Nicky Falkenhayn

In school, metal artist Nicky Falkenhayn figured out she didn’t have to choose between art and sport. “As a young adult, I was torn between going to art school or doing sports,” she says. “I decided to do sports first because when I got older I could do art, but when I got older sports would be harder.”

Falkenhayn was born in the U.S. but grew up in the Netherlands and Switzerland. “My parents were Dutch, and my dad was a fighter pilot, and he went for special training in Pensacola, Fla., where I happened to be born,” she says. She became a P.E. teacher and lived all over the world teaching sports before moving to Portland in 1989, where she began to focus on working with metal.

Falkenhayn’s bracelets (below) are made with wire mesh in silver, colored silver and 22-karat gold. “I use a very old knitting machine made before it was patented, so it doesn’t have any tension setting,” she says. “Using it is almost like weaving. You have to lay in the wire and have a very correct tension setting with your hand. If you hold it too tight, it’ll break the wire. If you hold it too loose, the whole thing falls off.”

One of the pleasures Falkenhayn, 56, finds in working with metal is its lack of limitations. In addition to jewelry, she makes large sculptures, doing her welding at Rock Creek Community College. “I love the smell of burning metal,” she says. “And metal is so versatile. I can do something as small as the knitting, but I’m also making a chair that’s 10 feet tall. With metal, I can go anywhere I want to.”

Falkenhayn’s silver bracelets range from $135 to $175; the 22-karat gold bracelets start at $1,000. Contact Nicky Falkenhayn at 503-203-7995 or via her website, Her jewelry is available at the Museum of Contemporary Craft (724 N.W. Davis St., 503-223-2654) in Portland.