The minute you see a piece of Kristin Leigh Knoll’s work, is the same minute you know you haven’t seen anything exactly like it. “Sailor space jewelry” is one description I’ve heard about her popular rope-gem necklaces (boat rope… meteoric rock… makes perfect sense). The overriding takeaway is that Knoll combines disparate materials in exciting configurations, and the result is that something singular emerges from familiar building blocks.
Knoll only started her jewelry line Abacus last year as a much-needed creative outlet. Though a trained graphic designer, she’d been doing admin for her family’s plastics and packaging company–invoicing, shipping logistics–in order to get out of the rural Texan town where her first design job was based.
Small town life was behind her, but there was a new problem: There’s not a lot of self-expression in packaging and plastics.
When Knoll moved to Brooklyn a few years ago, she kept her job with her family’s business, but it was easier to explore creative projects on the side. She took classes in book-binding, garment sewing, and textile design. The courses were weeks long. She’d spend several hours in a creative headspace using her hands after a full day of managing shipments. The drive was there, she just needed to land on the project that suited her best.
Jewelry fit the bill—and, possibly, she hoped, could pay some as well. “It’s a lot more popular to buy jewelry than handmade books,” reasoned Knoll. Astute. And also the kind of practicality she applies to her designs.
Though she deals in jewelry, Knoll doesn’t live in that world when she’s creating it. Instead, she takes inspiration from her favorite sculptors–Isamu Noguchi, Brancusi–innovators who took the familiar and made something brand new and, more to the point, very good looking.
Whatever it is that Knoll takes from her visits to the Noguchi Meseum, where she has a membership and visits for inspiration, it’s working for her. Wearing one of her necklaces feels more like wearing art, a little nugget of creativity you get to hang around your neck all day. And as Knoll knows better than anyone, it’s having the access to that mindset that is most important of all.
You can find your own intergalactic maritime art at Abacus’s website; Locale, a boutique in Bed-Stuy; and this Sunday, August 30th from 12-6pm at the Crow Hill Community Association End of Summer Craft Fair in Crown Heights (on Franklin Avenue between Sterling Place and St. John’s Place). Say hi to Knoll before she ships off to Alchimia, a jewelry making program in Florence, next month.