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Studio Tour: Serpentine

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By Ellen Ranta Olson

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Inspired by her grandmother’s adage that all you need to be truly dressed is a clutch, red lipstick and a crisp white blouse, Kris Hickcox aims to create signature pieces that can stand the test of time and trends.

Photography by Aaron Heirtzler

Tucked a couple blocks back from Durango’s bustling Main Avenue, in the perfectly overgrown backyard of a historic home, is a small, light-filled studio full of leather, studs and stones. Here, Kris Hickcox spends hours designing and creating her line of chic leather cuffs, Serpentine.

Like so many good things in life, Serpentine was a bit of a happy accident. “Two years ago, I was teaching a class on creativity, and really trying to convince the students that your creative muscle, like all others, needs to be warmed up every day,” Hickcox says.

To provide a living example of how it really is possible to make time for your creative side on a daily basis, Hickcox started a blog where she committed to doing one illustration every day for a year. Six months into it, she started getting phone calls from people asking where they could buy the illustrations.

Wheel, meet motion.

“I came across the blog of a guy in LA who had a new technology for printing on leather—my initial thought was to do a limited-run line of handbags, so I started buying materials. It turns out that production for only 50 handbags is pretty impossible to find, so there I was with all this stuff,” she says. “Sitting in my kitchen one day, I just started cutting out pieces of leather, and thought, ‘this could make a cool bracelet.’”

From there, Hickcox became a self-taught leather- and metal-worker (“YouTube can teach you anything!”), who practiced what she preached: “I figured in all my free time between a full-time agency job (she’s the founder of Pool Creative) and raising two teenage daughters, I’ll just go ahead and start another business,” she laughs.

Fast forward two years, and Hickcox just had her first rock star moment—as in, a rock star was photographed wearing one of her pieces on the red carpet in June (Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland wore a Serpentine cuff to the I Heart Radio music awards).

Her one-of-kind pieces, which she describes as “perfectly imperfect,” can be found at shops across the Southwest and online at serpentinestudio.com.

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Hickcox travels to gem shows around the region to add to her collection. “When you look at the amazing variety of stuff that comes out of our earth, it’s just incredible,” she says.
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“I’m almost always inspired by nature. Sometimes a piece reminds me of an arch in the desert, other times it’s the view you have from an airplane, looking down over islands in the ocean,” Hickcox says.
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“The idea of combining beautiful earth tones with the skins became its own process, similar to an illustration process, where you work through this vision, asking yourself: What’s the story behind this?” Hickcox says.
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“We get so used to mass-produced, totally perfect things that when we see something that’s not, it resonates,” Hickcox says.

 

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