Category Archives: Jewelry

A Favorite Necklace


I finally got a photo of the necklace I made for my sister-in-law years ago (before I started photographing my work.) She was visiting Panama a few weeks ago and I convinced her to leave it here so I could make a copy for myself. It really is a very simple design – various types of misshapen pearls, seed beads, glass beads, a few Swarovski crystals and mother of pearl chips. I may do it in other colors. I have some peachy pink pearls and some lovely grey ones with lavender/mauve highlights, as well as the traditional creamy white ones.


One of my many creative outlets is making beaded jewelry, mainly necklaces. I went off on a tangent with the digital art thing and I didn’t make anything for the past year.

Here are a few necklaces I have sold or given away as gifts. I haven’t been very good at cataloging my creations. Some just flew off the work bench before I got a chance to photograph them. I really regret that I don’t have a visual record of all of them.

All of the pendants are tagua, some are natural ivory color and others are painted.


This is the only one I have left – it is in my personal collection. I will never sell it – it is a particularly beautiful tagua of a tamandua.


My signature jewelry design is the multi strand necklace – from as little as 3 strands up to 18 or more. I design each strand individually and no two are alike. I start with a color palette of semiprecious stones, stone chips, glass shapes, pearls, seed beads, metallic beads, ceramic beads – amber – bone – anything I can get my hands on (with a hole in it for stringing) that has the color I need. Color is my passion – my inspiration.

I usually have at least 15 – 20 or more “ingredients” on my workbench when I start a necklace. My beads are arranged by color family. If I am going to work on a necklace in a palette of golden browns – I have shelves of beads to choose from. Once I have decided on the color spectrum – I begin to string. Each strand has to be able to stand alone – and all of them need to work together to form the multi strand necklace.

I strive for a harmonious balance of opaque – transparent – matte – shiny – big – small – round – square – rough – smooth – etc. – etc. I don’t pay much attention to the intrinsic value of the individual beads – I may have a rustic handmade ceramic bead next to a large baroque pearl – with an inexpensive seed bead separating them. If the design – color – shape – balance – etc. works then I will include it.


I enjoy the creating – the doing – I don’t focus on the end result – the necklace sort of grows organically. I never start out to make a “12 strand necklace” – I just keep adding strands until it looks and feels right to me. Sometimes a strand doesn’t seem to fit in and I will put it aside – maybe for inclusion in another necklace.


Annie's necklace



Panama has been my home for over fifty years. I have a genuine respect and appreciation for the handicrafts of Panama’s native artisans. Some time ago I started collecting beautiful hand carved tagua pendants and I have developed a popular line of necklaces with the tagua pendants as the focal point. I prefer to use the elegant natural ivory color of the unpainted tagua, although I do use the brightly painted taguas in my “wild and colorful” tropical designs. My favorite subjects are geckos, iguanas and frogs, although I also use many other tropical animals found in Panama.

I buy – almost exclusively – the work of a small group of Wounaan artisans whom I consider to be the best. They have recently formed a group called “Mundo de Arte Wounaan” and I have advised them on how to market their taguas to the outside world. I designed their logo, business cards and hang tags and reworked the English text for their brochure. I have also taught workshops on how to design and make basic single strand necklaces using their tagua pendants and the brightly colored tagua beads they import from Ecuador.

Sometimes I will commission a special piece – but I usually just buy the pendants “off the shelf” when I see a piece that I like. To pass my rigorous inspection the tagua has to be – first and foremost – well designed. Then I look at how it is going to hang as a pendant – sometimes it takes quite a bit of engineering to make it hang gracefully. Finally – If it is to be left the natural ivory – it must be very well finished and polished and the natural brownish grey center of the nut – if it is seen at all – must be well hidden. If painted – the painting must be well executed and realistic looking with lots of tiny details.

Turquoise necklace

I made this yesterday. I used turquoise, brown ceramic beads and silver ceramic beads from The Mykonos, made in Greece. The clasp is sterling silver.

Finished the necklace!

Finally, it has been sitting on my workbench gathering dust. I like designing the strands but adding the clasps and stuff is a chore. I feel the same way about quilting, I love choosing the fabric and design and I even enjoy sewing the top – but basting the three layers together and then quilting it is a pain. If I lived in the US I’d pay a professional to do it.

Now I need to get started on three necklaces I want to take to Chicago in a little over 3 weeks. A silver ceramic one, an ethnic looking one using brown, beige and black beads (maybe on linen cord,) and one of turquoise.

The silver beads are from The Mykonos. They have some spectacular beads – wholesale only though.