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Christina Graziano with the tools of her many trades, in the Blade & Knoll workshop. Photo courtesy of Blade & Knoll

How Multitalented Craftswoman Christina Graziano Finds Inspiration

The founder of Denver’s Blade & Knoll transforms wood, metal, and even horsehair into sculptural home decor.

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Christina Graziano doesn’t shy away from hard work. The multifaceted artist behind the Blade & Knoll brand is a welder, woodworker, jewelry-maker, sculptor, and lighting designer. Ask again tomorrow, and she might have added something new to that list. In short, Graziano can do just about anything she sets her highly creative mind to.

The Wisconsin native moved to Denver about eight years ago, inspired by the city’s vibrant maker community. Since then, Graziano has gained a following for her nature-inspired jewelry and groovy home goods that combine wood, metal, and horsehair. We recently sat down with Graziano to take a closer look at her designs—and the process that brings them to life.

“Seeing as we are in a year of quarantine, I have found myself blessed with time,” Graziano says. “Time to develop some new sculptures.” One beautiful outcome is “Serene Quarantine,” made from maple wood and woven horsehair, measuring 28 by 48 inches. Photo courtesy of Blade & Knoll

5280 Home: Tell us about your artistic training and creative outlook.
Christina Graziano
: I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a bachelor’s degree in sculpture. The majority of my learning centered around various technical skills: I learned how to weld and fabricate metals, I learned how to weave and work with fibers and unconventional material. I learned how to saw and join wood to create something with dimension. I learned how to make molds and pour molten metal. I learned how to think, how to express my thoughts and aesthetic in three dimensions. I learned craft and how to make something with skill and attention to detail to stand the test of time. Most importantly, I learned the importance of working hard, working well, and getting it done!

Graziano is meticulous in her approach to creating. “I am very attentive to the process, techniques, and the actual craft of fabricating a piece,” she says. Photo courtesy of Blade & Knoll

What’s the significance of your company’s name, Blade & Knoll?
The name Blade & Knoll stems from my love for the techniques and my love for nature. Every single thing that I make, I use some sort of blade in the process of fabrication. Either it’s a woodworking saw—like a bandsaw or table saw or jigsaw—or it’s super tiny, like a jeweler’s saw or wax saw. “Knoll” comes from me basically growing up on a grassy knoll back in rural Wisconsin. Nature has always had its fair share of symbolism throughout my artwork. So, Blade & Knoll is a representation of what I stand for: craft and quality and being true to myself, to my aesthetic.

Walnut wood and horsehair come together in Graziano’s 18-by-28-inch “Colorado Sunrise” wall hanging, made to order. Photo courtesy of Blade & Knoll

How did you decide to start creating wall hangings?
I kind of just moved on from art and started applying my techniques to something more practical, more sellable: jewelry. That is really where Blade & Knoll started. Once that was established and running pretty smoothly, I figured I could start experimenting with wall hangings—starting to focus on the wall as the pedestal—as a nice way to bring art back into the business.

What materials do you use, and why?
I’m a big lover of hardwoods, and my two favorites have always been cherry and walnut because of their distinctive colors (and smells!). I have started using a bit of maple these days because I am attracted to the subtlety of it, its calming properties, and the softness that it creates. And let’s be real: In this time, we all need some calming and serenity.

Graziano’s “Infinite” sculpture was inspired by her love for M.C. Escher’s tessellation, gravity, and perspective. Photo courtesy of Blade & Knoll

For my metal works I use mild steel and bronze or brass. The steel is easy to manipulate and forming comes naturally to me; I can build off of it with minimal complications, and I like the pop of color and the bronze highlights of the worked areas where I braise the pieces together.

Last but not least, I use horsehair as my fibrous material for my art and lighting. I found out about this material about 10 years ago in a fibers class and have been obsessed ever since. I bind each little section together with twine and epoxy it in the holes of the wood—which is why wood is a great vessel for these projects. I have some clients who own horses and give me their hair to use on custom pieces. It’s so personal for the client, and I just love it!

Graziano’s Andalusian chandeliers are crafted from walnut, steel, and creamy white horsehair. Sizes range in length from 24 to 48 inches. Photo courtesy of Blade & Knoll

How did you get into lighting design?
I had been doing wall hangings for a while, and wanted to take it further, to more of an installation sculpture—ideally there would be 15 [lighting fixtures] in a room. Being a craft-conscious person, I hand-make every piece of [each fixture]. I braise together a small steel frame on the inside, which holds the lighting mechanism in place and helps me connect the other layers of the lamp with a handmade steel chain. I use a piece of wood for the outer layer because, again, I have found it to be the best vessel to hold the horsehair. Then I just weave for days to get the hair ready and fashioned in the wood. I wanted to make something that was soft and delicate, immersive yet functional.

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