Meet the Maker: Jennifer Kahn, Jewelry Maker

Meet the Maker: Jennifer Kahn, Jewelry Maker

“I really loved the utilitarian side of things,” says Jennifer Kahn, sitting on a teal loveseat in her studio/retail space, surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of her popular jewelry creations, explaining how she got started in her craft. “And why not have the things that are in your day-to-day life, and right in front of you, be beautiful?”

Why not, indeed?

“I don't know why in me there was this desire to make a living from my hands,” she continues, explaining that she started as an English and art major at UVM, and, while she loved writing and poetry, she found she was increasingly attracted to art. “The art classes were small and intimate, and the teachers were kooky, and the people were interesting, so I felt like I finally found my niche there.”

She was attracted to jewelry, she says, because she liked working with small and detailed things. Precious Metal Clay (very small particles of metal such as silver, gold, bronze, or copper mixed with an organic binder and water for use in making jewelry, beads, and small sculptures) had been recently invented, and it turned out that one of the world’s most accomplished artists in the medium, Celie Fago, lived in Bethel, Vermont. So, in 2001, Jen convinced Fago to take her on as an apprentice and also a housemate, working under her for nine years, honing her craft.

She spent 16 years working to build her business through the Burlington Artist Market (unpredictable, cyclical, and painfully weather-dependent). Then, once she felt she knew what her customer base wanted, began steadily building a wholesale network up from 17 stores in 2014 to over 80 today (about half are in Vermont, “the other half are kind of random around”). She made the jump to a studio space (at the Soda Plant in Burlington) in 2018.

“As an entrepreneur,” she says, “it's very exciting and terrifying, but exciting to do every aspect of what you're passionate about.” Today she does that alongside “three amazing part-time production assistants” and, for the past three and a half years, her brother Jason, who runs the business side. This means, she says, “I can kind of be the CEO of my small company and keep planning ahead for the future and think more about it in terms of seasons and collections and be more organized, rather than how I was for so long, by the seat of my pants.”

Her jewelry has a distinctive, classic style that is somehow both dynamic and yet deeply grounded. And it exudes a feeling of quality handiwork. Jen says, “I call them modern relics. Kind of artifact-like, ancient-inspired but modernized—they're lightweight and yet very wearable. They're sterling and brass and copper and gold, so it's substantial… [customers] know that they're getting something that they can invest in and get the most wear out of and pass it down.

There are also some very rich themes that run through her work—chiefly circles. “How many times am I going to make a circle?” she laughs. “But there are infinite ways to—between repetition and texture and color and shape and combination. So I keep working with circles, I keep working with crescents. I am inspired by all things moon and the moon phases.”

This may be part of why she is also working more with stones and doing monthly collections based on birthstones. Which syncopates nicely with her attempts to find balance, to slow down. “I have, for the past few years, been trying to cycle my body, my life, and my business more in the phases of the moon,” she says. “My husband's also an entrepreneur, so we just are kind of always working. We don't take much downtime. And I'm realizing with the cycles of the moon, there is a time to rest. And it's so important to do that, in order to move forward.”

And moving forward, for Jen, means giving back. When Hurricane Irene hit in 2011 and devastated Johnson, Vermont (where she was living at the time), she made a Vermont pendant and raised $3,000 in flood relief. Then, in a strange twist, just as she was penning a chapter about her Vermont pendant in the book she is working on (“I have 22 years of tips to share with artists and entrepreneurs and mompreneurs”), the July floods hit. So she pulled the Vermont pendant back into action and raised over $15,000 for flood relief.

“It's what we can do, on whatever level one is operating,” she says. “And in Vermont, so many artists and businesses work that way. It's a way to heal your soul. I can feel my anxiety lessen a bit by just having stuff to do that I love to do. But I also think it's so important to give back and do my best with doing that.”

The Vermont Maker Project

Telling stories about makers across the state of Vermont. Stories and photos by StoryWorkz. Flannel by Vermont Flannel. Learn more at

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