Linda Kline and her expanding universe of art

Jewelry maker Linda Kline.

“When you are a talented person you can’t help but dabble, and reach out, and want to expand.”

Linda Kline knows whereof she speaks. The co-owner of Les Concierges of Vero Beach, a property management and event-planning company, she has been in the business of creative living for all of her adult life. A student of fashion both by nature and by nurture, she started Linda Kline Designs to market her own handcrafted jewelry over a dozen years ago.

Kline’s one-of-a-kind creations are influenced by the tropical environment of her home on Vero’s barrier island as well as trips to the rain forests of South America and the Caribbean. Her work -rings, bracelets, brooches, pendants and necklaces – juxtaposes natural objects, including slender coral branches, stick pearls and feathers, with sculpted silver elements that mimic nature: leaves, twigs, vines, flowers and frogs. Washes of gold and strategically placed gemstones further accent some of the pieces. Kline’s artistic endeavors also extend to sharing her jewelry making techniques with students and organizing small group tours to the jewelry and gemstone capitals of the world.

Kline, who says she “had a Bohemian streak in me from the get-go,” grew up on a small family-owned farm in Maryland. Her immediate family raised cattle; her aunts and uncles, who lived nearby, raised sheep and pigs.

She traces her artistic impulses to her mother, who was a free spirit with an eye for fashion and a self-taught flair for sewing. “She could make anything,” Kline says. As children, she and her sister would select the fashions they wanted to wear from the pages of magazines and catalogs and their mother would whip them up without benefit of a pattern.

“I mean, her work was couture,” says Kline. “So kind I grew up with that influence.”

Because her parents felt that she should “have something to fall back on,” when it came time for college Kline studied marketing and communications at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. She later studied fashion design for a brief period in Fort Lauderdale, but her interests “went all over the board” when she left for Key West to take a position as Marketing and Public Relations Director at Florida Keys Community College. She remained there for a dozen years in the late 1970s and ‘80s.

“It was a wonderful point in history to be there before it really got discovered, touristy.”

Perhaps it was the offbeat, artistic milieu of Key West that stimulated Kline’s interest in fashion in a place where formal dressing meant pairing a button-down shirt with a clean pair of Bermuda shorts.

She says that she would make herself “outrageous, wonderful outfits” to wear to opening nights at the community college’s Tennessee Williams Theatre.

To embellish her costumes she pursued bead working, assembled funky belt buckles from found objects and created her own line of hats that she christened Chapeaux à la Mode. The hats were well-received, by a public ready for fey, fun fashions. “I had trunk shows around the country with those,” she says.

Later, a job in marketing and sales with Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada (a resort and spa on the first key down from Key Largo) introduced her to an elderly metalsmith named Paul Underwood. During a n almost four-year apprenticeship with the craftsman, Kline learned how to fabricate silver and gold jewelry the old fashioned way, “using little hammers and saws,” she says.

Years later, when she began taking her own jewelry students on trips to study jewelry making in Europe, visits to a selection of old family-owned shops were part of the itinerary.

“They have this tradition of craftsmanship where you do start out doing the floors and the windows, and two years later they may allow you to pick up a hammer,” she says.

Like the apprentices of old, Kline polished a lot of silver before she was entrusted with the secrets of the trade. That’s the best way to learn traditional techniques, in her opinion. For Kline, learning involves hard work and a total immersion of the senses – “tactile, verbal, audial and visual” – in the task at hand.

It was during her study with Underwood that Kline first read about precious metal clay in a trade magazine.

That was in 1997, it came over here in 1996,” she says of the product, which was developed by Mitsubishi Corporation and marketed throughout the world as an easy-to-work craft material.

Yes, electronic giant Mitsubishi has an arts and crafts division. According to Kline, precious metal clay (PMC, for short) was developed in the company’s automotive electronics division. There it was discovered that particulate silver could be mixed with an organic binding agent and water to create a pliable substance that can be modeled like clay. After the clay is dry, firing burns away the binder, leaving the crafter with a fine 99.9 percent silver object.

Mitsubishi marketed the product in the U.S. through jewelry supply distributors. One of those companies, PMC Connection in Mesquite, TX, offers classes in using the materials and instituted a certification program to train instructors in the craft.

Kline began working in PMC in 1998, and in the same year decided to devote herself to art and teaching full time. She was certified as a senior PMC Connection teacher in 2001 and inaugurated Linda Kline Designs to market her work (which, of late includes her artful silk and wool scarves and wraps). She has sold on the Internet through her own website and on; her works are also in brick-and-mortar boutiques, galleries and art exhibits across the US and in various local group shows.

Teaching PMC technique has sent her as far afield as Central and South America and Europe, and as close to home as the Vero Beach Museum of Art and her private studio – she moved to Vero Beach in 2003.

“I love teaching,” she says. “I’ve met the most fabulous people who’ve become my dearest friends, both here and abroad.”

Some of those friends, including Andrea Barkett, Rachel Cannon, Vicki Abodeely, Shelly Atwood and Roxanne McCarty, meet at Kline’s house in Oceanaire Heights one evening a week to work on their art projects and share the events of their lives over a relaxing glass of wine.

“They get it,” says Kline of the group, whose members she describes as fellow explorers in art who have followed her in recent years to Spain, France and Turkey on tours that Kline organized to view the jaw-dropping splendors of those countries’ jewelry making traditions.

For Kline, travel and art have roughly the same set of rules: “Carry your own suitcase. No whining. Wine will be involved. If you are a true adventurer, jump on the plane with me.”

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