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A long-time friend and always popular artist here at Four Winds, Shawn Bluejacket sat down with us during her recent visit to chat about her work.

What’s one of the most challenging aspects of jewelry making? What are some of your favorites? 

The biggest challenge is to not make your work static and to keep it evolving.  Keep it flowing!  My favorite is when you get new inspiration.  When something is particularly inspiring, whether it’s a stone, something you see in nature, that is probably the most exciting aspect.  Designing is probably my favorite.  

I was wondering if there were any stones you particularly love, because you have such a wonderful variety of stone choices in your work. 

Any kind of opals, the rarer the opal the better. And I really love chrysocolla druzy.

Do you have any sort of specific selection process, I know you have your husband at a (gem and mineral) show right now…

Usually my husband goes with me to shows; he’s been going with me to these for so long that he does know what I like! He knows who I buy from. 

Really, the most important process part for me is being very detail oriented.  I draw my designs, and sometimes when I have a design I like, it may be a few weeks or a few months until I actually review it. This year I set a goal for myself: making myself design five new things a week — just to keep things flowing.  That way I have a nice resource to see and go back to if there’s something I haven’t made. 

Five a week! 

I don’t know where I came up with that! I’ve been doing this long enough that I don’t want things to get boring, so I made that as a challenge and a goal that I put for myself this year.  It’s exciting and challenging for me, and it reminds me how much I like designing these things! 

When you’re designing, do you find yourself sticking to the original plans, or veering away from them? 

I think that you have to have flexibility.  I generally stick to the plan, but I’m not inflexible.  If I think something else would look better I’ll change it.  Or sometimes when you’re actually fabricating something and it doesn’t work and you think, ‘Oh, that actually doesn’t look good with that.’  So I’ll change or add…I’m flexible that way.  You have to be. 

All of your pieces work so well together — that really shows. 

Thank you! Carol (Four Winds resident metalsmith) got it: she said to me, ‘You must have been a doodler… because everything has such a flow.’ I am!  I’ve done it since I was a child, drew for hours all my life. 

You were raised in New Zealand, studied in California, and now you live in North Carolina.  Has your international experience with people of so many different cultures given you a certain perspective on how you do things? 

Definitely. As a kid I was really exposed to a lot of Polynesian culture and a lot of Maori culture. So I think that’s been an influence on my work. But then people that we knew were from all over the world.  I went to school with people from all different backgrounds.  Some people’s parents had immigrated from Scotland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Latvia. I do like to think of myself as a citizen of the world.  

I was interested in your thoughts on the relationship between Maori and European-originated culture in New Zealand in comparison with the representation of Native American culture here in the United States. 

The advantage I think in New Zealand, as a child there in the 70s, it was really cool that native culture was part of your education.  It was very integral.  I learned to poi dance as a kid.  It was very much part of the education, we had Maori songs.  I went to school with a lot of Maori kids.  The culture was very much incorporated.  The haka, the moko (tattoos on the face), that was just something you grew up around.  Then you come to the States and there’s a lot less information about Native culture, that’s kind of interesting. 

Finally, any particular jewelers or styles you really love? 

I find antique jewelry very inspirational, particularly Renaissance jewelry and pieces from the Byzantine era.  This is also this Italian jeweler named Verdura who produced amazing work in the 1930s and 40s that used seashells with diamonds that I just love.  I’ve just been realizing recently that I’ve been influenced by the Art Nouveau movement, and I’ve always loved Dadaism. I want my work to have a whimsical and ethereal quality — not serious! 

It’s hard not to fall in love with a vision like that! A special thank-you to Shawn Bluejacket for spending time with us; we have enjoyed learning more about what shapes her artistic process.  With her thoughtfulness about the people who wear her jewelry, it’s no wonder Shawn has such an enthusiastic following! 


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