“When you focus on a small detail it can evoke a whole world unto itself.”
In Gabriella Kiss’s work master craftsmanship blends with a poetic imagination in jewelry that draws people in to the small scale. The results are finely detailed art pieces. Gabriella has always been compelled to create work that represents the underlying layers in our world. This harkens back to a vivid memory from grade school, watching Charles and Ray Eames’ film, the Power of Ten. The nine-minute documentary would provide lifelong inspiration.
The daughter of a physicist, Gabriella studied sculpture at Pratt Institute, where she learned the ancient process of lost-wax casting. Carving in wax lets her capture the intricate details her designs command. Additionally, she says: “My best education came from the eight years after college, which I spent as sole apprentice and assistant to Ted Muehling. Ted taught me about purity of form and movement, and that there is poetry in a line well drawn. His talent, friendship, and influence are endless, and his excellence inspires me still.”
Collectors of Gabriella Kiss’s jewelry are intrigued and enthralled by the various layers and range of her work. Earlier designs in her collection are influenced by anatomy. Hand carvings in pins, earrings and rings reference art history, as well as symbolic gestures. A poetic nod to the various species that walk the earth was achieved in the series of feet carvings. More recently, Gabriella paid homage to the substructure of life and movement through her bone series.
The “Love Token” series was inspired by the 19th-century tradition of giving a painted eye to a loved one. Gabriella extended this idea with bas-relief carvings of the five senses coupled with latin inscriptions. While expecting her second child, Gabriella designed the “Bird” series, with a protective and nurturing theme. With the “Insect” series, Gabriella compels us to focus on a world that exists around and beneath us; the “Snake” series furthers this idea, but plays additionally with the abstraction of line.
When working with stones, Gabriella creates earrings and necklaces that highlight the beauty of the vast geological world existing beneath the earth. The series of medieval stone rings take inspiration from 16th century Flemish paintings, yet are modern and simple on their own. Of these rings, Akiko Busch writes: “Five hundred years later and a continent away, the beauty and economy of such a setting has not diminished” (“Rivers and Stones,” Metalsmith).
Gabriella Kiss and her husband, furniture designer Chris Lehrecke, live and work out of their respective studios in upstate New York.
“By working in a narrative and symbolic language, I want people to respond and interpret their own personal connections to pieces given to them, or that they choose themselves. My forms are both abstract and/or representational – from a distance, my snake necklace looks like a graceful line drawing, yet up close, the identity of a creature is revealed. These elements of surprise and humor are important in a time where irony and cynicism are everywhere, and sincerity is rare.”
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Photography: Lauren Coleman