ABOUT MALIKA RACHELLE DESIGNS
I am in awe of Trinidad and Tobago flora. Bougainvilleas, heliconias, crown of thorns, monsterras, baobab flowers. I've lived in cities and suburbs in the US and knew manicured lawns, planted trees, flower pots, every piece of foliage deliberately placed. It’s so inspiring to now live where you see beautiful plant life which could equally be cultivated or wild. I love mangroves, their tangled roots feature in any of my brass etchings. I stumbled on the acacia tree on a wild, rocky outcrop above crashing waves, and loved the leaf for its asymmetry. It made me think of asymmetry of life, the imbalances you feel, which push you to move on, grow.
My styles and inspirations also vary. From my hand drawn brass etchings, to classy drops earrings. This is a one-stop for the dynamic woman who on some days finds herself feeling minimalist and and on other days steps out flamboyant, Or dainty or simple.
ABOUT MALIKA GREEN
I took one silversmithing class while finishing a masters degree in Music. The course outline was appealing: the tactility of it, sawing, filing, soldering etc. Besides, I like jewellery. I can’t leave the house without earrings. Yet my ears aren’t pierced and nice clip-ons were difficult to find outside of antique and thrift shops. In the class we produced a ring, a riveted piece, and an independent project. It excited me and I was good. The instructor suggested I continue or even switch my major but I was in my final year and married to music.
I went to teach steelpan in Maryland. After 4 years I developed a heart condition. I was 29. In addition to medication my doctor suggested a sedentary hobby. It was like a gentle whisper that had me invest in some cheap equipment from a crafts store. Mostly beads and wire, silver and brass. I got back into soldering. I made jewellery inspired by the steelpan – the instrument I taught. They did well. The hobby paid for itself.
I moved to Chicago in 2011 and started metalsmithing classes at an arts center, beginner’s stuff. Learning new approaches to the same processes. A lot is science; metals always melt, solder, anneal, reticulate at specific temperatures, but there are different ways to approach all of those processes. Different ways to create something new. I wasn’t selling anything, just making some designs I’d created. My job kept me busy, six days a week sometimes, but still I found myself at the studio 10-15 hours a week. Some hobby!
Then in 2017 I won a Fulbright scholarship to study steelband education in Trinidad & Tobago – my mother’s homeland. Two years later I’d moved in with my Trinidadian partner and planned to pursue a PhD in music education. Then someone mentioned a local jeweller looking for an apprentice, and the hobby beckoned. Meanwhile, my personal life grew more fulfilling I began to dread the idea of an academic career.
I followed the lead. With one foot still in the music world, I could only spare two days, of the five that he was requesting. For about two months he let me visit the workshop during slow days to do my own stuff. I still can’t believe my luck. He was one of the country’s master craftsmen and happy to teach me anything I wanted. By the third month I was a bench jeweler in the small jewelers workshop.
With only four or five of us in the workshop everyone does everything. No specialists. Or rather, everyone specializes in everything, working together, learning from each other. Using different metals, setting stones, repairing chains, creating custom items, reconstructing broken rings and earrings. In two months I absorbed more than I did in the previous ten years. It introduced me to fire and metal, the relationship at the heart of my silversmithing.
Silversmithing for me is like one those movies where two close friends realize after long, platonic years that they’d always been in love.
Logo and Graphics: Sas Mei Art