I have been making jewelry since discovering cereal-box pop beads at the age of eight. In the early ’70s, I began using shells that I found on California beaches and combining them with feathers and macramé cording. During the late ’70s, I worked as a jewelry designer in fine gold and gemstones at David Webb Jewelers, NYC, and began incorporating these materials into my designs.
In 2005, I spent a year on Silverstrand Beach near Oxnard, California, and collected numerous shells and sea glass, which I began using in necklaces and earrings. While there, I became even more aware of the increasing threat to human sustainability and what it means to think and act ecologically. This budding environmental awareness has led me to perceive my work as Environmental Art or Eco-art.
Eco-art cultivates a sensibility of how complex ethical life can be in a world in which “good” and “bad” are not polarities but fluid points on a continuum. Such a transformation in perspective may be seen as ethopoiesis: a process of forming an alternative ēthos, or world view, that expresses an environmentally aware ethics of place. And we desperately need an alternative to our current ēthos that exhorts us to deplete our natural resources without restraint, oblivious of the looming ecocrisis our wild consumption has caused.
With this in mind, I am intrigued by the thought that making—and wearing—found-shell jewelry might be ethopoietic, a notion that I have been promoting in my teaching. Lately, as a K-8 substitute teacher, I have been rewarding students’ good behavior with seashell and sea glass “free time” projects, which frequently leads to discussions about recycling and conchology, the scientific study of shells.
Along this strand, I have published a narrative about beachcombing and jewelry making, Silverstrand An Ecocritique of Place and Creativity.
For more examples of my shell, feather, and gemstone jewelry, please visit Mythicstrands.