October 22, 2017
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Reawaken the Past

Artist gives new life to Karges Furniture pieces through jewelry
Becky Kiesel of Poseyville, Indiana, learned about Karges Furniture Company through interior design classes at Ivy Tech.

Becky Kiesel creates small treasures salvaged from part of Evansville’s history.

“Once I started making the jewelry, it just kind of evolved into finding different methods,” says Kiesel, who has made jewelry with pieces from Karges Furniture Company for the past 18 months. “I think the opportunity to own a piece of Evansville history is really unique."

She designs and sells jewelry made of repurposed brass furniture trim, leftover from the Evansville-based Karges Furniture Company. Karges was founded in 1886 and produced handcrafted, one-of-a-kind furniture. In 2014, the company partnered with Kindel Furniture in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the furniture is manufactured today. The former Evansville manufacturing site located at 1501 W. Maryland St., has a warehouse filled with boxes of milled wood, brass keys, and large and small escutcheons.

Escutcheons are flat metal pieces used to protect the wood around keyholes, or door handles. The brass pieces used by Karges, and now Kiesel, were imported from Ugolini Brass in Florence, Italy, which has been in business since the end of the 19th century. Kiesel uses the small pieces to create necklaces and bracelets. She began creating the jewelry when a friend brought her some of the brass pieces and asked her to create Christmas presents for relatives who had worked at Karges.

“It intrigued me enough that for the past year I’ve been coming in and just digging,” she says.

The former Karges building is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays for customers to purchase the left-behind furniture. She has sold numerous pieces since starting the line, with prices ranging from $35 to $75. Some necklaces and bracelets are companion pieces. She has shown her jewelry at a number of local art shows and recently opened an Etsy shop called RebeccaJKiesel.

Kiesel, who also does freelance interior design work, says she gained an appreciation of Karges design and quality when she took interior design classes at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana.

“It was just kind of a revelation that this place was here in Evansville,” says Kiesel.

Her “studio” is the dining room table in her Poseyville, Indiana, home, where she lives with her husband, Dennis, and two teenage sons. Her family has lived in the Posey County town for generations. Kiesel graduated from North Posey High School, where she was introduced to jewelry making by art instructor David Rodenberg, known in the Tri State area for his pottery. After high school, she attended Gem City College in Quincy, Illinois, and received a two-year degree.

Digging through boxes of brass has inspired a creative process, but Becky emphasized there is not an infinite supply of the small pieces she uses to create the jewelry.

“There’s not much left of the little stuff,” she says. “I do know that it is limited and that makes me realize one day it will run out. Variety is what I have in my favor right now.”

For more information about Becky Kiesel’s jewelry, email bjkiesel@twc.com or visit her Etsy shop at etsy.com/shop/RebeccaJKiesel.

Look for Becky Kiesel’s jewelry at these upcoming shows:
New Harmony, “Spring Fling,” Ribeyre Gym
March 19-20
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sun.

Red Lantern Gallery, located in the Red Wagon Restaurant, Poseyville
March 31
6 to 7:30 p.m. Thurs.

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