One of Tammy Kohl's toughest tasks is coming up with clever ways to inspire more people to visit Taköhl, a Gallery of Exceptional Jewels, a 24-year-old Chicago purveyor of designer jewelry (by Stephen Webster, among others), photography, and paintings, as well as Kohl's own sterling and 18k gold line.
Kohl strives to present patrons with "creativity and freshness," she says. She hosts art shows spotlighting jewelry and other artistic creations up to five times a year. From late June through August, she held one of her more inspired exhibitions, Sustainium, a display of eco-based artwork featuring preserved moss montages, plant and aquatic installations, suspended container gardens, and prints and drawings from artist Ashley Lieber. It was the perfect platform for Kohl's recycled silver pieces, capped by green gems such as peridot.
Agate and fluorite necklace with sterling silver; $399; Taköhl, Chicago; 800-480-6999; takohl.com
"Changing the art environment and complementing it with jewelry design and gems is key to getting clients tuned in to my vision for my gallery," she says.
In addition to Lieber's 12 pieces of moss art, Kohl exhibited edible plants. "It was installed as a garden for myself and my staff to eat for lunch in the gallery," she says. For two months, employees enjoyed salads of nasturtium, fennel, arugula, romaine lettuce, carrots, and other veggies, all plucked daily from the garden in the front window. ("It required a lot of watering," admits Kohl.) Meanwhile, the merchant/artist herself debuted 35 new pieces of jewelry, ranging in price from $125 to $1,200 retail. The centerpiece of the display was the Earth Ring, a sterling ring housed in a terrarium, which comes complete with a spot of soil and packets of chia, grass, or oregano seeds; within a few days, the seeds germinate by converting the wearer's carbon dioxide into oxygen, and by day six, a plant has grown. Each eco-chic kit retails for $259. During the Sustainium exhibit, Kohl sold about four dozen Earth Rings.
At the gala, seven of Lieber's pieces—one oversize moss display and six living wall holders for plants—sold for $4,000, along with 12 of Kohl's pieces (one sterling and clear quartz necklace went for $425) totaling $5,000. Lieber even secured a commission to install a green display at a vegetarian restaurant. Over the course of the exhibition, happy buyers went home with 60 pieces of Kohl's jewelry, including a $789 green beryl necklace, and seven Lieber art objects.
Taköhl's Tammy Kohl in her element
The challenges of the summer-long exhibit ranged from cost—$1,600 for vodka, staffing, water, and mailings for the opening-night shindig—to day-to-day logistics. How, for example, does one care for preserved moss? "It likes water," says Kohl. "We misted every three weeks." Happily, the catering, champagne, and vintage liquor boxes used as displays were gratis, thanks to area vendors.
One of Ashley Lieber's preserved moss sculptures
Kohl's only error: not printing simple care instructions for the horticultural displays on the pricing cards. "My clients assumed they would be high-maintenance," she says, "and they're not."