A polemic that has been going on for over 100 years is whether or not photography is truly an art form, but if you stop and think about it, a much greater conundrum is whether or not jewelry is an art form. Think about your jewelry box for a minute; in that box you may find tokens of love, memories of old romances, keepsakes from dear departed ones and so forth. But tell me, are they actually pieces of art? Let’s leave that question for your after-dinner conversation. For now let us consider a very particular kind of jewelry that is indeed, and without any doubt, an art form. The reason for that dogmatic statement is precisely this: the maker of a particular jewelry form is a consummate artist. Let me explain.
One of Costa Rica’s most celebrated jewelry designers, Lucía Eschaverría Sáenz, as a child loved to make dresses for cut-out dolls and would accessorize them with necklaces, tiaras and the like. Later in her twenty’s she was an art teacher and owned a gallery whereby she sold both her water colours and her jewelry. The paintings proved less successful then the jewelry. Today, she will tell you they were mere trinkets and in no way special.
Suddenly her fortunes took a challenging twist and she lost both her teaching job and could no longer justify maintaining her rather non-dynamic gallery. By selling her business, she took the proceeds and propelled herself into what became her life’s work – to create fashion jewelry.
Lucia began to travel, in particular to Mexico, to pursue her study of fashion jewelry. There was much to learn and she proved to be an apt student. In addition to mastering metal work (lost wax method) and creating settings for semi-precious stones and jewels, there was another important aspect to becoming a successful designer: she had to also learn how to acquire raw materials – a trying and costly mission, to say the least.
Then, as was destined to happen a few more times in her life, during travels in Mexico she met with a generous mentor whose counsel took years off Lucía’s quest as she guided her in finding the fundamental building blocks needed for this kind of jewelry making. Of course none of this practical knowledge replaces genius, and this is where Lucía shines. Knowing how to acquire the parts to express the ideas within her allowed her to launch herself in this new journey. She is forever reinventing herself and her art, and the final stroke appeared last year, an inspiring story of its own.
At one time Lucia felt that jewelry design was perhaps a step down from both her painting and art she had taught to her high school students – that it was somehow an inferior, superficial class of art. Her perspective was utterly changed by a photographer who, beyond all doubt, explained to her that the fusion of textures, shapes and colours of her jewelry pieces in their finished form actually does create Art.
A very academic person, Lucia is always studying to expand her knowledge in all areas of her life and so this proclamation by the photographer resonated with all that she knew about art.
In a recent conversation, Lucia explained that as Costa Rica does not have the natural resources for the jewelry she chooses to make, she is always looking afar for pieces that will inspire her creations. When she first visited Galería Namu and saw our hand-carved, painted vegetable ivory (tagua) pendants she knew she had found something she simply had to incorporate into her fashion necklaces.
Selecting a few tagua pieces, she returned some time later with the synthesis of her precious jewelry: lacy, matte German silver necklaces (with earrings) cradling a focal tagua creation, embedded with semi-precious stones and beads. The fusion was breathtakingly brilliant. Initially, it was hard for me to imagine how she would work with this mélange, but that’s where the aspect of art enters, and the result was magnificent. You will see this magic for yourself if you explore the tagua jewelry section of our website. There can be no doubt that you will have to agree that most certainly jewelry can truly be art.