Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 30th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Small Wonders

AE2_jewlNeenel Kharb’s jewelry puts pieces of the city and the sea in new Hands

When Plato famously declared that necessity is the mother of invention, he probably should have added another corollary: for some people, boredom can be the mother of creativity. At least that was the case for local jewelry designer Neenel Kharb, who first started creating her unique pieces, which are made almost entirely from found natural objects, because she really, really needed something to do. “I was living in this little A-frame hut at a permaculture site,” she recalls. This was while Kharb was earning her B.A. in the Community Studies program at UC Santa Cruz, where she focused especially on food, agriculture, and social justice. But while her stint in Marin helped teach her volumes about organic farming, it wasn’t exactly the most exciting time for her socially. “There’s nothing to do,” she says bluntly. “It was a totally desolate place.” What there was, however, was nature and solitude in abundance. “There were a lot of bird feathers everywhere, and these beautiful pine cones that would fall and look like roses. So I had all of this free time and all this access to nature. I would sit in this hut in the middle of the night and craft and experiment. This is what came out of that.”

AE2_jewlrysnap“This” is Kharb’s small but burgeoning jewelry design business, which she’s been cultivating ever since her graduation from UCSC nearly two years ago. Her work is currently on display at Idle Hands, a new clothing and accessories store on lower Pacific Avenue. She’s also a member of the Mira Art Collective, an online community of nearly 40 Santa Cruz-based artists; members post photos of their work, swap comments and critiques of each other’s newest pieces, and trade links on upcoming shows and other work that inspires them. Kharb recently added photos of her newest venture. “The collection I made now is called ‘Tsiegnka,’” she says, “Russian for Gypsy. It’s a mix of fabrics, feathers, and pine cones, all sorts of different textures, colors, and patterns.” She also uses bits of shell, leather scraps, wood and stone to make her pieces; she collects her raw materials during rambling walks by the ocean or in the forest. But her process is hardly planned or methodical: “I’m not like, ‘I need to find all these things to hoard from the forest,’” she explains. “I’m on an adventure, and if I find something beautiful that I like that I can use to make something, then I will. I like experimenting, just sitting and playing with different pieces and textures and seeing how I can combine them and create something.”

“I love crafting and working with my hands,” she continues. “I’ve been doing that ever since I remember.” But while her current work focuses heavily on influences from the natural world, her background was very different. Kharb grew up in Los Angeles, the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants. At 19, she started working with an L.A.-based clothing line; at one time, she thought she would study fashion design, or leave school entirely to go into business for herself. “But instead I chose to get my Bbachelor’s and move to Santa Cruz,” she says. “I wanted to focus on food and activism, my other passions.” Her work, she believes, is reflective of the contradictions between the environment she was raised in, and the influences she embraced in coming here: “In creating this jewelry, I combine two worlds—the urban L.A. lifestyle I grew up in, and then all of the natural beauty of this area,” Kharb explains. “I take pine cones out of their natural context and give them an urban edge,” she adds, laughing.

As a self-taught artist who is largely making a name for her work online, Kharb joins a burgeoning movement of young craftspeople who are using the Internet to bring their pieces directly to potential customers. She values the Mira Art Collective, as well as sites like Etsy, where she’s also a member, for their ability to show people the process and meaning behind a particular piece. She believes it’s one way for smaller local artists to distinguish themselves from mass-produced products. “If you’re making something like jewelry or T-shirts locally, then there are big corporations that can reproduce and sell that same image for way cheaper, sometimes even in the same store,” she says. But the motivations are different: “A lot of artists selling at a local, smaller scale primarily want to share their work with the community,” she explains, “and it becomes more difficult when there are products made in China that look almost exactly alike and cost half the price. But with the local piece, someone spent all this time on it creatively.” For Kharb, the decision to stay local is only natural.


Idle Hands is located at 805 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. For hours call 466-9305. Visit the Mira Art Collective online at miraart.ning.com. Neenel Kharb’s work can also be found at etsy.com.
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

Do you think you are addicted to technology?

Santa Cruz  |  Unemployed

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”