A piece of jewelry is more than just a beautiful accessory and more than the sum of its parts. In the past 30 years growing as an artist, I have travelled to Southeast Asia, South America, Central America, East Africa, Australia, Indonesia, France, and Croatia observing both nature and history. I visited small villages and marveled at being able to witness their ancient traditions. I found that history, art, tradition and culture can not help but to be a big influence on adornment. Culture becomes embedded into this medium through every stitched or stamped symbol in fabric and every carved and engraved mark in metal.
My journey to developing my voice in adornment has taken many twists and turns. After art school, I began collecting handmade traditional clothing, costumes, and jewelry. I spent two years repairing ethnographic jewelry. I found history and culture so fascinating that it has influenced my style. For example, nomadic cultures developed jewelry in order to wear their wealth. It was not only beautiful, but a core of their economies.
I’ve learned that the root of ancient adornment is storytelling. Adornment references specific symbolism created by the people showcasing what colors were around them, what food they hoped to catch, and what evil spirits they wanted to repel. It also was a visual history used to record wars, love, marriages, births and more. In these pieces, you can see their hopes, fears, and desires. Folk tales, music and dance directly influenced the shapes of jewelry. I witnessed beautiful cultural dances incorporating magnificent costumes and layers of jewelry moving and chiming with each drumbeat.
Through my travels, I began to see a common thread. I collected magical pieces created of metal, stone, gems, marks, icons and symbolism to protect from evil and to bring abundance, love, and prosperity. What fascinated me most were magical jewelry pieces called talismans, amulets and prayer boxes. They were personal pieces of adornment built with specific vibrations. Talismans spread their magic by visually representing a word or an object that makes you feel a particular emotion. Talismans are built to bring us joy, happiness, and protection from evil.
- I built a high end handmade commercial line of silver jewelry which was carried by many larger stores such as Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, and Banana Republic.
- My pieces were worn on the runway in New York Fashion Week and Milan Jewelry Week.
- My pieces were published in the pages of Elle and Vogue magazine.
- I won an award for my work at MIlan Fashion week.
- I built full bodies of work that went on museum tours, American Craft Council and galleries including Smithsonian, Renwick and the Art Institute of New York.
- I taught international workshops where students explore, collect and build jewelry inspired by cultures in places like Indonesia, Australia, France, Morocco and India.
- I built an incredibly successful commercial line of charms and talismans jewelry components for Michael’s Craft Stores called Industrial Chic.
- I developed and brought to market a successful art product called Ice Resin that sold internationally through distributors and large craft stores.
- I wrote an Amazon Best Selling Book in 2013 called Alchemy of Resin which was a 10-year body of work based on the Ice Resin product.
- I wrote a book on my collected knowledge on connecting, attaching and using cold joins called Making Connections.
- I created a Nomadic Metalsmithing tool kit perfect for students who travel or have small spaces.
- I created Intentional Metalsmithing to teach six of the main techniques I use to build my work.
My Personal Talismans
As an artist I realized that I had to find a way to make my work my own and not borrow from other cultures. I have selected the following three pieces that represent the core of my artistic style. Each of these pieces contain deep personal meaning to me, and contain strong ties to my childhood and upbringing.
This piece is designed to hold the power of the objects placed upon it. It is a contemporary Talisman, built of my own culture, though It shares the same characteristics as perhaps, a warriors bundle or magical piece worn by a medicine man or woman. Upon closer examination you can view very ordinary objects such as record shards, license plate tin, feathers, altered beach glass and river rock, ruler shards, chicken bone, pencils, light bulbs and clock parts. Once discarded objects, when altered and united carry their own sense of importance. I enjoy lending power to the ordinary.
The Poker Game
My father, a public accountant, taught us our math through a variety of card games such as crazy eights, seven-up and poker. We learned how to bet our pennies at an early age. As I grew up, I would often be involved in heated poker games involving nickels and quarters, sometimes dollars. There we would be in an intense, smoke filled room placing our bets.
This piece, A necklace called, The Poker Game, is about all that is involved in an actual game. I am comforted by seeing this action packed piece and can almost see the smoke filled room. The materials I choose were 52 playing cards encased in sterling silver, 2 jokers encased in beer cans with a bell attached, poker chips, cigarette butts, matches and a real $100 bill. It was important to the theme of the necklace that the $100 bill be a whole one because if you were in a pinch in the middle of a game you could pull this charm apart, tape the bill together and you are back in the game.
Energy Talismans Necklace
The Energy Talisman – Built 2006 – is a powerful wearable Talismans Necklace worn to gain vibrancy, renewal and strength.
A collection of pencil stubs were saved for me by a second grade class at Montessori school where I used to teach the Arts Program. I would watch all the children cognitively active, thinking, writing, focusing and erasing. From my studies of Talismans, this process looked the same to me as to how you would go about building your own Talisman. I saw them containing energy in these pencil stubs. (The complete book of Amulets and Talismans – Migene Gonzalez -Wippler) These individual components were powerfully bound together and meant to hold all of its vibrancy and energy collectively as a whole.
It is worn for invigorating and this energetic piece will resume balance and energy to me by placing it around my neck.