studio was in disarray because of a recent move from a nearby building, and she was short on time, needing to catch a flight soon to New York City where she was exhibiting in the CraftNEWYORK show.

Kinghorn didn’t disappoint, though, leading her visitor through the piles of boxes to a backroom safe from which she produced piece after piece of stunning gold and sterling silver jewelry. There was her allium stickpin, looking like a supernova burst of delicate flower buds, and her chrysanthemum brooch, a slow-burning fireball of oxidized gold that is one of her signature pieces.

They don’t sparkle so much as smolder. Kinghorn prefers the “more subdued look” of oxidized metal, and her flower-inspired jewelry has a subtle, velvety glow.

Kinghorn said she’s been making jewelry “obsessively since 1989” after prior careers in fields as different as transportation planning and interior design. She started out making earrings for friends, and the hobby quickly became a vocation.

Her early pieces took geometric forms that reflected an interest in architecture. She was commissioned to produce a commemorative brooch for the 1993 opening of the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus, and she came up with a piece that mimicked the stainless steel carapace designed for the building by architect Frank Gehry.

She made 145 of the brooches. It took her a year.

These days, Kinghorn finds her inspiration in nature, but she doesn’t set out to meticulously replicate specific flowers or plants. She lets the materials and her imagination guide her and, although her pieces often come to resemble specific organic forms, Kinghorn doesn’t name them until they’re completed, a labor-intensive process that typically takes around 40 to 60 hours for each piece of jewelry.

The ceramicist Julia Timm used to live in Kenwood, where neighbors might recall her large garden, a multi-year project that eventually swallowed her entire yard. Then, about eight years ago, Timm was swallowed up by ceramics, a new passion that took the place of gardening and cooking for the former stay-at-home mom and recent empty nester.

“I gave up gardening and I gave up cooking, and I just really focused on it fulltime,” she recalled. “I gave up seeing my friends for about three years.”

Timm now lives in a condominium downtown and works out of a studio in Northeast’s Northrup King Building, where she produces vases, tea kettles, tableware and other pieces intended to be both functional and decorative under the name Fresh Mud Pottery.

Timm cuts and assembles slabs of clay for her pieces instead of working on a potters’ wheel. She embraces right angles and sharp edges in her work, emulating the creases and folds of Japanese origami.

Unlike Kinghorn, who has participated in American Craft Council shows since the early ’90s, this marks Timm’s first time participating in the juried exhibition. Making it into the show was one of her long-term goals, she said.

“For many, many years I went to the craft council show as a consumer,” Timm said. “I had no idea I would ever walk down this road and make work myself.”


The American Craft Council St. Paul Show runs April 20–22 at St. Paul’s RiverCentre, 175 W. Kellogg Blvd. Hours are 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $12 for one day or $20 for all three days. Admission to a preview party, 6 p.m.–9 p.m. April 19, is $75.