SC jeweler takes risks and reaps national acclaim
From The Huffington Post
Article by Ashley Mason Brown
Greenville, South Carolina native Kate Furman remembers the day she first was introduced to metalsmithing. “I was interviewing for the Fine Arts Center program and was in their metals studio. There were really cool tools everywhere. When they asked me what class I wanted to take, I said this one.”
Spoiler alert-she was accepted into the program. Her skill blossomed there under the tutelage of renowned metalsmith Susan Willis who encouraged Kate to continue her education after highschool and pursue a BA in metalsmithing. Furman attended UGA’s metalsmithing program for four years and moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming afterward teaching at the local arts center and raft guiding on the side.
“I fell in love with Jackson and never thought I would leave but got into RISD which was a lifelong dream. Winston (her dog) and I moved to Providence, Rhode Island and I earned a Masters Degree from RISD. My favorite part of that was that I was taught by the people that I had been studying for the past 5 or so years.”
At RISD Kate was encouraged to think outside the box and mix the natural influences from Jackson Hole with metal elements to create wearable works of art. Furman’s original wood centric conceptual art style emerged from her time at Jackson Hole as a raft guide.
“Some people are still very confused by them, but it’s funny. People either love them or aren’t quite sure what to think. I apply to art exhibitions all over the country with those pieces.” These large, strong pieces of jewelry are laden with chain work and can be worn draped around the neck. They, much like Furman herself are unusual, thought provoking and enigmatic.
Furman’s smaller pieces of jewelry have found home in the southern trendy-chic boutiques such as Augusta 20. The smaller wearable pieces carry a visually apparent nature flashback as well including twig like bracelets, blue crab pendants and wood bark textured wedding bands made from golds, silvers and bronzes.
Her wearable jewelry line is a perfect representation of South Carolina’s married landscape as it meshes influence from the Upstate’s signature oak branches to Pawleys Island tide forgotten castaway sea shells. Furman’s casting process takes the original items from their home in nature and perfectly recreates each sea shell, pine cone, and broken twig into a everyday piece of metal art.
This two-tiered jewelry concept of producing both one of a kind conceptual jewelry as well as the wearable jewelry has allowed for her to grow her brand at a slow and steady pace. Some of her large conceptual pieces are in museums and shows world-wide. They’ve been in Australia, Netherlands and just recently shown in Boston. She shipped a few pieces overseas to the UK for a high end conceptual fashion shoot.
She’s even ventured into using 3-D printing technology to mass produce jewelry for her more budget conscious clients. By partnering with a local 3-D printer, Furman not only supports another local business, but also is able to communicate for freely with her supplier about the process and the quantity of work she needs in order to satisfy her demand.
Furman’s eyes are set to the horizon as she plans her next stage as an artist.
“I just bought a space on Pendleton Street that’s going to be a studio. Part of it will be retail with open hours and allow people to come visit me while I’m working and learn about the process and just hang out. Over time I’ll become more and more involved with the Greenville Center for Creative Arts as that program grows,” says Furman.
Her recognition in Greenville is growing after she was selected as a 2016 Emerging Artist Award Winner for Artisphere. Artisphere is a nationally renowned art festival held in Greenville, South Carolina’s welcoming and chic downtown. Furman competed with thousands of artist nation-wide for a spot in the line-up and received a tent where she could sell her work during the festival along with the honor of her award.
“It was one of the coolest weekends ever. I had so much support from family and friends and was able to meet many new artists and clients. I couldn’t even walk across my booth most of the time- it was so packed. It was a rewarding experience that I hope to be able to repeat again.”
Her business grows every year. “I have always known what I wanted and have done it, “ she says as she fidgets. “Look I can’t sit still! I like being back at home because I have support of everyone I grew up with. I try to bring a version of art that wasn’t here before. Beyond fashion jewelry is kind of new to Greenville. It’s fun to be a bit of a pioneer. “
Check out Kate’s jewelry here at www.katefurman.com