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Artist Feature: Shelli Fenske

It may seem difficult to imagine that a thriving business creating original jewelry would have its roots in a childhood love of caring for horses on the edge of town, but Shelli Fenske credits growing up in Marion, ND, with the inspiration for the bulk of her unique and original designs.

“I love working with wire,” Shelli laughs as she carefully untangles a new batch of wire-wrapped necklace and pendant sets. “I have always loved the outdoors and designing and arranging and organizing. My dad owned the gas station and I would clean up the tool bench and align all the sets of tools by size. All that organizational technique fits perfectly with jewelry, because you put all these little pieces together into a composition. And I was the kid in the family that would go out in the pasture and help my dad fix fences, learning how to tighten up the electric fence. When I work on wire wraps it brings me back to my childhood. They were such happy times. I have always loved the outdoors and the warm colors of the landscape. I loved working in the flowerbeds, rearranging the perennials and adding rock gardens to the parts of the yard where the grass wouldn’t grow. ”

“I keep going back to what I initially liked as a kid. I always feel like I am coming full circle.” – Shelli Fenske

Shelli also credits her unique combinations and sensitivity to color to her childhood as well, the natural tones and warm feel of her pieces reflecting what she experienced as her family traveled around the western part of the state.

“Visitors to the art shows I participated in appreciated the variety of pieces I had created. I enjoy creating different looks. But there is so much variety reflected in the outdoors. There isn’t an end to it,” she says.

Shelli Fenske

As a recently retired art teacher from the DilworthGlyndon-Felton high school, Shelli is trained and skilled in a variety of art mediums. However, while her heart is in her jewelry, her second favorite art venture is her original, mixed-media works.

Shelli gestures to her piece “Manipulated Palpitations” on display at Gallery 4 in downtown Fargo where she shows her work. “This piece is all about the valves in your heart, and the stints they can put in now. My dad died of a heart attack when I was 12, and my siblings both have had blockage in the same part of their hearts. But now there is so much that can be done. This piece is all about the worn interiors of our bodies, the stints that can hold arteries open, the rhythm of the heartbeat keeping us alive. How interconnected we are with nature, and how we are all so fragile.”

While the source of Shelli’s inspiration remains constant, its expression continually changes. “I am constantly making different pieces. I recently came across a lead strap for our horses that my dad braided when I was a kid, he used the four-strand braiding technique. I loved it, so I learned to four-strand braid and incorporated it into my jewelry. My thing is always trying new things,” she says cheerily

Shelli’s amazing wirework, sense of color, and deeply symbolic mixed-media pieces provide continuously new expressions of a lifetime of memories and uplifting self-acceptance.

Written by Brandi Malarkey

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