Coast designer earns Guggenheim recognition

Karen Konzuk

An award-winning Sunshine Coast jewelry studio is among a small number of designers whose work has been chosen to accompany a current exhibition of the work of a celebrated Swedish artist at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. 

The work of Karen Konzuk, of Konzuk Studio in Pender Harbour, along with that of eight other predominantly female international artisans, will be featured at the Guggenheim’s store in tandem with an exhibition of works by Hilma af Klint, a pioneering abstract artist from the early 1900s. 

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“It’s very much an honour and very exciting,” Konzuk said in an interview at her home studio at Daniel Point. 

Although af Klint’s futuristic body of work has not been widely recognized, Konzuk became aware of it while developing her recent collection, called Bloom. 

“I was trying to choose colours for this Bloom collection and I stumbled across some of her paintings,” said Konzuk. “That’s what I was inspired by.” 

Konzuk’s distinctive jewelry has been honoured by with awards from B.C. to New York, London and Italy. It has also been a staple at several museum stores across North America for some time, including the Guggenheim’s. But it was a chance meeting at a trade show in New York where the connection to the af Klint show was sealed. 

“The Guggenheim buyers happened to be browsing there and saw my collection. I’d actually been selling to them for a while, so we already had a good rapport,” Konzuk said. “They saw the collection, saw all the bright colours and the floral motifs based on circles – which are kind of my obsession. Af Klint explored them in her motifs as well.” 

Konzuk’s jewelry reflects the geometric shapes and palette of the natural world. Much of her work is in stainless steel and dyed concrete, which is increasingly used in modern jewelry design around the world. “Wearable architecture,” is how one design magazine described her work, although while materially correct, the term doesn’t do justice to the inherent warmth of her creations. 

“My goal is for others to share an appreciation for the beauty and intrigue of industrial materials in jewelry design,” Konzuk says on her website. 

She hand makes each piece in her cellar studio with tools she’s had specially forged to accomplish the painstaking task. During our interview, she was welding Bauhaus-inspired earrings made from stainless steel and blackened concrete sprinkled with diamond dust. 

Husband Dwayne Dobson has his own workspace upstairs in the house they built and moved to from Calgary with their infant daughter in 2011. Dobson has been a successful graphic designing entrepreneur in his own right, and currently works full-time on marketing and communications for Konzuk Studio. 

“He’s been a huge part of my company and growth,” said the Ontario-raised Konzuk, who met Dobson while they both attended the Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design University. “It’s much more of a partnership than just me solely doing this.” 

It’s a successful business, but now mid-career, Konzuk admitted it still takes a lot of work: “I’m the designer, the producer, the accountant, the sales person …” 

“And the mom,” Dobson added.

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