WOLFEBORO — Jennifer Kalled, today, owns a destination jewelry and art gallery that draws people from many miles away to come see her jewelry. It has taken years of work, though, to establish herself as an artist customers will travel to see.
As she was putting in that work, the world around her was changing. Now, about 40 years into her career and nearly 20 years after opening the Kalled Gallery, the world’s tastes have evolved to catch up to hers.
Kalled, born and raised in Wolfeboro, went to Arizona to study metalworking. While there, she also picked up an affection for colored stones, such as turquoise. But it was a couple of decades later that she encountered the stone, opal, that is now such a part of her artistic identity.
She was attending a gem show in Marlborough, Massachusetts, in the 1990s, when she first saw Australian opals, and was smitten by the vibrance and range of colors that the stone could exhibit. A few years later, in 2000, she opened the Kalled Gallery in Wolfeboro and began to develop and establish her brand of opal jewelry.
“I’ve had a history of selling at craft shows and art shows in the 70s up until now,” she said. Kalled used to do as many as two craft or art shows each month, now she only does three art shows each year, because her gallery is keeping her too busy.
She made herself known as an opal jewelry artist during the same period that American jewelry consumers were beginning to appreciate the stone. And during that same trend, the general jewelry market was becoming more “homogenized,” she said, with corporate, mass-market jewelers becoming the norm. As fewer boutique shops remain, their product becomes more compelling.
Kalled said that her shop, which features her own as well as the work of many other artists, is distinct in the marketplace.
“I think, as the homogenization has happened – you can go to any city, New York, Amsterdam,” and find the same pieces, she said, “The appetite of the average person doesn’t stand for that. We stand out as something unique, they can purchase something that is unique.”
“We have more than 200 artists who are small studio artists – that comes through, that hands-on intimacy,” she said.
Kalled’s work, which is sometimes described as evoking the paintings of Gustav Klimt, couldn’t be mass-produced because of the nature of the stone she works with. Every stone has its own properties, which she seeks to use in her design of each piece. When designing her pieces, she communes with the materials in a way that borders on the spiritual.
“Gold, any metal that I work with, has properties of its own. A stone has its own properties and it informs you. You’ve got a stone, you’ve got metal, and me, you’ve got a trinity right there.”
This year, her connection to the stone – and its supplier – became even more intimate. For 20 years, she purchased her opal from a man working in Australia named Bill Kasso.
“Five years ago, we started dating, and we got married in April – so I married my opal miner,” she said with a laugh.
Through Kasso, Kalled has been able to see for herself how the opal makes its way from the earth into her shop. That experience has given her a new appreciation for each piece of the precious stone, which she first encountered at that gem show 20 years ago.
“There are no two opals alike,” Kalled said. “They have so much to say.”