Member Spotlight - Nancy Krahn


Nancy was able to add to her earlier memories of making found object creations as she progressed through her school years. As a preteen she developed an interest in jewelry, and then in high school Nancy took art classes and created more jewelry in the school’s jewelry studio. Remarking on these formative experiences, Nancy said: “I started making earrings as a way to convince my parents to let me get my ears pierced! I made earrings by repurposing my mom’s old costume jewelry - deconstructing it and then recombining it with beads, copper, leather and sometimes feathers to make something new.” Nancy found that other people were interested in buying her jewelry, and she was able to create her own business as a teenager. She shared a booth with her older sister’s boyfriend at a craft fair and thus began her successful art fair experiences. Her first “real” show was at the “Art Fair on the Square” in Madison, Wisconsin. She enjoyed the fair and has returned there numerous times over the years. Nancy used money from the sale of her jewelry to buy tools and supplies, including a torch, a small enameling kiln and the pliers that she still uses today. She attended the University of Wisconsin and was able to support herself and pay for her tuition by making and selling her jewelry.

Nancy has stated that her “mission as a jewelry artist is to combine the expressiveness of an artist with the technical skills of a craftsman. I want my pieces to be wearable and functional. As a jewelry artist I want to tell a story, be evocative and have jewelry be viewed as sculptures.”  Each piece of jewelry that she creates has a story behind it. One story about many of her pieces involves the necklace that her grandmother received as a gift from her husband-to-be. It is a lovely piece with intricate details and pearls. Her grandmother wore the necklace when she was married. Nancy and her mother and sister all wore it as well when they married. Nancy often includes a small pearl in her jewelry as a connection and tribute to her grandmother.

Nancy recounted another experience that involved her participation in the Geneva summer Art Show about ten years ago. Artists were invited to create a new work by incorporating donated ceramic tiles into their work. If an artist agreed to the challenge, they had to use every bit of tile that was sent to them, sight unseen.  The artists were forced to try a new approach to their work through problem solving and to not rely on easy and comfortable solutions. She created an artwork that doubled as a piece of jewelry and as a large wearable “accessory”.

Nancy believes the creation of artwork can be a positive influence on one’s soul. During the Covid 19 “downtime” she found that she, along with many artists, were motivated to look at their work with fresh eyes and assess what was truly meaningful to their lives and work. She also reevaluated her production processes, show venues and the expenses required to create work. She realized she wanted to strive to have “fewer things” and have those things mean more and, if possible, have multiple uses for those things. This influenced a series of pieces she created that had interchangeable beads and elements that can be a “new “ piece of jewelry every day. One piece becomes many by changing the bead color, orientation of the piece, or adding a new element.

In her own jewelry, Nancy finds sources in nature, inspired by her mother, and the fluidity of movement, inspired by her father. She uses hand-fabricating techniques to craft her jewelry, including soldering, forming and dapping with anvils and mandrels as well as forging and texturing with hammers and chasing tools. She creates surface variations through patinas, satin and hi sheen finishes. “These techniques allow me to create clean lines and planes with both strength and delicacy.”  She uses a variety of materials including Sterling Silver, 14 K Rose and Yellow Gold, Lampwork Glass Beads and Gemstones as she balances the aesthetic and functionality in her work.

Nancy also likes to incorporate connections and collaborations with other artists in her jewelry. With fellow Fine Line artist and instructor Victoria Belz she “brainstorms color, texture, pattern, shape and function” in Victoria’s beads which Nancy then incorporates in her jewelry. This collaboration has resulted in many interchangeable elements in her jewelry. “A piece can be worn in a different orientation, or with a different color element with the Lampwork beads adding a pop of color”, often using the beads in different configurations.

Two years ago, Nancy found that she loved teaching jewelry and seeing how she could inspire her students to express themselves in their work. She remembers feeling great satisfaction when one of her early students smiled after creating her piece. She found that teaching came naturally to her, and she encouraged her students to find what inspires them and to develop that inspiration in their work.

In addition to participating in shows at Fine Line, including the annual Artisan Gallery and Sale in December and the Fine Arts Festival and Fox Valley Arts Ramble in June, Nancy exhibits in shows throughout the Midwest during the year. She has also generously taught a class at Fine Line for the Joshua Tree Community students.

For more information about Nancy and her work, please visit her website at: