Friday through Tuesday Carolyn Tyler returns to Karats, a working studio gallery of fine art jewelry in Vail Village, with a trunk show showcasing her jewelry designs. Nature, mythology, art, music and dance inform her work. There are also themes from artifacts of ancient civilizations and tribal art symbolism. Tyler's use of goldsmithing techniques from antiquity evoke the fabled buried treasures of Golden Ages past. Tyler will be at Karats in person Friday and Saturday to answer questions and discuss her work. Her collection will remain at Karats through Tuesday.
VAIL DAILY: How do people typically respond to your work?
Carolyn Tyler: There seem to be two kinds of responses. There are the aficionados of fine craftsmanship, who ask all kinds of questions about how it is made (mostly men are in this category) and a lot of them say they "don't like jewelry," but they like mine because much of it is convertible and very versatile. They are especially impressed with the details done in granulation, which is an embellishment technique developed by the Egyptians, fusing tiny spheres of gold to make a decorative pattern. Also, collectors who want unique pieces swoon over my one-of-a-kind designs. I do not use that term lightly - some of them get giddy and tongue-tied trying to describe how they feel about it. This kind of reaction is, to me, the equivalent of a rock-star getting a standing ovation. It is a big reason I am still doing this.
The second type of response is the walk-by. They glide by glancing nonchalantly, but they have no idea what they're looking at. They probably think it's not real, because it is yellow gold -the actual color of real gold, as in gold-nugget gold, found in nature.-
VD: What kinds of pieces you are going to feature for the Karats show?
CT: I am really excited to be bringing many new designs to Karats this time. I have been traveling in Asia, collecting Buddha amulets and Nepalese miniature enamels with Hindu deities to use as centerpieces for pendants and rings. I've got some beautiful necklaces with Indian rudraksha beads, which come from a sacred tree and are used by sadhus as prayer beads (malas). I was in Namibia also, and have designed some beaten-gold hoop earrings based on tribal jewelry I saw there. These pieces have been very popular in my Neiman Marcus and Saks shows because they are casual but at the same time, have meaning because of the spiritual motifs.
I am especially pleased with the locket design, which has an enamel portrait on one side and an elaborately detailed Om symbol surrounded by rose-cut diamonds I found in Borneo on the other side. The locket opens to hold a prayer, photo of a loved one, a daily affirmation or a keepsake. I am on a mission to bring the locket back into fashion. I think people need their jewelry to function as more than adornment now. We are in uncertain times, and it is comforting to have and hold a pendant that contains a potent message or treasured memento.
VD: What has been your biggest challenge with your work this past year?
CT: Well, I thought it was going to be the economy! I am very happy to report that my business is actually better than usual. I just decided to follow my 2008 crisis protocol - I have ignored the doomsayers and forged ahead with a "build it and they will come" attitude. I am finding that the market for finely crafted, unique pieces has gotten stronger. People seem to be going for the kind of value that can only be found in unique, hand-crafted designs that never go out of style. They are investing in a few special pieces they will wear and treasure for decades, rather than buying brand or fashion. Honestly, my biggest challenge this year has been to not work too much. I have been so excited by this new direction that I have booked myself solid for months to take the collection on the road.