Storytelling with Jewelry Designs: 25 Exotic Projects to Express Your Global Style
I bet you’ve heard that adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, I have to confess that at first, I did judge Anne Potter’s beautiful new book, Global Style Jewelry: Inspiration and Instruction for 25 Exotic Beaded Jewelry Projects, by its title. With “exotic beaded jewelry projects,” I didn’t think it was ideal for me, since I do more metal than beading jewelry designs. That was a BIG mistake!
Sure, there are some beads in this book, but it’s not about beading specifically. It’s a beautiful book full of wanderlust and exotic jewelry designs inspired by exotic lands, and each one comes with a lovely little story.
“Because we artists respond to the setting, the context, and the story of a piece,” Anne writes in her introduction, “I set these projects into a narrative. A romantic tale that lovingly pays homage to the cultures and artisans that make the beautiful designs that inspire us. As a teenager, I enjoyed reading The Travels of Marco Polo and the J. Peterman catalog. Both inspire my own writing and read similarly; just as in those works, the people and stories featured in this book are fictionalized, but the narrator is real.”
I, too, loved the J. Peterman catalog and always enjoyed reading it as much as I did shopping in it. I had the same feeling with Anne’s book, Global Style Jewelry. I enjoyed reading Anne’s stories about cultures all over the world as much as I enjoyed her jewelry designs. Here are some of my favorites.
Goa, India: Azulejo Tile Necklace
“Guiding my rented scooter around tight curves, I make my way up the hilly jungle road, dodging cows that just won’t budge and dogs here and there,” Anne writes. “The sun is bright overhead, but groves of rubber trees cast dappled shade on the road before me. The drowsy, dense heat of the jungle is a sanctuary, pulling me in, away from the commotion of Panaji.”
Yoohoo! Come back from India, though I know that’s an enticing mental image. In the rest of Anne’s story, I learned that Panaji is a unique town in the Indian state of Goa–unique because it was settled by the Portuguese. Can you imagine what the blending of those two cultures would look like?
“The look and feel of Panaji is Portuguese, but the people are Indian,” Anne writes. “Groups of women walk together wearing tropically bright saris of saffron, magenta, parrot green, and tangerine. In the market, vendor stalls are loaded with heady heaps of curry and nutmeg and chilis.
“From the main road, I turn onto a dirt lane that is cloistered by pepper trees. The studio up ahead looks like an oasis from the heat: shutters prop open to let in a mountain breeze, while a dog lazes across a worn threshold. The blue and white tile placard tells me I’m at the right place: Estúdio Telha de Goa–the Goa Tile Studio–where the Portuguese tradition of painted azulejo tiles carries on. Inside, two women in everyday saris paint white bisque tiles with light blue, medium blue, and cadmium yellow paint. . . . the designs are positively Portuguese. Individual tiles, each with a blooming blue flower in one corner surrounded by light blue arching flourishes, will piece together to make the tessellating pattern of corner-joined bouquets. . . . Before coming to Goa, I couldn’t imagine what a fusion of Portuguese-Indian cultures would look like. Now I see: it’s beautiful.” Inspired by that beauty, Anne created the Azulejo Tile Necklace.
Turkey: Iznik Tile Earrings
“Tilework seems to cover all of Istanbul, from palace walls to public drinking fountains, and I find I’m most taken with the Iznik tiles,” Anne writes. “These graceful, traditionally Turkish tiles combine to form ornate, allover patterns of arabesques, flowers, and flourishes. I expected more geometric patterns, but mainly I see iterations of blooming carnations, tulips, and pomegranates with feathery, paisley-shaped leaves. And the color palette is consistent nearly everywhere the tiles appear: aqua blue and cobalt blue with tiny touches of red and green on a plain white background. The tilework is everywhere, seemingly growing wild, coloring humble walls and ceilings with a ubiquitous aqua-turquoise hue.” She ends with a reminder that “turquoise” is the French word for Turkish, which I never knew, did you?
Cobalt blue, red, and turquoise with gold or brass is one of my favorite color combinations for jewelry designs. It’s just so bright, crisp, and rich; it feels luxurious and makes me happy. It caught Anne’s eye, too.
“I chose to focus on the colors of Iznik tile for these earrings, and not the exuberant pattern, so these earrings are about a Turkish (‘turquoise’) color palette, not Turkish decoration,” Anne writes. She chose beads in tile-like shapes for the Iznik Tile Earrings, and she gave the brass ogee corners, to mimic the alcoves at Topkapi Palace. “I opted for brass elements because brass evokes the luxe gilding found throughout Topkapi Palace, a well-loved feature in Turkish decoration,” she shared. Every element of these earrings was chosen for a specific reason; that kind of forethought is sure to create jewelry designs that are meaningful eye catchers.
