As a formally trained interior designer, the interplay of color, form, and texture are second nature to me. This understanding of design principles combined with a love of jewelry from an early age, led to a natural progression into the medium of metal. I’ve been taking classes in metal for the last six years.
Several years ago, while hunting for new inspiration in Memphis, I discovered a fascinating natural material – tagua nuts formed into buttons. Each one was a unique, organic shape and the colors were luscious. The colors of the dyed tagua nut are as richly saturated as dyed silk in the textile industry.
Naturally, my first thought was, “How could I transform this into jewelry?” I began by bezel- setting them in silver and treating them as stones. The grain of the nut also caught my eye, reminding me of the pattern produced by the ancient method of cuttlebone casting. The wavy, watery texture is one I like to incorporate into other pieces as well.
Inspiration, for me, comes from the endlessly amazing creations in nature. Shapes and colors fill our senses, surrounding us with beauty. Nature is constantly changing – whether it’s rippling water, puffy clouds, precious stones, or a nut in the rainforest – it all speaks to me and I interpret it in the form of jewelry.
My work is hand fabricated or cast, using silver, copper, bronze, and brass. The tagua nuts are a favorite, as well as other stones, nuts and beads. Many interesting organic materials, like food and seed pods, have found new life when cast in metal. Jewelry is a continually evolving visual feast. Enjoy it!
The Story of the Tagua Nut or “Natures Gift from the Rainforest”
Tagua nuts are a product of the ivory palm, which grows in the rainforest along the Andes and down to Ecuador. Also referred to as “vegetable ivory”, they are used as a substitute for elephant ivory (50 lbs. of tagua nuts is the equivalent of the tusks from 1 female elephant!). A sustainable resource, tagua nut harvesting provides jobs for native people in the rainforest and helps sustain local economies. Tagua nuts carve beautifully and have been used for everything from buttons to bagpipes since the 1800s. Oh, and did we mention that they make beautiful beads and jewelry? They can be dyed to produce a wide variety of lively, vibrant colors, bringing the rainforest to life and to you.