Kerri Shannon of KShan Jewels is an artist and a lifelong student. She is continually improving her art skills, studying different techniques and mediums as well as becoming educated in the business side of the art world. Kerri is also a student of life. She learns from life’s most difficult lessons and moves forward with self-knowledge, resiliency, and an inspiring positive attitude.
Kerri is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend and a teacher. She’s quick to share her experience and knowledge with other artists and help others learn. She culls support and inspiration for her jewelry design from her teachers, other artists and especially from her close relationships with her family.
She’s a hometown Madisonian but is drawn to the lights and buzz of New York City. Like any true Italian, she likes to eat spaghetti for breakfast.
Her 3-d metal fabrication includes techniques such as riveting, soldering, texturizing, reticulation, Keum-boo, forging and more. You can see by the dozens of tools in her art studio that she is meticulous, driven and dedicated to her work. The gorgeous jewelry she makes speaks for itself. Read more about Kerri in part of my interview with her:
Shop for Kerri’s jewelry on the Artery!
What advice would you give young artists?
I would advise young artists to get involved in local art groups. When you join the group, get on the committees, get on the board. You really get to know people well and the inner workings of non-profits. It’s fun! You get to know other artists and how you set up a show, and how you advertise and how you market. I was on the board at the Madison Art Guild. I was the secretary for 2 and a half years at the Art Guild. For 14 South Artists, I was co-chairman for the spring art shows. I also belong to (WAAC) Wisconsin Alliance of Artisan Crafts People. That’s another wonderful organization. And they have wonderful continuing education. All the groups do.
Also, I would advise that you should really try to get to a show before you apply to it to see if it’s the right venue for you. If you’re in the wrong venue, you’re not going to sell anything. See if it’s worth the effort and investment of your time and money.
Do you take your own photographs?
I have and my husband has taken some for the website. But for jurying purposes, I have them professionally photographed because it really makes the difference. You should get that done every 2 to 3 years.
I’ve been involved in art my whole life. I used to do pen and pencil sketches and watercolors. And I also used to sketch all the time when I was a kid. In high school is when I really got into it. And I took some art classes in college. I graduated in occupational therapy. I specialized in pediatrics, so I still did a lot of the art and hands-on type things in my therapy. Then you have that time when you’re getting married and having kids. Then I didn’t start doing a lot of art again until the kids were a little older. Then I start with one thing, the stained glass, then it moved into the beading. And then the glass beads and the fusing. And then I dabbled in other things too. Those are just the things that I spent quite a bit of time learning the skills of how to do them.
It’s just amazing. You think you’re just making your art, right? There are so many other things you need to know. As you get involved more and more, you have to learn the business aspects of it, the marketing aspects of it and the social media aspects. So at times, I do this full time and sometimes part time. I did 12 shows a year a couple years ago and that was pretty much full time. But then I got injured, so that slowed me down a little bit.
How do your life experiences affect your art?
When you talk about life experience, like when you go on vacation and you see some breathtaking scenery or you’re in the city and you see some beautiful buildings, those things inspire me and get me excited. They make me think “OK what can I do with that?” How can I reinterpret that into a 3-dimensional object or a piece of metal? And the support of your family is a really important factor in doing something like this. And also other artists inspire me. Seeing other people’s work and seeing what trends are happening. It’s inspiring to have those bonds with artists. It gets you motivate and your creative juices flowing. It’s the same thing with great teachers. I’ve had some great teachers at Bead and Button in Milwaukee, people that have written books. And you learn so much because they all have different techniques and styles and they’ve been doing it for 40 years. It just opens your eyes to all the possibilities.
I think an artist is someone who can look at some mundane an object, a leaf or whatever, and reinterpret it in a unique manner using whatever medium, paint, metal, even a poem, that other people can relate to. It’s someone who has an eye that looks at something in a unique way instead of mainstream. It’s just the way their brain works. That’s the difference between being a person who is an artist versus someone who just assembles jewelry. Anybody can go to Hobby Lobby and get the materials and instructions. That’s not an artist. That’s a person who enjoys doing crafts and someone who likes working with their hands. But that’s really not an artist unless they put some of their own style or perspective or interpretation into the work.
What have you observed about the Madison art scene or other Madison artists you have met?
Most of the artists I have met are very helpful toward each other, like giving advice on resources and what shows to do, where to buy materials, what clubs to belong to, marketing tools, photography, how to take credit cards, that kind of thing. I have learned so much from other artists. Madison is good in providing you great teachers and continuing education. They have a lot of really nice continuing education through UW and MATC.
Name 3 adjectives that describe your personality.
Energetic, creative and outgoing
What is your favorite beverage/food combination?
I could eat spaghetti every morning. I’m Italian. I love Italian food. I like spatini and spaghetti and if you pair that with a good wine. Also Ahi Tuna and white wine.
What makes you feel envy?
I try not to be envious of other people because everyone has their own issues. You think their lives are so much better is so much better than yours and then you find out that that’s not the case. My dad had a stroke several years and it just turned my life upside down. And I had to rethink things. So just be thankful for your health and your family and don’t take things for granted. Through life experiences, I have learned that you might see someone that has something you need or want, and then you find out that it’s all up here (points at her head). I try not to be envious because it’s kind of just a waste of energy.
What do you think your life will be like when you are 80 years old?
I will still be energetic and still creative and making my art and selling it. Just being healthy, happy and busy with family, friends and occupied.
What is your favorite place you have ever traveled?
The Cinque Terre in Italy. It’s a grouping of five small villages on the northern shores of the Mediterranean. I loved the lifestyle, the holiday. There’s no cell phones, no TV. It’s just family, and food and sun. And you relax and you just enjoy the moment. It’s absolutely gorgeous. And the history and the building are kind of tucked up into the hill. It’s amazing.
Do you believe there is life on other planets?
I probably do deep down, but it’s not like in our life form. They obviously have a different life form because they have different environment. There some kind of life form out there, but it’s not necessarily humanoid. There’s at least the possibility that there could be.
What is the most important lesson you have ever learned?
Like when you have an injury or somebody you love gets sick, you have to readjust your expectations. You have to reprioritize what’s important to you in order to negotiate the sadness, and then you have to get past that. Keeping an even keel is important. My art is very helpful in that.