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.
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.