The lost art of jewelry making
Vail CO, Colorado
In a jewelry market flooded with mass-produced trinkets from Asia, Dhyan Sherri stands out like a faithful lighthouse.
The artist from Maui does not send drawings of her jewelry designs overseas so natives can manufacture them for cheap. Nor does she create molds of her designs for uncountable reproductions.
In her quaint seaside studio, Sherri crafts one-of-a-kind pieces by hand using 22 karat gold and natural gem stones. Sherri creates art ” and it just so happens you can wear it.
“In the past, jewelry was an art form that you had to be skilled. The first jewelers were craftsmen and metal smiths,” Sherri says. “You couldn’t come up with an idea and send it to China and have it massed produced. What I do brings jewelry back to a form of art.”
Sherri’s wearable art is on exhibit this weekend at Karats in Vail Village. She’ll be in the gallery to talk about her work and take commissions.
Jewelry lost part of its art element due to a couple of worldly developments. Lost-wax casting, for example, where you pour metal into molds, was used in ancient times by jewelry artists as a means of expression. In the Industrial Age, the technique became a means of production. Jewelry could be made in large numbers at a low cost to buyers using machines, removing the need for artists. In the 21st century, the jewelry industry began outsourcing labor to underdeveloped countries, and artists were again cut out of the picture.
“Because of this, there were people who got involved in jewelry that weren’t artists. They come up with one idea and the next thing you know, they’re going into business,” Sherri says.
Sherri studied jewelry making and design at Parsons School of Design and Jewelry Arts Institute in New York City. She’s schooled as a contemporary jeweler. She understands all the modern methods, but finds them very strict and limiting. She prefers the visceral experience of shaping jewelry by hand and using rustic tools like heat and a hammer to create adornments that are reminiscent of the past. She extended her formal training to learn and master ancient jewelry-making.
“I think contemporary jewelry making is for a personality who likes to be precise and really square. I am more of a flowing personality,” Sherri says. “Ancient jewelry is not about being precise and tight and angular. It’s about going with a piece and letting what happens, happen. That’s the fun of it. If everything was planned out and controlled, I would be bored. Things happen as you work the piece and that is the beauty of real art work.”
There is a flowing, water element to all Sherri’s jewelry. The borders of her cuffs and bangles are not straight but curved, mimicking waves. The Curl Earrings in her Flintstone collection are like soft, falling leaves.
Most of her work is kissed with intricate filigree work, a technique that’s become a signature look for Sherri. Filigree is done by heating 22 karat gold with a torch and then using the torch like a paint brush to fuse together separate shapes. She uses the technique to create ancient symbols on her jewelry, like an OM dangle on her earrings or a Celtic clasp on her wrap necklaces. Sherri is inspired by ancient cultures.
One ancient image she uses repeatedly throughout her work is the snake.
“One of the most famous images is the snake biting its own tail,” Sherri says. “Called Ouroboros, from ancient Egypt in 1600 BC, it represents the wheel of time, the circular nature of the way things are. I can relate to that, over time things come back to the original source.”
Lately, Sherri’s inspiration arrives from above ” the starry Hawaiian sky. She’s created a whole collection of Constellation jewelry, using diamonds and sapphires to map out the stars. Rather than fuse together a gold Taurus symbol with filigree, for example, she forms the beast’s constellation using gem stones.
Her first Constellation piece was designed especially for a client. Sherri wanted the jewelry to have special meaning, so she mapped out Aquarius, the woman’s Astrology sign on a thick cuff. Sherri also added symbols that were in the Hawaiian sky during the time of the piece’s creation. A big diamond represents the full moon.
“That’s the direction I’m headed. I want to personalize the jewelry. My hope is that more people will come to me with their specific design,” Sherri says.
During her exhibit, Sherri will take commissions by appointment only. In the past, people have requested her to re-set old stones, drawing personally meaningful symbols with the gold. Sherri can also suggest which gem stones would be most powerful to you. For more information, visit http://www.karatsvail.com.