Kary Kjesbo

My name is Kary Kjesbo, and I live in Hailey, Idaho in the Wood River Valley known to many as the picturesque ski town that is Sun Valley. For more than 30 years, I have lived in this valley, which is a vibrant community filled with creative people spanning from fine arts to theater and music. I have always found it so inspiring to be around such talented artists who are my friends and neighbors.

Kary Kjesbo Portrait

Some of my earliest memories are of visual arts. When I was around five, my uncle Don, who is an artist, would color in coloring books with me. He would shade and blend colors, working with the open space, and create beautiful art that fascinated me even at that young age. Around this time, I was also interested in architecture design and elements, which came from our family’s weekend drives gazing at beautiful homes for fun.

As I think back to my childhood, I realize that all of my grandparents had visually interesting homes with art collections, pottery, Native American rugs and much more. I was close to my grandparents and inherited many of their treasures. My studio now has objects, which remind me of them, including old black and white photos of my grandparents in their youth.

Back when I was in elementary school, I was diagnosed with dyslexia, as with many artists. Struggling in most of my classes, the one thing I was good at was art. Getting A’s in art class always helped with my self-esteem.

Kary Kjesbo Studio

When I was older, my dad built me a space in our home to create my art, with a workbench and shelves for supplies. The only rule was that when using toxic stuff like glue and model paint, I had to open a window. Other than that, I could create whatever my heart desired. I would spend hours in the basement painting rocks and making mobiles. After all, it was the 60s so there were lots of flowers and smiley faces. When I was young, one of my specialties was painting on flat rocks. On the front of the rock, I wrote, “Please turn me over.” On the reverse side, I wrote, “Thank you xoxo!” Needless to say, many were gifted one of my fabulous rocks.

My mother was a quilter and seamstress—this was handed down to her from her mother and her mother before her. In my teens, my mom taught me to quilt, which was something we could do together. I used this generational skill throughout my life to make wall hangings and quilts for family and friends.

As I grew up and became an adult, I was regularly involved in some type of project, such as working with seed beads, which I used to make intricate earrings and beaded bracelets. Often, I would craft with friends, which was always satisfying, and ultimately, it created ever-lasting friendships.

When my son Ethan was little, it became apparent that I needed a craft that was smaller and more manageable. I started to make treasure necklaces for women where I would use their family heirlooms and favorite beads to work them into elaborate necklaces. These necklaces lead me into working with pearls and gemstones, which became my true passion that has continued to this day. It allowed me to make money from my craft, which we all know is so hard to do.

Kary Kjesbp Jewelry in Drawers

My jewelry business began with knotting pearls. A jeweler, in town, showed me how and then a number of years later, I had a friend teach me how to do wire work, which became one of my main techniques. I like that this jewelry process holds up to years of wear.

My main jewelry line for Kary Kjesbo Designs, the “Essential Collection,” is all silver chains, necklaces, bracelets and earrings along with Italian tassels. Once women figure out that they can wear something substantial and not be overdressed, they feel empowered. Whether it’s jeans and a T-shirt or a business meeting, a piece such as the Essential Chain can bring poise to your look. At its base, this necklace can be worn in multiple ways. I love this necklace’s versatility and functionality, where the clasp lies and where the weight sits. I think about these design elements for all of my work.

Over the years my work has evolved, and I started integrating another passion of mine—collecting antique and vintage found objects. This addition to my work has brought me enormous satisfaction!

Kary Kjesbo Mirror and Jewelry

The process of finding antiques, special gems and pearls is a large part of my inspiration. Each object speaks to me. Many of my found objects are men’s jewels from the turn of the century, such as pocket watch chains and fobs, English medals and antique tassels. With the addition of wirework and chain, my work embodies a slightly masculine and industrial feel, which I believe creates a strong sense of style.

Around 15 year ago, I built a studio in my backyard to get my work out of the house. My studio is a small 10’x12’ shed with windows that have been built out and insulated, and it has electricity for lights and heat. What more does a girl need!

Artwork I have collected over the years from fellow artists that inspire me surrounds me from ceramics and landscape paintings to painted gourds and mixed media pieces. The colors in the studio are spring greens, which may seem a little outdated, but they still energize me and are pleasing to my eye.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. – George Bernard Shaw

The challenges with creating art are the same for most artists. How do you make money and stay true to your art? I feel, I have found a nice balance in this area. Having a few high-end shops that carry my work, along with my website, KaryKjesboDesigns.com, gives me good exposure. However, my most satisfying projects are working on commissioned pieces with clients and their family heirlooms creating one-of-a-kind designs.

I hope to help you start your jewelry collection with Kary Kjesbo Designs.