The two women have worked together since 1985, first creating jewelry to sell to Thalhimer’s and Miller and Rhoads. Their designs of intricate, stylized pins and precious-metal pieces gained a national reputation and their work was chosen for museums, private collections and galleries across the country. They shifted toward more manageable creations over the past three years, getting a big order for ornaments from venerable home fashion retailer ABC Carpet & Home in New York in 2001. Their work was featured on the White House Christmas tree during the Clinton years, and has been written about in national publications.
This particular phase of their work started with an art class at a local school. “I went in to do a project for Crestview Elementary,” Kranitzky recalls, “and after that was over, Kim and I looked at the ornaments and decided to keep doing them, making them more sophisticated and embellishing them in different ways.”
They built upon their concept by adding different characters to their assembly line. “One idea sparks another,” Overstreet says, “and we always talk about ideas together. Sometimes it might be an accident that we laugh about, and then we work up a sample.” They turn antique dominoes into figures, and wrap packages for them to hold and gingerbread men of clay for them to eat. Spice balls, rolled in herbs, become little round boys when they get little round faces.
Surrounded by photos and drawings of work that inspires or amuses them, Kranitzky and Overstreet pull out small drills, sanders and files to shape their creations. Then they decorate each piece by hand, adding festive costumes and accessories. Finally, using nontoxic paints, they brush on little eyeballs and smiles. Some are innocent, others slightly mischievous.
“Quality is important to us,” Kranitzky says. “We’ve tried to take our time with each one. And we want to make these pieces light enough to hang on the tree without pulling it down.” They choose lightweight materials such as balsa wood and foam and are constantly experimenting with new twists on their merry themes.
It seems a fanciful existence, laughing about a jaunty feather headdress on a tin woman’s head while working alongside an equally meticulous friend in a sunny, music-filled room. The two artisans often emerge at the end of the day daubed with paint and glitter, never quite sure what will happen in the studio once they’ve closed up for the night. HS
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