The Illuminist | Jeneca Klausen
Strange things happen when you visit the home studio of jewelry designer Jeneca Klausen. The old Victorian she shares with her two boyfriends (one being a cuddly black cat named Vinny Vincent) in Saint John, New Brunswick could easily be mistaken for some kind of mini observatory. Found objects, artwork and tiny trinkets occupy the apartment’s every nook and cranny. It makes sense that walls are the crispest of whites, as the designer grew up around galleries and has since come to sell her own work through the local artspot, Handworks.
There’s an intimacy involved in the layout of this home. It’s carefully curated and revealing– the authentic crystal ball positioned by the mantel; fairy colored gemstones scattered on window sills; an old rusted horseshoe, the lone wolf of the bedroom’s minimalist décor. Everything is strategically placed; everything has a story. And so, this is far from Pinterest-inspired.
I notice the small glass box on a desk by the entryway. It’s filled with tiny animal bones, and Jeneca immediately plunges into her fascination with anatomy: “A couple of years ago I got really obsessed with studying the structure of animals, and in turn, became interested in taxidermy. I went to The New Brunswick Museum every week for months to study and observe things like dead birds, butterflies… stuff like that. I ended up not pursuing taxidermy professionally or for art, but the up-close study of such delicate creatures was incredible. I should also note that all of the materials I use are ethically sourced.”
Which leads to what could only be inevitable: would I like to see the collection of dead birds in her freezer. Curious but admittedly uneasy, I say “READY”, and Jeneca uncovers a carefully wrapped shoebox containing 7 creature corpses. The birds are stunning visions of what once was– varying colors and miniature talons, a reminder of Mother Nature’s pen. “I came across all of them by chance, of course, but most of them were found within a small frame of time, which is a little spooky. I was like the dead bird whisperer or something,” she says. I ask her if she uses her birds for inspiration in her work, but she shakes her head, saying they only come out when people ask to see them.
Jeneca is one amongst a small but mighty posse of Saint John creatives who’ve made the conscious decision to forgo the larger city draw in favor of life on the east coast. The boom consists of uptown filmmakers, architects, writers and fine artists who are taking an active stance towards growth and development in a city that is too often dismissed. (a conversation to further explore, hmm!) The movement is inspiring, and the community bond is tight–– and for artists like Jeneca, this is a place where her profession is her passion, and thus, makes for a viable life.
Read on as I chat with Jeneca about her work, weird quirks, and her favourite things:
What are you up to?
I’m creating a pretty new website with an online store, which should be ready next month. I’m also working towards building a production line.
What are your current transfixions?
I’ve been exploring the use of colour in my work by relying on objects other than, say, gemstones. Experimenting with things like plastic, dye, and textiles makes for an interesting challenge and process.
I also like the idea of mixing nature with man-made– the juxtapositioning of natural and unnatural. I’m also really into crystal growing kits, mediumship, symbols, and Emma Kunz.
Why do you live where you do?
I grew up here in Saint John. My family is here, my friends are here, and it’s just home for me. I like being by the ocean and the fog, and having plenty of wooded areas to pick from. This is also a place where I’m able to live as a full-time creator– mind you, very simply.
Name something that you consider a mindbending work of art.
The spider web drawings by Vija Celmis.
What’s a piece of advice you should have taken but did not.
My dad always told me love is a decision. I should have listened to him.
What are 3 things people don’t know about you?
I’ve had several dead birds in my freezer for over 10 years; I have a cat with no face…. kinda; and I collect my boyfriend’s bellybutton lint and put it in a little drawer in my bathroom.
Favourite materials to work with?
Crystals, minerals, gemestones, bone, gold– all ethically sourced.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Nature-like, dangly, magical, asymmetrical, organic, sensitive.
What’s most important to you?
As as an artist who makes jewelry, what’s your connection to fa-fa-fashion?
I’m fascinated by fashion and I love the way it challenges my personal aesthetic. Fashion and jewelry are together forever– both of them very empowering. Trends are very present and important. Jewelry, to me, is something a bit different in that it’s more about connecting personally– little whispers of subtle identity. Delicate lines and the space between the jewelry and the wearer connects them to the earth and the unknown, in a way.
I’m always intrigued with not knowing why I like something. Certain things speak to you for no real reason, and that’s okay. It’s like a little reminder that there is so much going on in the world that we don’t see.
Describe yourself as a child.
My mother tells me I was very serious and had the attention span of a sieve. I am an only child. I took ballet and gymnastics, coloured, drew, changed my room around a lot. My mother and father took me with them on roadtrips and camping. I had the most fun going to rocky, out-of-the-way beaches where I could collect rocks to take home and tumble, and eventually wear.
How long have you been designing?
1993-ish or before?
How do you approach a project?
Collections usually start with me wanting to try to figure something out either physically or mentally or trend-wise; or just wanting to research something I’m intrigued with.
Who is one person who inspires you?
Monica Adair of Acre Architects. She’s a Saint John girl with amazing dreams and BIG ideas, and is executing them right here in our province– not for the faint of heart!
For more about Jeneca and her creations, check out her Facebook page and shop her website here.