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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 couldnt get into Greenwich at first, she says) and working her way up to national awards and gallery representation in major cities. Currently, Debs 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, Karashs 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 thats not enough to keep anyone busy, she has also begun a production linea 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 theres 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 timebeing able to step off the treadmill of turning out work seems to renew her direction. In Karashs approach to her work, formality takes a backseat to instinct. You learn formality in college its there, a silent director in the process, she said. I couldnt tell you what I learned in design class, but I can tell you whats 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. Its 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 didnt make it. Im lucky to be able to do what I do.
Deb Karashs jewelry can be seen at J.R. Kortman Center for Design in Rockford or on her website at www.debkarash-jewelry.com.