Carolyn Tyler creating works of sacred beauty
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Carolyn Tyler’s “Sacred Beauty” collection is at Karats in Vail Village through Sunday, Dec. 31. Tyler will be in attendance.
It’s been more than 25 years since jewelry designer Carolyn Tyler “fell under the spell of the Island of the Gods,” as she says.
It was a 1989 trip to Bali, Indonesia, where Tyler discovered what made her soul sing.
“The airport in Denpasar was just a funky little third world airport, “she said. “But the minute my foot hit the tarmac, it was as if every cell in my body woke up — this voice in my head said, ‘You’re home.’”
Tyler and her team of master jewelers produce exquisite, original 22-karat eco-gold designs with wirework and granulation detail that is second to none. Her stable of goldsmiths has been with her since the beginning and as they near retirement, she wonders who will carry on their traditional decorative styles. In years gone by, the craft would be passed down from one generation to another. But, sadly, no more.
“My goldsmiths are very upset that their children did not take up this art of handcrafting jewels,” Tyler said. “They have been passing this tradition down from father to son — and sometimes even daughters — for a few thousand years. But now, with all the tourism in Bali, the younger generation is working in hospitality, even driving taxis, instead of sitting at the jeweler’s bench.”
Tyler’s newest collection is titled “Sacred Beauty” and features stone carving with gems including amber, coral, quartz crystal, lapis lazuli, malachite, turquoise — essentially, anything that can be carved. Most of these amulets are rendered by a goldsmith she recently added to her team of artisans. “One of my colleagues passed away and left some very talented craftsmen out of work, so I asked his top guy to join me. The pieces I do with him are really a collaboration, since he does a kind of rough-looking ‘organic’ embellishment my original workers do not do.”
As Tyler explained it, she is having fun creating spiritual talismans inspired by the holy places of Southeast Asia. Some of the motifs, which can be seen at caves in Bali are called Candi (pronounced “Chandy”) and have been carved into the cave walls. And, since Buddhism came to Bali before Hinduism, many of small carvings of Buddha adorn the shrines.
“So what I do,” Tyler said, “is carve these little cave-like symbols out of larger gemstones and then carve a small Buddha out of pink tourmaline. Or maybe I’ll cast a little gold Buddha and put it inside the carving, encrusting the whole thing with gold and gems. I’m so happy with them.”
Certainly Tyler’s jewelry reflects outstanding craftsmanship and design but it is the esoteric richness of the pieces that speaks to her.
And it is that outstanding beauty of craftsmanship that drives Tyler to make sure the tradition of making jewelry in Bali is not lost.
“I will persuade the minister of culture of Indonesia to build a training school so this art is not lost. First, I will make a video of my master goldsmiths at work,” Tyler said. “And then I am going to get affidavits from global experts at the Gem Institute of America, my alma-mater, acknowledging this as the finest granulation of modern times.”
In 1996, Tyler was asked to speak to the graduating class at the Gem Institute of America. Her sketching teacher was Robert Ahrens, who for 26 years had been chief designer for Van Cleef and Arpels, jeweler to kings and queens.
Tyler is on a mission to preserve this cultural tradition of Indonesia, and continue to bring this beauty to the world.