SJO JEWELRY

Creating A SJO Piece for Artist, Jennifer Wolf

Savannah SjostromComment

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with the fabulous artist, Jennifer Wolf, on a piece to wear to the opening reception for her new solo exhibition of gorgeous abstract paintings at William Turner Gallery in Santa Monica. She went with a version of the Rajasthan necklace, a piece inspired by the brilliant hot pinks and golds found in the Indian state’s famed Pink City, Jaipur. To make this necklace, I used gilt druzy pendants, gold Swarovski crystals, hot pink and candy apple red jade and African trade beads. I found it interesting that Jennifer was drawn to this necklace - Jaipur is known as the Pink City, because of the pink stone that has been sourced to construct all of its buildings; and Jennifer uses rocks, minerals and natural materials to create her paints, sourcing materials from around the world. I immediately felt a parallel between Jennifer's process of grinding pigment with mortar and pestle and the process of carving stone to build the brilliantly beautiful city in Rajasthan. 

Jennifer Wolf, Quantum Physical, 2015, Natural Dyes, Mordants and Acrylic Medium on Canvas over Panel, 60" x 120"

Jennifer Wolf, Quantum Physical, 2015, Natural Dyes, Mordants and Acrylic Medium on Canvas over Panel, 60" x 120"

Artist, Jennifer Wolf with her paintings, "Time Place Continuum" and "Spring Theory"

Artist, Jennifer Wolf with her paintings, "Time Place Continuum" and "Spring Theory"

Jaipur, the Pink City of Rajasthan

Jaipur, the Pink City of Rajasthan

 

The second parallel I was struck by was of course, color. Jennifer’s recent series centers on two colors in particular, pink being one of them, and blue the other, a palette she derives from the natural dyes cochineal and indigo. Cochineal is made from the crushed shells of female Cochineal beetles, insects which are native to South America. This dye has been used for centuries and to the ancient Meso-American civilizations, was once as precious as gold. As you can see in Jennifer’s paintings, this dye is capable of producing a vibrant range of colors, from cotton candy pink to rich violet. Indigo, derived from the plant of the same name, was also prized in the ancient world - used by the earliest civilizations to color cloths a vivid blue. In ancient Egypt, the color was revered, and weavers inserted indigo dyed stripes into the borders of linen cloths used to shroud the departed. Jennifer deftly manages to unite these two dyes (along with the radiant orange of Roussillon Ochre) into a body of work that sings with vitality and vibrance.

Jennifer Wolf, Time Place Continuum, 2015, Natural Dyes,Mordants, Acrylic Medium on Canvas over Panel, 48" x 96"

Jennifer Wolf, Time Place Continuum, 2015, Natural Dyes,Mordants, Acrylic Medium on Canvas over Panel, 48" x 96"

Jennifer Wolf: Edge of Miscibility at William Turner Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

Jennifer Wolf: Edge of Miscibility at William Turner Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

 

When looking at Jennifer’s paintings, one is immersed into a spectacular microcosm of color. You just want to jump inside of them and live there for awhile! They remind me all at once of the very big (our expanding universe) and the very small (the crystalline structures within a grain of sand), bursting with infinite energy and beauty. Prismatic forms dance under translucent layers of crimson, scarlet, fuchsia, violet, indigo blue and orange in a grand ballet of color and texture that simply envelop you. It was an honor to have Jennifer wear SJO JEWELRY to her opening :)

Me and Jennifer, wearing the Rajasthan Necklace to her opening at William Turner Gallery, 2015

Me and Jennifer, wearing the Rajasthan Necklace to her opening at William Turner Gallery, 2015

The Rajasthan Necklace by SJO JEWELRY

The Rajasthan Necklace by SJO JEWELRY

For more on Jennifer's paintings, click here

Detail of Jennifer Wolf, Spring Theory, 2015

Detail of Jennifer Wolf, Spring Theory, 2015

Ndebele Murals - "When I Am Painting, My Heart Is Very Wide. It Reaches Out"

Savannah SjostromComment

I’ve been enamored with the art and dress of the Ndebele people for some time now. I can’t remember where I first saw images of the vibrantly painted facades of Ndebele homes, but it was definitely love at first sight. What immediately struck me about the murals was their bold, graphic patterns and vivid colors. Scarlet red, cobalt blue, turquoise, rose pink and saffron yellow are used to create abstract and geometric motifs banded in bold black lines. Infinite combinations of colors and forms are painted by each artist, resulting in brilliant, beautiful reflections of those who live within their walls.

