Snakes are among the most ancient of mythological and cultural symbols and depictions of them are some the oldest of all human creations. For those willing to look closely, the peculiar beauty of snakes is a richly fascinating, miracle of design. The crochet beaded necklaces and bracelets of Claire Kahn borrow the intricate patterns of snakes and replicate their sensuous drape. Claire’s exhibition, Temptations, opens July 8 and will continue through July 31, 2011.
Claire Kahn is a designer and artist whose professional resume reflects comfort with a spectacular variety of materials and scale. Her projects range from the water fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas to the interiors of Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. For Claire Kahn, design is not something peripheral or separate, it is intrinsic to life. Design gives life shape and order. This is why there are snakes.
Claire begins each work of jewelry by stringing tiny glass beads in a very precise order. She uses Miyuki beads, from Japan, because their uniform size permit distinct margins and render a strict delineation of pattern. Claire’s craftsmanship is so exacting that it takes a day to crochet just a few inches. Most of her necklaces and bracelets bear shifting patterns that resemble those of snakes, but not all. Some are a solid color and embellished with faceted gem beads like sapphires and spinels, or with pearls and turquoise.
Claire is fascinated by transitions, with what she calls “the edge,” the moment when change occurs. This is evident in the patterns she creates. One segues to the next, transitioning smoothly and evolving subtly. “It starts one way and ends another and getting there...there’s a mathematical beauty, a series of numbers that so elegantly fall into place. When the numbers are elegant, I know it will be beautiful.” She loves progressions and the logic that informs them.
“The transitions have to be planned. I cannot work spontaneously. It is like ikat weaving. The pattern is locked into the beaded thread. The conceptual part happens while I’m stringing. It is a marriage of medium and design, the medium is completely informing the design I make.”
Soft spoken and reserved, Kahn reveals her passionate nature slowly. She thinks a great deal about what she is doing and ideas excite her. She chooses words carefully and expresses herself with intensity.
She describes her family with profound respect, and seems honored to be her parents’ daughter. Their lives have deeply influenced her own. Her father, Matt Kahn, Professor Emeritus at Stanford, taught nearly all the art disciplines in the Art and Art History Department, including painting, design, sculpture and metalsmithing. In addition to his sixty year long career at Stanford, he is an artist whose own work has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Craft + Design. While at Stanford he consulted with Eichler Homes, the developer of Modernist houses during the 1950’s and 60’s and according to Claire, remains “an unrepentant Modernist.” Her mother, Lyda, was a textile artist, a weaver of tapestries.
Her family lived design and it has pervaded Claire’s life, ever since. She was raised in an Eichler home and her memories are rich with details of the house, her mother’s sense of style and of course, her father’s world of painting and design. His mentorship has been invaluable to her.
After graduating from Stanford with a degree in design, Claire worked in the San Francisco offices of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill where she developed graphics and interiors for a number of projects including San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall. She later joined WET Design, now known as WET, and has designed water fountains for New York’s Columbus Circle, the Bellagio and numerous other sites around the world. She also designs textiles and graphics, creates her own fine art and more recently, the necklaces and bracelets that are featured in her Patina exhibition.
Patina is extremely pleased to be the only gallery in the world that exhibits her jewelry. Nearly all visitors to the gallery will stop to look at these works, comment and marvel. The response has been quite exceptional because of the beauty of this work. Part of its appeal is the tactility of it.
Snakes figure prominently in the creation stories of indigenous cultures all over the world and occupy a unique place in the human psyche. Perhaps the reason that snakes are so compelling is that they represent a beautiful perfection of design, a unique efficiency that few other animals express. It was a snake that tempted Eve to eat fruit from the Tree of Life. Each Kahn necklace is a temptation unto itself.
Claire Kahn will attend the artist reception on Friday, July 8. Her father, Matt Kahn, will also attend. The reception begins at 5:00. An artist talk is scheduled for 4:00 the same afternoon.