Busying oneself in a funky box that is dedicated to crafting can be seen as an indulgence, a place where creative expression might advance a mere hobby. However, for Kate Luchini and Tim Hansen, who have worked in the arts for many years, their new studio is an experiment in the next chapter of their artistic journey. It’s a playful, sunny space where this bestie duo flex their creative muscles.
Recently featured as one of Northshore magazine’s “Movers and Shakers,” Luchini has an arts resume a mile long. After studying traditional blacksmithing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, her next phase as a museum professional gave her access to collections that ranged from medieval to modern. This former director of the Lynn Museum has also worked as an educator at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) and as director of the Studio for Experiential Learning at Montserrat College of Art. She remains active with the Downtown Lynn Cultural District. At 47, Luchini is known as a maker of connections and happenings, but is also into artmaking, putting her sculpture degree to use.
Deep in the labyrinthine heart of Lynn’s historic Lydia Pinkham Building, Luchini and Hansen, 55, are hammering and firing copper to renew the craft of enameling, a process that fuses glass powder to metal in a kiln fired to over a thousand degrees. Engaging experimentation, failure, and laughter as necessary ingredients, these two are forging a time-honored tradition that goes back to the Egyptians and was once used for everything from tableware to traffic lights.
Enameling is soft to the touch and warm to the skin, but only after it’s been abused. Think old door knocker that’s been repeatedly touched by greasy hands. “That’s what we try to do,” explains Hansen. “We crush it. We bang it.”
The handcrafted necklaces, which can be found at the PEM gift shop, are delicate or bold and provocative. A balance of raw and refined, the pieces are like their creators. They seem to have been here a while, bearing a patina and a hidden story.
The studio is a light and airy space, chiseled from the grim den the duo first found in 2014. Duke, the gentle golden retriever, roams between the two artists, who met years ago through an educational program at PEM that Luchini ran, and in which Hansen’s son was a standout participant.
The Lydia Pinkham Building is named after Lynn’s shrewd 19th-century businesswoman who bottled and sold sought-after home remedies. Within the twists and turns of the industrial hallways is Soul City yoga studio, The Clay School, and a number of busy artists, ranging from wedding photographers to fetish leather workers.
“What struck us was that it was truly a light at the end of a dark hallway, so that no one would find us,” Hansen says. On a cold and bright day, the studio is flooded with natural light. The space gives away Hansen’s career as a former set designer from the advertising world in New York, styling interiors for commercials and catalogs. A wall bears an array of surprisingly attractive hammers and mallets. Huge block prints display giant blackbirds as well as other designs. A happy geranium is propped on the table where the two share homemade lunches. Each has brought a colorful vintage toy truck from childhood to occupy the bleached white windowsills. “We discovered we had good synergy and the same aesthetic,” says Luchini.
It’s sort of like a reality TV show as the two accomplished artists step into uncharted waters and teach themselves new moves, all while trying to maintain a long and dear friendship. Grownups with multiple lives between them shed their egos as they dedicate precious time to creative play, seeking to enlarge their jewelry prototypes to full-blown housewares, light fixtures, mobiles, and wall hangings. At the moment, they’re developing enamel tile backsplashes for kitchens and baths in an endless palette of colors, showing off the varied qualities of enamel.
The two artists tend to bypass the crowded jewelry shows, choosing these days to make larger, individualized pieces, sending prototypes all over the world. Hansen says of a piece that resembles a birch branch, “It’s going to be a bracelet, but it’s also going to be a sconce.”
The idea is to develop handmade pieces that combine the color and luster of traditional enamels with updated, modern forms. “Tim and I are obsessed with interiors and design for the home,” says Luchini. “Our inspiration ranges from natural, rustic elements to brighter graphic elements that echo pop art and mid-century design.”
Can copper “paper” airplanes handcrafted for delicate necklaces scale to a giant mobile that will sell? Will shadow boxes containing large clusters of shells, each hand-formed from copper and hand-enameled, be bought in bulk by the designers of a new Four Seasons going up in Croatia? If so, the Luchini and Hansen will have to hammer and fire 5,000 pieces from the small Lynn studio.
Will it work? Stay tuned. Will the journey be fun along the way? Definitely.
271 Western Ave., Studio #313C, Lynn