Kim Harrell’s keenly modern work as a Bauhaus-influenced silversmith dances between being functional and purely decorative, in the form of aesthetically sophisticated silverware, hollowware vessels and bold statement jewelry. You’ll find her pieces in the collection of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art and internationally in private and corporate collections. Though she studied her craft in London and lived there for several years, Harrell is a Denver native, now living and creating in Aurora. While she’s always busy at her workbench, Harrell also finds time to share her skills as an instructor at the Art Students League of Denver and the Community College of Aurora.
How does this complete artist keep it all together? Gracefully, and with deference to her design and art heroes, as you’ll learn from her answers to the Colorado Creatives Questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Kim Harrell: So many. Barbara Hepworth, the Bauhaus School, Taos, landscapes (urban and natural), my mentors/teachers in England, Georgia O’Keeffe, architecture and the Minimalists (Motherwell, Rothko, Hesse, Martin, Stella, Andre…).
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
Georgia O’Keeffe — a Southwestern “sister.” I have always loved her work and view of the Southwest. Her depictions of New Mexico are embedded in my mind. And the gossip she must know about all those artists!
Frida Kahlo — do I need to explain this one? She is an icon: complicated, talented, haunted, intelligent, authentic. I could see myself sitting in a corner talking intensely about art, politics, sex, etc., while smoking cigars and drinking tequila.
Keanu Reeves — I adore him and always have. He rocks and can laugh at himself. He seems to have a generous soul. And he’s kind of cute.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
It has taken some time, but I am close to the jewelers and metalsmiths in the Colorado community more now than ever. There is some incredible talent here. We are a group that is willing to help one another and share information and resources. There are many opportunities for us to share and teach our skills and knowledge to make sure our art/craft stays alive. The worst thing: minimal local resources for tools and supplies. Our main one closed over a year ago as the owner retired. There are a few local folks, but it is an expensive business to run. I order most things online now.
What drew you to silversmithing in the first place?
It all started with beading when I was living in London! I say that beads are the “gateway drug” to metalsmithing. After I became bored with the limitations of beading, I sought out classes in jewelry-making. After taking an evening class, I decided to go study part-time while working. The universe had other plans, and I ended up quitting my job to go to university full-time.
During the course of study, we had to take a silversmithing unit. In Europe, silversmithing is the making of hollowware, not jewelry. I was given a hammer, cut out a pear shape from sheet and directed to a giant tree stump with a bowl depression in it and hollowed out my first bowl! I was hooked. Silversmithing is my main love, although I thoroughly enjoy designing and making jewelry. I even use or make beads sometimes!
What’s your dream project?
I would love to be commissioned to make work for a film or for someone’s silverware collection, or be hired by a company like Tiffany’s to create a collection for them. I also have an idea for a book, but I'm not telling you about that now.
What advice would you give a young hopeful in your field?
Work for a variety of people in your chosen field. You can learn something from everyone. Persevere. Ask questions. Network from the get-go. Be authentic. Make good work — and remember, you are your most fierce competition, not anyone else, so don’t waste time comparing yourself to others. People will take you seriously if you take your art seriously. Do not wait for inspiration; it comes from doing the work every day — seriously. Finally, express gratitude. We do not get to the mountaintop alone.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I love Colorado. I lived away for fourteen years. I missed the sunshine, the mountains and the openness of the landscape. Denver is somewhat different from when I grew up here (yes, I am a native). I live in Aurora now, which, strangely and surprisingly, suits me. I enjoy the culture in Denver, but I crave the open space of the rest of the state. The weather is amazing, people are friendly, and even though I grew up here, there are still parts of the state I have not visited! It is such a beautiful place, and now everyone knows and is moving here! It was bound to happen. The traffic is miserable, but that comes with the territory, I guess.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I will not go there. I know too many amazing creatives to designate one! But I will give a shout-out to the Kirkland Museum. What a gem in this state.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
Pursue an art residency. Cultivate my collectors and galleries. Make beautiful work.
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Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Painter Michael Dowling is amazing, and he is the first person I thought of, but there is a lot of talent around. We will all eventually get our fifteen minutes; I am sure of it!
Kim Harrell’s pop-up exhibition and sale Via Luna: By Way of the Moon, curated by Emilio Lobato, runs through December 1 at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, 1750 13th Street, Boulder. Harrell’s work is also included in the Winter Group Show at Mai Wyn Fine Art, 744 Santa Fe Drive, through January 11.
Visit Harrell’s studio during a Holiday Open Studio Party & Sale at Kim Harrell Silversmith & Jewelry Design, 576 Hanover Way, Suite B, in Aurora, on Saturday, December 14, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, December 15, noon to 5 p.m. There will be a jewelry-making station, free jewelry cleaning (up to three pieces), discounts and gratis gift wrapping. Learn more about Kim Harrell and her work online.