- Associated Press - Saturday, September 16, 2017

PUEBLO, Colo. (AP) - Snake vertebrae, muskrat jaws, bird skulls and beetle wings may not be the most traditional materials when it comes to designing and fabricating jewelry, but take just one look at the beautifully crafted collection of Pueblo independent jeweler Kim Kowalski and it becomes apparent: beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Where most people would see a decomposing snake or bug, Kowalski sees a vibrant pendant of green jewel beetle wings accenting snake bones on a stainless steel chain with a lobster clasp.

Where many would simply see morbidity, she sees masterpieces.


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“(Death) is part of life,” Kowalski said. “Art reflects life, and I’ve never considered myself to be a ‘Goth,’ or gothic, but it’s cool looking. A lot of the stuff I do is just because it’s neat looking and I just like to look at it.”

Kowalski said she got her start making jewelry a few years back, when she noticed a friend had been successfully making and selling jewelry online.



“I thought, ‘Well, I can do that.’ So I tried it and it was cool,” she said.

But after starting out with simple projects she’d acquired the materials for at a local hobby store, Kowalski soon decided she wanted to tackle more specific projects, prompting her to seek the skills and techniques that would allow her to bring her envisioned designs to life.

Even though Kowalski was deep into her associate degree program at Pueblo Community College to become an occupational therapy assistant, she began taking jewelry-making courses in her spare time to improve her craft.

Grasping those skills has allowed her to create an assortment of items with a wide variety of materials, not all of which are morbid or symbolic of death.

Her popular Etsy webpage, where she sells her wares online, contains over 200 items, ranging from snake scale pendants and wasp nest necklaces all the way to the more classic jewelry staples created with precious metals and gemstones.

Kowalski said the process of designing jewelry has provided her with an outlet that immerses her so deeply it drowns out the repetitive thoughts and rhythms that constantly reverberate in her mind.

“I have OCD … and it turns out that this is so detailed and intricate that this drives that out,” she said. “So it’s kind of like a rest from the craziness.”

Despite just getting started in her blossoming career, the Virginia native is already making a name for herself in the world of jewelry design.

Her work has been worn by characters on the television shows “The Originals,” ”The Vampire Diaries,” ”Stitchers” and, most recently, “The Fosters,” and an ornate pendant she made from a gopher pelvis, a butterfly wing and the foot of a finch made an appearance in the 2016 edition of “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!”

Kowalski’s work was recognized last month by the Women’s Jewelry Association during its 2017 Awards for Excellence Gala in Poughkeepsie, New York. The organization awarded Kowalski a $5,000 grant to continue building her burgeoning business.

Kowalski said she will use the money to take more jewelry courses at PCC, as well as to invest in equipment that will help her craft her designs.

Her biggest goal, however, is to someday combine her two passions of jewelry making and occupational therapy.

“I want to teach kids who are not able to go to traditional schools because they either have autism or for whatever reason…,” she said.

“They don’t have as many opportunities to socialize or learn appropriate social behavior… So that’s going to teach them things like fine motor skills, taking turns and color differentiation. They’re going to strengthen their hands some on the outside, so that’s what they’re going to see themselves learning, but I’m also going to work on behavioral things, like learning to control yourself and self-regulation.”

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Information from: The Pueblo Chieftain, https://www.chieftain.com

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