Gujarat, India: Mehndi Hand Bracelet
I’m so in love with this bracelet and keep wishing I’d thought of combining gorgeous filigree pieces (which I have too many of and continue to buy) in similar jewelry designs. Now that I’ve seen Anne’s filigree representing mehndi henna, it’s hard to imagine it otherwise–but a trip to India is not hard to imagine, with Anne’s story behind this bracelet.
“The scene is like something out of a Bollywood movie,” Anne writes. “On huge tufted cushions, covered by colorfully festooned canopies, groups of women sit, whispering, teasing, laughing, talking. To one side, older women cluck together about the arrangement, nodding agreement and beaming with joy. A cushion of young women gossip together, fidgeting with their sari scarves while a cluster of young girls are getting too silly and will be shushed soon.
“In the middle of everything sits the most beautiful bride-to-be I’ve ever seen. She’s stunning. In a navy blue sari with rich bullion gold embroidery and tiny mirror spangles she sits serenely, hands laid out before her on a pillow. Her thick black hair is thrown over one shoulder, and a navy scarf gracefully frames her face. She’s dripping with gold–earrings, bracelets, a tikka chutti parting her hair–but I’ve been told this is just for the mehndi party,” Anne continues. “Just wait ’til the wedding! Tonight’s Girls’ Night is lavish but more intimate and low-key than tomorrow’s marathon wedding. Tonight is all about the bride.
“Amid the festivity, the henna artist quietly, carefully draws the mehndi designs on the bride’s hands. She has already finished her feet and palms, where the groom’s name hides in a paisley tail to be found tomorrow. Now she works on the last part: a meandering showpiece that covers fingers, hands, wrists, and arms. Lacy bands encircle each finger like russet knuckle rings. Round lotus flowers bloom over her hands, shooting eddied tendrils down each finger. She embellishes each motif elaborately with layers of frills and fronds and lines and dots until the design looks like auburn lace.”
Auburn lace indeed! I’ll never be able to think of henna in another way . . . except perhaps as filigree!
Spain: Gaudi Tile Bracelet
Antoni Gaudi was commissioned to create a park as part of an urbanization movement in Barcelona in the early 1900s. This bracelet was inspired by the mosaics in that park. “This whimsical park flaunts Gaudí’s surreal modern-baroque style and is covered with trencadís-style mosaics, which use reclaimed pottery such as ceramic plates instead of new tiles,” Anne writes, calling the park a “multicolored wonderland.” She takes us there with her with a romantic story about the park, excerpted in part here:
“As the setting sun casts a golden wash over the city, encroaching shadows paint the park. What was white a few minutes ago is now an energetic, electric blue. Patches of red and green and yellow pop with saturation now, as if switched on from underneath. Miguel and Pilar take a self-portrait together with gingerbread gatehouses and beautiful Barcelona in the background. Leaning together, they are wearing sunglasses and smiling big, laughing smiles. I wonder if Gaudí knew that his park would feel like this? What a playground, what a happy place to be!”
Anne recreated Gaudi’s colorful atmosphere using readily available materials, filling a craft store bezel bracelet with Czech glass beads set in epoxy clay “grout.”
I have to stop myself here, before I share all of this books beautiful projects and stories with you! But I love them all so much . . . maybe just a few more. Click any image below to open a slideshow of more of Anne’s exotic jewelry designs.
I know you’ll enjoy making all of the 25 jewelry projects in Anne’s book, each with a worldly style and exotic feel. Along the way, you can also learn jewelry-making techniques like metal stamping, chain maille, macramé, wirework, mosaics, and working with epoxy clay.
I especially appreciated the little refreshers on stringing techniques, like crimping and making various knots. Being a metalworker, I had an “aha!” moment a few years ago when a beading friend told me that it isn’t a good idea to use metal crimps on thread because the metal edges will eventually wear through the thread and cut it. It had completely slipped my mind at the time but comes in very handy when stringing jewelry (and restringing pearls!).
Is it a jewelry-making book with travel stories or a travel book with jewelry-making projects? Either way, treat yourself to a trip around the world and exotic jewelry designs with Anne Potter and her truly delightful book, Global Style Jewelry. No passport required!