Exploring Materials in Jewelry Art with Katherine Allen, Eliana Arenas, and Pam Wittfeld

By Kate Nation

Katherine Allen, Eliana Arenas, and Pam Wittfeld are Charlotte-based artists whose art residencies at McColl Center for Art + Innovation focused on objects of adornment. 

A shared passion for creating visual interest through manipulating materials results in three distinct bodies of work. Allen, a 2013 Alumna Gail Peacock CMS Art Teacher-in-Residence, works with association between shapes and materials to suggest organic objects.  Arenas, a 2011 Alumna Artist-in-Residence, focuses on transforming nontraditional materials into conceptual jewelry. Wittfeld, a 2005 Alumna Art Teacher-in-Residence, concentrates on developing texture and pattern through the use of metal clay. 

What drew you to jewelry?

KATHERINE ALLEN: In college I realized I really enjoy sculpture. A lack of space led me to consider jewelry. I could make tiny, wearable sculptures.

Katherine Allen in her McColl Center Studio

Jewelry by Katherine Allen

ELIANA ARENAS: The idea that jewelry can be an art form and it can be made out of any material that you can possibly imagine. Any material is a possibility in jewelry making.

PAM WITTFELD: I was introduced to jewelry at Florida State in the 60s. In the mid-90s my desire to make jewelry was reignited when a visiting artist asked me what I was doing creatively, for myself. 

What are your favorite materials to work with?

KATHERINE ALLEN: Copper. I can achieve a wide range of patinas and surface colors with this metal. I like the warmth it has with age and that it works well with natural materials.

ELIANA ARENAS: Paper, paint, and metal. I love combining these materials to create art jewelry.

Eliana Arenas working in her McColl Center Studio

Jewelry by Eliana Arenas

PAM WITTFELD: I like to explore different materials with a focus on textures and patterns but you will usually find me working with some type of metal.

What did your art residency at McColl Center offer to your process?

KATHERINE ALLEN: Being able to dedicate three months to my work. It encouraged me to be more active in my studio.

ELIANA ARENAS: My residency at McColl Center helped me feel welcome in Charlotte. My husband Michael O'Neill and I had just moved here a couple of months before I started. It changed my work. During my time at the Center I created a series of installation pieces that has led to the creation of sculptural work.

PAM WITTFELD: Having the time and space to experiment with one material. I also found being immersed in a studio setting with other artists very valuable.

Pam Wittfeld working in her McColl Center Studio

Jewelry by Pam Wittfeld

What are you currently working on? 

KATHERINE ALLEN: I just finished some pieces that are based on shapes I have explored in the past, but in a blackened copper with a Sgraffito technique in white paint.

ELIANA ARENAS: I am currently developing a new line of jewelry made out of metal, paper, and powder coating. The new body of work plays with pattern and geometry. It’s not completely different from past projects; everything I create is related. 

PAM WITTFELD: I’m working with fine silver and metal clay. I started working with metal clay during my residency at McColl Center and have continued experimenting with it. I’m also using repurposed lithograph steel and found objects. In the future, I want to further explore enamels.

Come see the jewelry art of Katherine Allen, Eliana Arenas, and Pam Wittfeld—along with the jewelry creations of many more regional artists—at our Open House + Jewelry Jubilee on Friday, November 20, 2015 from 6-9 PM here at McColl Center. There will also be live music by Miami Dice, artist-inspired bites provided by Xenia Hospitality, a cash bar. More info here.