While artisans and vendors come from across the country for the annual Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, geometric jewelry designer Kristine Bolhuis is one artist who calls Ann Arbor home.
By Hailey Dukes
Featured photo by Boris Harss
As an Ann Arbor resident and University of Michigan alum, Kristine Bolhuis holds the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair as close to heart as her gorgeous jewelry pieces.
“The Ann Arbor Art Fair is now my hometown show,” she says. “I love how supportive the Ann Arborites are of the show both through volunteerism at the fairs and in attendance.”
Bolhuis is an independent jewelry maker, touting a variety of degrees that have contributed to her work and artistic perspective. Originally born in Holland, Michigan, the 47-year-old has spent years living, working and gaining education in the area. She holds a BA in the history of art from U-M, BFA in metals from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and MFA in metalsmithing from Cranbrook Academy of Art.
“I’ve always been interested in art and craft, for as long as I can remember,” says Bolhuis, whose first job after graduation was at 16 Hands, an Ann Arbor shop specializing in handmade objects.
Bolhuis says she had planned an academic career in art history and moved to Boston “on a whim.” There, she took an evening class in jewelry and metalsmithing.
“I was immediately hooked on the material and processes involved in metalworking. With the encouragement of my instructor, I ended up enrolling as a full-time student and pursued a degree in Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art,” she says. “It was an incredible experience. I completely shifted my focus to working on my own artwork rather than an academic career studying the work of others.”
Breaking out on her own, Bolhuis melded her educational background with her adventurous spirit and inner child to create her body of eye-catching jewelry. Bolhuis’ pieces bring concepts of old into a delicate, geometric and futuristic aesthetic. The kinetic creations conjure reminiscence of French jewelry innovators Van Cleef & Arpels for their unmistakable elegance and modifiable functionality.
“When I was a kid, I loved building with Tinker Toys or Lincoln Logs. The way I build my pieces is very much the same process,” Bolhuis says. “I forge small parts, then assemble them in various configurations. It is completely relaxing and enjoyable to me — a grown-up way of ‘playing’ I suppose.Because I incorporate moveable parts in my pieces, they are always offering some surprises. I can’t always predict how they will shift or transform when gravity affects them, and these kinds of surprises keeps it constantly interesting for me.”
Reflecting on ways her personality infiltrates her art, she says she’s the “classic introvert artist.”
“Spending time by myself in my studio thinking and working is one of my favorite things to do,” she says. “I don’t think I could make my time-consuming tedious work if I didn’t enjoy being alone in my studio.”
When the artisan joins the community for the annual art fair, she loves to talk with locals and visitors. Bolhuis, a veteran vendor, has attended the event since 2015.
“People often notice the sign in my booth that shows where we are from, and they realize I’m an Ann Arborite. They seem so happy to find someone local at the show! I do feel like the Townies show me a little extra love, which feels great,” she says.
She adds that she’s had wonderful experiences connecting with people at the fair.
“I’ve had women and couples look at my work a few times over the years. Eventually they walk into my booth and tell me how they’ve been thinking about a particular piece for months or years, and now it’s time to finally purchase and take it home,” she says. “Because my work takes a lot labor to make, it is not inexpensive. I am deeply touched when people plan and save up for one of my pieces.”
Through forging relationships near and far, Bolhuis has come to appreciate the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair in a profound way. In a setting that means so much to her, she is able to share her art year after year and network with industry professionals. She says it’s the people that keep her coming back.
“I sell a lot of work to people who live and work right here. We have a very educated audience when it comes to art and craft, and I am so thankful for that,” she says. “…I’ve sold pieces at the fair to people who take them back to Baltimore, Nebraska, New York City, even countries abroad. I love the thought of my jewelry jetting off with these people to far flung destinations.”
See Bolhuis’ one-of-a-kind creations at the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair July 19-22. Her booth will be located at booth #IN242.