She began her study of jewelry as a business student at Curtin University in Perth, Australia on exchange from Southern Illinois University. This fueled a desire to travel more. On her way to India, she stopped in Southeast Alaska in 1992 and fell in love with the stunning scenery and a fellow sailboat owner. Now Nell and her husband commute from Horse Island, near Auke Bay, where they've built a beachfront home. "Spiral Studio", her art studio, is located at Indian Point on the mainland.
"I'm still on the road system," she says, not to scare off visiting customers.
In naming her studio-business, she drew on her love of simple beauty in nature, beach combing in tidal pools and the joy of waking up to the sounds of surf on the rocks. This symbol is ever present in her works. It relates to evolution, she says:
"I find the spiral to be a source of intrigue and mystery as well as multicultural, and of course inspiring."
The redheaded curly-haired lass states that it is her Scottish/ Irish background, which provided the spiral symbol, but it occurs in other cultures too even local ancient petroglyphs. "It is a universal symbol that always has a positive meaning.
Customers and the community send her unusual objects to use in her work. "It is nice to have the community supporting my efforts". She is often given, sometimes finding in her mailbox, broken or melted beach glass from other people's adventures.
Pondering titles can also be a source of inspiration, McConahey said. She sometimes thinks of the words first then puts image in glass or jewelry. Titles of pieces for her upcoming show include:
"Limelight", a green lamp, "Pink Palisades", which has columns and points, "Cat's Meow" which is in amber like a tortoise shell or calico cat. It has paws and cat faces in it as well as jewelry pieces. "Underwater World" is ocean blues and greens. As she spoke she thought of a new one: "Tide Pool", yet to be made.
Juneau Artist Gallery is open 9am to 9pm all month, to behold her work.