PUBLISHED: 5:00 PM on Tuesday, August 1, 2006
The odds are good, the goods are gorgeous

Courtesy of Karen Housley
  After retiring Karen Housley devotes her full attention and her love of numbers and their configuration in her jewelry.
The odds are good you'll find Karen Housley's achievements in stone, crystal and silver strung in rhythmic patterns of odd numbers.

Nineteen years of teaching mathematics can leave a lasting impression.

As the Juneau Artists Gallery's featured artist this First Friday in August at 175 S. Franklin St., Housley brings balance to her work by drawing on an odd number of elements and their natural balance.

"Even though I'm a symmetrical person, I prefer odd numbers in my patterning," Housley said. "They look better than even numbers."

Sometimes she adds a rare stone or bead as a focal point. One of her favorite necklaces has a freeform amethyst geode centered in a pattern of purple amethyst crystals, silver spacers and dyed freshwater pearls.

Housley acquired a life long interest in jewelry while playing with stones and assembling findings from the inventory of her grandparents' agate shop in southern Oregon, where she grew up. She attended University of Oregon majoring not in art but math, which she also enjoyed.

A teaching job at Marie Drake Middle School brought her to Juneau, where she has lived ever since.

She continued to make jewelry for gifts, but only after retiring could she devote her full attention and put both halves together.

Her love of numbers and their configuration continues on in her jewelry.

"I almost always put silver in between beads. I like the pizzazz," Housley said.

"Though the simple designs are always the favorites."

Geometry also influences her choices of flashing, faceted stones or crystals.

Courtesy of Karen Housley
  Karen Housley's jewelry is featured during the month of August at the Juneau Artists Gallery.
She insists that each one be perfectly cut and shaped. Housley picks them out herself at bead shows preferring Swarovski, a quality lead crystal company.

Then she meticulously lays them out in patterns, varying the size, shape and color, then systematically placing silver spacers and counted loops of silver chain in between.

Like algebra, she works with an unknown, as she says she cannot visualize the end product, but works it out until it looks right.

She has made her own chain before, but prefers to choose from over 50 kinds of chain she has on hand.

She also wraps her own loops securing the bead and takes time to finish the ends safely so the necklace and bracelet clasps are comfortable.

She recently began using "precious metal clay" which is pure silver, water and organic binder.

The silver clay can be rolled out "like play-dough", then cut or stamped into shapes.

These can be easily textured or smoothed. The firing removes all but the pure silver creating a unique bead.

"I've been experimenting with the metal clay and having great fun," Housley said.

There is a version that can be used with lab created stones or glass in it, firing at a lower temperature.

Housley is also delving into fused glass jewelry with dramatic results.

Housley and her husband, Jim, are pleased to have recently completed a commercial building for his business which has freed up their basement space for her studio, Crystal Moon Jewelry.

She was maxed-out in her kid's old room and couldn't do anything new until she had more space.

Having finally unpacked her new kiln, new ideas have come popping out "like answers to complex equations."