We met up with Kristie Grimble of Khaos by Design to talk about jewelry, rust, bones, wolves, and the chaotic nature of her art.
How long has Khaos by Design been going on?
I think it’s been eight years ago. I just started making hair accessories. I always used bone, but I started getting into more high end stuff, like necklaces and taxidermy jewelry. Now I’m doing a lot of metalsmithing.
How long have you been metalsmithing?
Since I moved into the studio, so about a year. Adam Doomkey helped me out a lot. He was a metalsmithing genius and very talented. When we got the space here he started to introduce me to stuff, and I’ve been going ever since. I have Asla Radwick in here from Gruntwerk as well. She’s really talented, so I have to step it up.
How did you first get into bone jewelry?
My brother and I always grew up in the woods. So we had a lot of dead animals and bones around. I started wearing it myself, and people decided they wanted to wear it and started to give me money. Then I decided I should start to get good at this.
How do you treat the bones?
They’re all naturally cleaned. I have carrion beetles so I will put the bones in their tank and they clean them very nicely for me. I do a peroxide soak to sanitize them a bit, then I sun bleach them. I don’t use any chemicals to bleach the bone; it compromises the integrity of the bone much later. I try to do it as naturally as possible.
Was that a trial by error process?
No, I kind of always did it that way. I always tried to do it naturally. I’m a big fan of rot boxes, which are basically a milk crate with mesh around it. Bugs can get in but nothing can get it out. They smell horrendous, its really sexy.
How long does it take to treat the bones?
It depends on the size of the game. A squirrel takes a couple of days. My beetles can take down a deer in a couple of weeks if I cut it up. From there, drying it out and boraxing it and getting it nice and dry, then whatever the jewelry is. Depending on the size, about one to two weeks.
Do you have a favorite medium to work with?
My main mediums are bone and metal. I like the naturalistic elements of bone, and I’m an industrial girl from way back so I love the look of rusty metal. When I started making jewelry I used to joke ‘If my jewelry gives you tetanus, then I’m doing it right’. I just love that dirty, metal, rusty, apocalyptic look.
I saw a lot of wolf bones in your earlier designs.
I haven’t done wolves teeth in about a year. I used to raise wolves when I was a kid. We lived in the country and bred wolves. So when they would pass away I would take their carcasses and break them down. I still have a bunch of wolves bones for my own stuff.
Why did you raise wolves?
Because of my mother. She really liked wolves, and thought she was Native American for a few years. She got a breeding pair of timber wolves. She started breeding them and selling the pups.
Have you ever created something and not want to get rid of it?
Yes. The jewelry not so much, because I don’t wear jewelry at all. I wear weights but that’s about it. My mixed media I don’t sell. I did once. A very good friend of mine from back in the day had two birds that he found in a flew. They were perfectly mummified; they were absolutely gorgeous. I put one in a bird cage and preserved it, and made it super fucking cool. It had all of these mirrors and weird shit going on in it. The other one I welded to a gate looking thing that had other bones and baby doll heads. My buddy that works at the Theater Bizarre in Detroit bought it from me for like $500. Now its mounted in their Halloween set up. I would pay $1000 to get it back. He can’t believe I want it back; its seen by thousands of people. Its been gone five years, and I still think about it. I want it back so much.
I get really attached to my mixed media as well as my placenta pieces.
How did you figure out how to do placenta art?
It’s all research. It started out because a very close friend of mine had a baby and gave me her placenta…
Did you have an idea in your head already, or did she just give it to you?
I kind of had an idea and asked if I could use it. I put it in the freezer and it just hit me one day. I wanted to preserve it so you could actually see it. I’d have never seen that before and I really appreciate organs. I looked it up and figured out how to get a preservative recipe. I used my own recipe but it has a couple things in it, including formaldehyde. I loved it.
It was actually on my kitchen table for about three years, people would come over for dinner parties and I would have a PlaCenter piece in the middle of the table. They would be eating and it would dawn on them. I haven’t had anyone gag or anything. I think they aren’t even fazed by the fact that that’s in my house. Every time my friend’s daughter has a birthday we celebrate the placentas birthday too.
Other friends have given me theirs and we do the same thing with it. Now people have me make artwork with their placentas.
You use a lot of dolls in your art work as well.
I have always worked with dolls. They’re my muse. Children, and the death of children, are all my shit. Which is funny because I’m petrified of children. It’s kind of weird that a lot of my pieces are based off of children’s toys, and clothes and dolls. Dolls and religion have been big in my art. Anything really creepy and sacrilegious I am really into.
Where did you get the name Khaos by Design?
Because I am a hurricane. And pure chaos most of the time. It’s how I am, and I make it work. There is organization in the chaos. My work space is a complete disaster, and my house is a complete disaster. But when I’m in the zone, it’s like when people see math problems across their face on TV. Everything can be happening around me, but the world kind of slows. It’s all chaos, but I’m designed this way.