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In Ndebele society, mural painting and beadwork are the domains of women. Mothers teach their daughters both of these arts and so the practices are passed down generation after generation. Every four years, between April and June, for a period that begins and ends with a full moon, the young men of an Ndebele community are initiated into manhood during a ceremony called “Wela.” In the months immediately following this time, after the men return, the young women in the community are sequestered to their home, where they are taught “the secrets of womanhood and the fine points of painting and beadwork.” It is unknown to Westerners what the relationship between the images found in murals and those found in beadwork is, but both practices are deeply personal and tied to ritual. The fact that these artistic practices are passed down from woman to woman is particularly resonant. These paintings are visual manifestations of the bond between mother and child, and also of oneself. It is quite beautiful that the way a woman paints her home is the way she distinguishes herself from others.  I love the idea of adornment and style (in this case of the home and the self) as a visual declaration of individual identity. In the case of the Ndebele people, this dedication to identity is all the more poignant given that under the oppressive apartheid rule in South Africa, they were displaced - forced to leave their native lands and moved to government organized "resettlement camps."

 

A number of necklaces in the latest collection are named “Esther” and “Mahlangu” - Esther Mahlangu is perhaps the best known Ndebele artist. She first gained international attention in 1989 at an art expo entitled “Magicians of the World.” I like the idea of artist as magician. It’s a concept I consider often - an artist does perform a sort of magic while creating a piece, conjuring an entirely new image or object from simple materials - a tube of paint, a slab of marble, an idea. Mahlangu, and the other Ndebele women who paint these murals, transform their homes into gorgeous, dreamlike compounds, each of which make a unique statement about those who live inside.

 

In 1991, Mahlangu was commissioned by BMW to paint a 525i as part of their Art Car series. The first woman and the first non-Western person to participate in this series, Esther designed and painted the car with traditional Ndebele motifs. It is awesomely beautiful - a perfect melding of tradition, modernity and individual style and innovation. I am deeply inspired by Mahlangu’s painting, as well as her dedication to her heritage and artistic expression.  You can feel her energy in her work - vibrant, bright and full of life.

Esther Mahlangu's BMW Art Car. "When I am painting, my heart is very wide. It reaches out."    - Esther Mahlangu

Esther Mahlangu's BMW Art Car. "When I am painting, my heart is very wide. It reaches out."    - Esther Mahlangu

San Miguel de Allende: A Waking Dream

Savannah SjostromComment

We recently spent a week in the unbelievably beautiful Mexican city, San Miguel de Allende - a place that just overflows with inspiration. Located in the state of Guanjuato, San Miguel de Allende was a stop along the silver trade route in Mexico centuries ago. Settled in the 16th century by Spanish colonialists, the European settlers mixed with the indigenous people creating a community rich with cultural exchange - this merging of cultures manifests in the unique aesthetic of the city itself. The architecture is breathtaking - rows of polychrome buildings are stacked alongside cobblestone streets - saffron yellow, red ochre, lavender, turquoise and coppery pink facades are punctuated by papel picado banners strewn from rooftop to rooftop. Multicolored ribbons are tied to wrought iron windows and buildings have intricately carved wood doors, often with ornate bronze doorknockers - my favorite was shaped like a human hand holding an orb.

The city centers around a cathedral named La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel. A fantastic neo-gothic structure that is an other-worldly rose pink. Built in the 17th century, the traditional Mexican facade was replaced in 1880 by Zeferino Gutierrez, an indigenous bricklayer and self taught architect, who, legend has it, based the facade on postcards of European cathedrals that he had collected in his archive. However, the cathedral is so whimsical and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, I have to believe that Mr. Gutierrez used his imagination more than any reference photos! 

