Bejeweled by ancient abilities |

Bejeweled by ancient abilities

Caramie SchnellVail, CO, Colorado
AE Karats McDevitt KA 8-23-07

A visit to an anthropology museum in Vancouver years ago altered jewelery maker Sharon Schaffners path. The Denver-based artist had been doing mostly enameling work but she was struck by ancient Eskimo hunting masks on display at the museum. Schaffner, a jeweler for nearly 30 years, has been creating the brushed sterling silver faces using traditional techniques every since that serenditpitous museum visit, she said.

Theres a real cultural, ethnic feel to (my jewelry), she said. The faces are very simple, based off of a rough line sketch Schaffner did after visiting the museum. She kept returning to that first, rudimentary sketch, she said.A few lines said a whole lot. That stuck, so Im not going to fight it. In the philosophy of someone like Picasso, who said the easiest, simpliest design says the most this is what the face does.The faces have evolved over the years, Schaffner said. They take on the ethnicity of places where Ive traveled, she said. After returning from Japan, the eyes took on a marked Asian look, Schaffner said. After a visit to South America, she started putting things on her characters heads because all the women carry baskets on their head there.Schaffner spent time in a small village in Belize teaching the locals to make jewelry with Mayan motifs to sell to the tourists. She also worked in the mountains of Nepal, teaching the native residents to make jewelry from paper. It provides them with a little income if they can make something to sell, she said. Oftentimes, the biggest hurdle they have is figuring out what Western tourists would want, Schaffner said. While each face has a different expression, all of them are endearing, Schaffner said.People have asked why the faces have lasted so long. Its just a sweet, endearing face. Its very peaceful and people are drawn to it, Schaffner said.

Colorado Springs artist Elizabeth McDevitt creates her mostly high karat gold jewelry using a montage of historical techniques, she said. She uses a technique called chasing and repousse thats punching metal up from the back using tiny little punches and then chasing it back. It creates relief and I sculpt it from the front, she said. Its an ancient technique that was done in Greece. King Tuts mask was done that way.McDevitt has been making jewelry for 37 years, she said. She uses smooth gemstones to create a classical look with her bracelets, rings, brooches, necklaces and earrings. After studing historical metal-work techniques and styles in Africa and the Middle East, McDevitts style changed, she said. Things go in and come back out. I dont copy anything. When you study for a long time, it enters into your design sense, she said. McDevitt, a teacher herself at Pikes Peak Community, recently took a jewelry class in San Francisco taught by a Japanese metalsmith, she said. He taught traditional inlay and engraving that was a tradition in the Samari swords.I mix (all the styles) together and have it come out mine.Arts & Entertainment Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or

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