When I was a little girl, I remember how my cousin and I used to pick up tiny round pebbles while we were swimming at our favourite beaches in both Malta and Gozo. When we had quite a collection of these and usually at the end of summer, we used to go to our grandfather, who would then bore a small hole in each one, with his driller. He would then thread them with a coloured leather chord and put some little beads in the middle and tie everything up in a rattly (though a bit heavy) bracelet.
Those bracelets contained all the joys and memories of those sunny days of my childhood, and although I don’t wear them anymore, they will always be there. You can appreciate how patient my grandfather was, and how much he loved us. It takes a lot of patience for such a project, yet the rewards are infinitely worth it.
Maybe it’s not such an expensive piece of jewellery and it does not fall under any important label, however, in my opinion, carrying a little piece of nature with you not only grounds you, but also lends you some kind of mental peace. The balance between beauty and the elements is always a reminder about how awesome the world is, and even subconsciously, such a feeling helps us through those hectic days, when there seems to be no end to the stress in sight.
Organic jewellery, that is, jewellery made out of eco-friendly natural materials, is not as appreciated as it should be. It involves not only a very creative streak, but also a willingness to spend hours over one single piece, giving it all your patience and attention.
Organic jewellery can be made out of many materials: rings, necklaces, earrings, and all sorts of bangles can be created from wood, pebbles, feathers, leather, or glass, not to mention materials, such as tree bark, bamboo or dried flowers. Tools, which include pliers, cord, glue, scissors, head pins, wire and loops are also necessary, depending on the kind of jewellery you are creating.
One particular Maltese jewellery artist has inspired me with her creativity and beautiful work. Kathleen Zahra, creates colourful jewellery out of prickly pear cactus leaves.
I talked to Kathleen about her work, and asked her a few questions.
What first interested you in organic jewellery?
I used to create jewellery with wiring and beading and it sort of felt like the next step to make something more sustainable. I have always been very inspired by nature, so I sort of felt this urge to create something which mainly uses natural materials.
Why use prickly pear cactus and not some other material?
The prickly pear cactus is a very special plant, because the design the leaf creates when dried is simply a work of art in itself. I chose the prickly pear because I wanted to send the message that even the most rough-looking plant can embody a hidden beauty. Also, although prickly pear leaves are considered to be useless, I also wanted to show that anything can be useful if one adopts a creative approach to how it can be used.
What message do you wish to share through this jewellery?
My thought is that human beings can live a sustainable, balanced life in a very practical way. I wish to create a greater awareness about respecting nature more, because it is nature which sustains us. We just have to find a way to use its benefits in a balanced way instead of abusing it.
Sometimes, we think that the major life-changing decisions are those which shift and shape our world. However, if one thinks about it, one often finds that it is the simple, little things in life, which often make us complete, beautiful and whole.
If you would like to know more about Kathleen’s jewellery, click here