Artist profile—Deb Karash

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Twenty years ago, Deb Karash took a jewelry course for fun and spawned a new career. The Rockford native enjoyed the class so much she went on to complete an M.A. from Northern Illinois University and has been making and selling her handcrafted brooches, necklaces, and earrings ever since.

Karash “started from the bottom” as she perfected her craft, entering local shows and art fairs (“I couldn’t get into Greenwich at first,” she says) and working her way up to national awards and gallery representation in major cities. Currently, Deb’s work is carried by galleries in Seattle, Boston, Rockford and Chicago. A recent success was her inclusion in SOFA in Chicago last year for the first time.

Over the course of her artistic career, Karash’s style has radically transformed. Earlier work was narrative, frequently using figures and words. Later, she began to experiment with coloring metal, which led to a growing interest in patinas that became the focus of her work rather than an addendum. The somewhat realistic botanical forms that branched from her interest in surfaces became more and more abstract over time. Her current botanical forms bear little resemblance to their origins, having become colorful and geometric. After taking a break from her work this year, Karash has developed an interest in patterns and forms from textiles, and plans to experiment with that theme. If that’s not enough to keep anyone busy, she has also begun a production line—a less expensive line of jewelry designed by the artist but typically worked on by assistants or commercially cast.

Karash says her work evolves through intuition and instinct: “I work in a series, and each piece leads to the next…there’s no big plan,” she explains. Interestingly, she notes that each major change in her artistic style is linked to a period when she was away from the studio for a time—being able to step off the treadmill of turning out work seems to renew her direction. In Karash’s approach to her work, formality takes a backseat to instinct. “You learn formality in college…it’s there, a silent director in the process,” she said. “I couldn’t tell you what I learned in design class, but I can tell you what’s wrong with a piece of art.”

Karash cites persistence and hard work as the keys to her success. Making a living as an artist involves creating 170 original pieces each year, where the part-time artist may work on one a month. “It’s taken a long time to get where I am, and I appreciate it,” she said. There were many more talented artists than me in school, and they didn’t make it. I’m lucky to be able to do what I do.”

Deb Karash’s jewelry can be seen at J.R. Kortman Center for Design in Rockford or on her website at

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