Shana Kroiz views jewelry as a powerful tool for self-confidence. When you adorn yourself with jewelry, you tell a story about who you are, she says.
“I tell people that when you buy something of mine … I know this sounds crazy, but this will change your life,” said Kroiz, 54, a member of Beth Am. “People will talk to you differently. People will experience you in a different way.”
Kroiz, a Baltimore-based art jeweler for more than 25 years, believes in this goal — to enhance and tap into a person’s self-worth and individuality.
Kroiz’s pieces include sculptural necklaces, pendants and lariats hand carved from wax and decorated with poly-enamel. These works reflect her inspirations — natural curves embracing the sensuality of the feminine form and the vibrant colors of aquatic life.
“I find it interesting how powerful jewelry is,” she said.
Kroiz hopes to attract women seeking pieces that are “unapologetically saying, ‘It’s OK to be seen. I’m beautiful. I’m here, and I’m thoughtful about the way I present myself to the world.’”
Since first beginning in jewelry, Kroiz has had a storied career in Baltimore and beyond.
At age 22, she lobbied Maryland Institute College of Art to rethink its decision to end its jewelry program. These efforts led to Kroiz managing the institute’s jewelry center as a continuing studies certificate program for about 10 years.
She later helped create the nonprofit Baltimore Jewelry Center, where she still teaches.
Kroiz created recognition for herself when she appeared in the book “One of a Kind: American Art Jewelry Today” by Susan Grant Lewin. This appearance led to her jewelry pieces being included in the Museum of Art and Design in New York City. Since this time, several museums have featured her work.
Recently, Kroiz had 40 pieces pulled for a Gabrielle Union film, “The Perfect Find.” Although she doesn’t always get to go with her jewelry, Kroiz jokes that her work has traveled internationally.
Despite having a propensity for jewelry making, she first imagined herself working in the performing arts.
Growing up in Bolton Hill with a mother who went to MICA, Kroiz had always been interested in the arts. She wanted to be an actress, but she applied — and was accepted — to the art program at Baltimore School for the Arts.
By the time she was ready to go to Parsons School of Design in New York, sculpting had caught her eye. But her father persuaded her to choose what he deemed a more practical field of study.
“My father sort of felt like, you know, it’s very expensive to go to New York,” Kroiz said. “He felt like if I was going to do sculpture [and] be a starving artist, I should stay in Maryland.”
She chose jewelry, and “the stars were aligned,” she said.
Drawing was never her strength in design school, but she excelled at 3D-oriented projects. She also loved the technical aspects — orders of operation, stages and development.
Her jewelry-making process now includes electroform — a chemical electric reaction in which a wax and metal piece microscopically fuse together in a sulfuric acid bath. Essentially, she grows the metal over the wax and melts the wax out to form a hollow shell.
It takes about three to four days to build a 24-gauge metal shell in silver or copper.
“It’s teeny, tiny molecules that build the shape over many days,” she said.
Kroiz outsources her gold plating to a company in Arizona. She adds color with low-infused poly-enamel — a more flexible, lightweight and durable variety than glass.
Kroiz says her work usually speaks for itself, but with the need for more of an online presence during the COVID-19 pandemic, she turned to performing again. Anytime she would integrate her personal life and personality into her video presentations, she would receive a larger response than simply showing her work.
“I’ve had to learn to become an amazing saleslady, a model, a PR person, an artist, an art director and a teacher,” she said. “As the world changes, we just have to learn to do more things.”
Today, you can find Kroiz in her home studio and gallery in Mount Washington, where she lives with her family.
Her 20-year-old daughter is also an artist and recently started her own jewelry collection. She has her own bench in her mother’s studio space.
In addition to art pieces, Kroiz takes commissions, including updates to wedding rings and family jewelry, and offers a limited product line through her website, shanakroizjewelry.com.
Her next event will be the American Craft Council’s Made Marketplace. More than 350 jury-selected contemporary craft artists will descend upon the Baltimore Convention Center in person May 20-22 and online May 16-29.