Artist Carolyn Tyler brings her Bali-crafted jewelry to Karats of Vail
Special to the Daily
If you go …
What: Artist Carolyn Tyler.
When: Through Wednesday, Dec. 30; gallery is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Where: Karats of Vail, 122 E. Meadow Drive, Vail Village.
More information: Visit www.karatsvail.com.
VAIL — From nuanced variations to bold statements, Carolyn Tyler’s jewelry reflects outstanding craftsmanship and design. It’s not only the brilliance of the stones that Tyler uses, but the spirituality of the pieces she creates. It was on a trip to Bali in 1989 when Tyler discovered what seemed to make her soul sing.
“The airport in Denpasar was just a funky little third-world airport, but the minute my foot hit the tarmac, it was as if every cell in my body woke up,” she said. “This voice in my head said, ‘You’re home.’”
While trekking through Bali, she observed the reverence and pageantry of its ancient culture. She met native jewelers with exceptional, unappreciated skills, and this inspired her to devote her life to seeking perfection for them and through them. She has retained her loyal team of master craftsmen for 23 years.
As Tyler puts it, she “fell under the spell of the Island of the Gods,” with its gracious people and rich spiritual traditions, and within a few years, she moved to Indonesia to embark upon a new adventure in creativity.
Nature, mythology, art, music and dance inspire Tyler’s designs, and collecting gemstones is her passion. She favors gems that possess special qualities of light reflection and refraction, sometimes paired with ancient coins and South Sea pearls. Her one-of-a-kind creations reflect her studies of ancient cultures and a background in archaeology and anthropology.
“My true passion is hunting for unique materials that require transcendence of the merely ‘artful’ into the creation of a design where beauty and meaning are forged into a piece with talismanic power for the wearer,” she said. “This is my professional raison d’etre.”
Tyler eschews unsustainable mining practices and prefers to work with pure 22-karat gold alloyed from antique Balinese jewelry and other recycling sources. Her trademark look comes from the rich yellow hue, matte finish and fine detail, which cannot be achieved in gold of lesser purity.
Art after dark
Tyler begins her creative process after sundown.
“That’s when the phone stops ringing and it’s just me,” she said. “I put on some good, trance-y music or some blues or slow jazz. The fireflies are coming in. It’s like a dream. I get out all my stones and spread them on the table.
“Usually, I pick a central stone, look at the colors in it and pull out accent stones. I just trace the stone and sit there with it, see if it wants to be a pin or a pendant or both. I love mixing and matching colors, especially combinations like purple and chartreuse — slightly jarring but satisfying.”
Then Tyler weighs the stones, puts them in plastic bags “like TV dinners” with little drawings, carefully labeling each with detailed instructions, right down to the proper wire gauges. It’s all spelled out, in Indonesian, for her assistants. Tyler admits that Bali is a huge natural playground for the child in her.
“As a kid, I used to pretend that I lived in the jungle,” she said with a laugh. “I’d throw my mom’s costume jewelry in the pool, get a big abalone shell, dive in and scoop it up. I fantasized being a bejeweled nymph queen, with all the elves and fairies at my service.
“Bali is like my childhood dream in living color. My odyssey here is a perfect example of ‘do what you love and the money will follow.’”
Tyler’s collectors the world over are glad she is still doing what she loves. She invites all who appreciate artistry and craftsmanship to come and fall in love with her creations at Karats of Vail through Wednesday.
Brenda Himelfarb was contracted by Karats of Vail to write this article for the Vail Daily.