My other favorite structure was the Nuestra Señora de la Salud church, just a few blocks from the main square. The main portal is shaped like a giant seashell and is carved in the Churrigueresque style - elaborately ornamented and fabulously beautiful. Pink and blue tinsel flower garlands were strung from the facade across the square which only enhanced the magical quality of the building. Street vendors set up in the square outside the church, while musicians play and local kids run around playing after school - the place vibrates with energy!

The Mercado de Artesanias was one of the highlights of the trip - a long arcade filled to the brim with Mexican made objects - painted tin lanterns, ornaments & mirrors, beautiful hand woven textiles, papier mache, piñatas, carved wooden toys, silver jewelry and folk art. The Mercado is a sensory delight! In addition to artisanal objects, there was also a bevy of fresh produce, aqua frescas, and candy - I only wish that we had more time to comb through all of the things the Mercado had to offer. 

Riding in cabs was a really fun way to see the city. There are no stop signs and mostly one way streets in San Miguel, so you have no choice other than to sit back and let the world come at you. The rhythm of the city is very different from Los Angeles - everything is a bit more laid-back, drivers are considerate and everyone takes their time. Perfect for a looky-loo like myself! My favorite zone to drive through was outside of La Aurora - the gallery/arts district a few blocks away from the main square. It was great for people watching and architecture-admiring. The flower scene in San Miguel is unbelievable - I’ve never seen so many luscious bougainvillea vines in my life! The vivid fuchsia of the paper-like flowers spilling over the painted walls was so amazing. Many of the homes and restaurants in San Miguel have terraces where you can sit and eat and admire the spectacular view - yet another way that the city helps you slow down and enjoy the experience. You could often catch a glimpse of someone’s spectacular rooftop succulent garden while enjoying dinner and a cocktail. Not to mention the epic views of majestic cathedrals from every angle! 

It would take a whole book to express all of my happy feelings towards the enchanting San Miguel de Allende…I’ll leave you with this for now. We returned from the trip feeling relaxed and enriched - and with some great ideas for the next collection :) :) :) Stay tuned!!!

Inspiration Along the California Coast

Savannah SjostromComment

This past weekend, I went on a much needed mini-vacay with my mom. We hopped in her car and made a beeline up the coast. Our destination was Shell Beach, a lovely little beach town just north of Pismo Beach, off highway 101.

After taking in the gorgeous ocean views from our hotel, The Cliffs Resort, we decided to take our journey north, to Morro Bay. Situated just off PCH, Morro Bay is another awesome waterfront town. We found a fantastic antique emporium on this trip, which offered up hundreds of sources of inspiration, from antique jewelry to beautiful ethnic textiles. I can't believe I'm revealing this place to the world, but it's just too good to keep to myself. Next stop was The Shell Shop along the embarcadero. Open since 1955, this treasure trove of rare and beautiful marine life is a must-visit. I found a few pieces that might find their way into SJO JEWELRY soon - particularly the candy striped snail shells. For me, the carefully curated cases of rare shells offered up a wealth of color palette inspiration.

Being just a hop, skip and a jump away from SLO, we decided to grab lunch at the iconic California landmark, The Madonna Inn. Talk about the power of color! We were met with a mesmerizing array of patterns, textures and other delights. From the gorgeous lapis blue marble counters in the powder room to the polychromatic floral carpets in the main lobby, The Madonna did not disappoint. I felt right at home in the medley of sumptuous colors. Unexpected elements were juxtaposed to achieve dazzling effects - slabs of giant rocks native to the site where the inn was constructed are paired with tufted leather, shimmering iridescent wallpaper and carnival-like light installations. It was an absolute joy to walk the grounds - I felt like a kid in a candy shop! 

We concluded our adventure with a visit to the wonderfully exotic Ostrichland USA in Solvang. Seeing these majestic, jurassic looking creatures in person was a thrill! Mom and I spent the better part of an hour feeding these wild things, admiring their regal plumage and rather intimidating stature. I couldn't help but imagine what one of my necklaces might look like on one of those statuesque necks ;)

-S