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Artist Interview – McKenzie Mendel

Jewelry designer McKenzie Mendel manipulates metal to make elegantly simple earrings, rings and necklaces made for everyday wear. If you have the opportunity to meet McKenzie you’ll quickly discover she has a soothing voice and a calm energy that instantly puts you at ease. Her studio is in Bend, Oregon where she works with her retired Greyhound Hotwire. Before we get to the interview with McKenzie, here’s a look into her studio:

Jewelry designer McKenzie Mendel with her Greyhound Hotwire

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in Bend, Oregon and spent my childhood traveling and being outside. I think this is what has given me an appreciation for different cultures and being immersed in nature. I attended the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia where I earned a Bachelors in Fine Arts in Metals and Jewelry Design. Afterwards I drove back to Oregon with my now husband and settled back in Bend. I love Bend because of the community here. We are surrounded by so much beauty that is so accessible. It’s hard not to be inspired.

Jewelry Designer McKenzie Mendel
Photo courtesy of Photography in Bend

When did you first discover you were an artist? How did you decide to become a jewelry designer?

I kind of naturally fell in love with art over years of creating things here and there. I think my mother knew I would be an artist before I did. My elementary school was taught by free spirited people that took pride in self expression. 1st to 5th grade for me was all about singing, dancing, and craft time. The rest of my primary schooling was much more strict but I found a way to take an art class whenever I could. When I first looked at colleges I thought I wanted to study interior design. That changed when I toured the SCAD jewelry department for fun. The passion the professors had for metals and the admiration for their students made me want to pursue jewelry. It is amazing that someone who has been working with metal for 20 plus years can be fascinated by the work of someone who has only been making for a couple of months. Metal is amazing in that there have been techniques around for hundreds of years that we are still using and even modifying today and processes that are still being discovered. It is an ever changing and growing field.

Jewelry Designer McKenzie Mendel necklace

What are your major influences?

I am mainly influenced by nature and the people that are close to me. I love using texture in my pieces. Most of the textures I create on the metal were inspired from simple things found in nature such as a rock wall or even a tree, from there I translate that image to a metal surface. The best way I have found to come up with designs when I am not feeling very inspired is to think of what my friends or family would wear.

Jewelry Designer McKenzie Mendel ring

You use the technique keum boo in some of your work, how did you discover this technique?

Keum boo shows up in almost all of my work. This technique was one that I studied and tried out on a couple of pieces during college. The more I used it the better I became and now it is one of my favorite processes. Keum boo is an ancient Korean technique of taking a very thin sheet of fine gold and applying it to a metal surface with just heat. I use it because I can achieve a rich gold surface on silver creating two toned pieces.

Jewelry Designer McKenzie Mendel Gold Dust Earrings

Who would you most like to see wearing your jewelry?

One of the best things about what I do is see people around my hometown of Bend wearing my jewelry. It is so much fun talking to people that I’ve never met before and didn’t even know had purchased a piece I made. I want my work to make women feel beautiful. I am creating my work for women who want jewelry they can wear everyday for years to come that doesn’t come and go with trends as a fad.

Jewelry Designer McKenzie Mendel Radiant Earrings

What are you working on or thinking about now?

Right now I am working on my Fall Line. I create new lines twice a year. This way I can regularly introduce something fresh. I will also be unveiling a new website in the next couple of months so I am busy getting that ready.


Where can we find your jewelry?

You can find my work at Lumin Art Studios in Tumalo as well as:

The Feather’s Edge Finery…Bend, OR
Pomegranate Home and Garden…Bend, OR
Schoolhouse Electric…Portland, OR
Oceanic Arts…Newport, OR
Bespoke…Truckee, CA
Sage Gallery on Grant…Novato, CA
Essential Glass Works Gallery…Moscow, ID
Indulge Gallery…Sedona, AZ
Gertrude Zachary…Albuquerque, NM
The Art Stop…La Grange, IL
Art on the Side…Watkinsville, GA

Photo of the artist courtesy of Photography in Bend.

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