The ongoing revitalization of the Wood Street neighborhood takes another step forward Friday with the opening of a new jewelry gallery that brings a unique style to the Bristol arts scene.
Kendall Reiss Gallery & Studio officially opens to the public in its new location at 467 Wood St. during a grand opening Friday, during which visitors are welcome to browse the highlighted collection and get a sneak peek at upcoming projects.
The studio has actually been in operation for five years, the last two-and-a-half in the Bristol Industrial Park just across the street. After the former Bristol Products binding and laminating company closed up shop in the space in January, artist Kendall Reiss saw an opportunity to expand her gallery, and remain part of a growing arts movement in Bristol and a revitalized business community on Wood Street.
“I believe in the arts in Bristol,” Ms. Reiss said Tuesday as she made final preparations ahead of Friday’s opening. “Wood Street is attracting more and more people. You can see little improvements here and there. I thought this could be part of that; maybe be a little gem.”
Ms. Reiss knows a gem when she sees one, and not just the diamonds, rubies and pearls that can be found in any jewelry shop. Having been educated as a geologist, she incorporates unique stones into her jewelry, from common ocean rocks and shells found on local beaches, to more exotic stones like snow agate, druzy quartz and Peruvian opal.
She brings a scientific mind to her artwork, often employing new techniques and experimenting with the way her materials naturally react to their environment. For instance, a copper-wire bird’s nest soaked in water from the bay and exposed to vinegar fumes oxidized and grew stalactites, transforming it from a shiny bauble into something darker and more foreboding with colorful growths known as verdigris, which give the viewer something more intriguing to look at.
“It sort of descends into this darker, black nest,” Ms. Reiss said, noting the ancient process was used to create pigments for artists as long ago as the 14th century. “I like the sort of funky, weird stuff, little bizarre things I find on the beach — stuff that’s different. I just like to experiment and create.”
Ms. Reiss’ creations range from a small white rock found on a local beach wrapped in a silver necklace chain, to a pair of earrings fashioned from porcupine quills and mink fur.
But not all the ideas for her work are hers alone. She also performs commission work to the client’s taste, encouraging guests to bring in old jewelry they’d like to repurpose, or browse through her card catalogue (literally) of stones and gems to find the perfect piece for her to create. Ms. Reiss encourages passers-by to stop in, browse around, or grab one of the books on the shelf and hang out in what she hopes becomes a gathering spot. She also plans to offer one-on-one tutoring sessions and small art workshops.
“Come in, hang out, read a book. I would love to have people just drop in,” Ms. Reiss said. “That inspires me. You can’t really be on your own; you need that community.”
The grand opening Friday is scheduled for 5-9 p.m. The studio does not yet have set hours of operation. Ms. Reiss will be there working on her pieces when she’s not teaching metalwork and jewel smithing at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.