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716 S. Los Angeles St.
Los Angeles, CA
USA

(310) 489-3763

Kristen Dorsey Designs, LLC was founded in 2011 by Kristen Dorsey, an award-winning Chickasaw metalsmith living and working in Huntington Beach, CA. For Kristen, jewelry goes beyond ornamental adornment; it is a medium with which she has forged her cultural identity as a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, a Native American tribe originally from the southeast.  Utilizing natural gemstones, precious metals, and other materials, her handcrafted jewelry pieces are a unique mix of Chickasaw visual traditions infused with inspiration drawn from the beauty of the California Coast.  Dorsey’s philosophy is that “jewelry is a sacred narrative; it captures moments of significance for the wearer such as transitions in life, relationships with one another, and with one’s community, cultural identity, and spirituality.”

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Crafting a Statement Ring...At the Jeweler's Bench

Kristen Dorsey

Sometimes my most inspired pieces are created when I let the unique qualities of the materials be my guide.  As a metalsmith, the possibilities of construction and design are only limited by my imagination.  Often, my most creative pieces are designed with a general concept at first, but soon take their own shape as I piece them together and discover design solutions to make the piece both aesthetically pleasing and functional.  The Stingray ring was inspired by the Stingray Collar, an extravagant statement neck piece which I designed and constructed with the same type of process.  Both pieces take on an otherworldly aesthetic and play with concepts of wings and flight.  This ring was showcased for the first time at the Los Angeles Fashion Council's Los Angeles Fashion Week Press Presentation on March 12, 2014 in Downtown Los Angeles.  

I love sketching my concepts on graph paper, I will then cut out the actual shapes from graph paper and tape them to the metal that needs to be sawed out.  I also work out the many steps of the creation process through notations on my sketches.  

I love sketching my concepts on graph paper, I will then cut out the actual shapes from graph paper and tape them to the metal that needs to be sawed out.  I also work out the many steps of the creation process through notations on my sketches.  

The ring half way through the construction process.  The wings have been formed using chasing and repoussé, and the main stone setting has been fabricated.

The ring in the final stages... The fabrication and soldering is complete, the stingray skin is fit and glued in, and the final polishing and refining of the bezel will be completed. 

The completed statement ring at the jeweler's bench

A detail of the ring on a model at the Los Angeles Fashion Council Press Event during Los Angeles Fashion Week.  The model also wears the Sky Serpent Cuff in Black Rhodium.

Model wearing the stingray collar and ring
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Statement ring in the succulents

The process and inspiration behind the woodpecker bracelet.

Kristen Dorsey

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As a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, I am constantly seeking out knowledge of my tribe's history and culture.  My art work is a way for me to explore the world of my ancestors.  By interpreting their designs into my own jewelry pieces, I am bringing their world view and visual language into my every life.  The woodpecker is one of the symbols that I am particularly drawn to.  It is found incised on pottery and engraved into shell gorgets from Moundville, the ancient mound city that the Chickasaw people are connected to.  These designs are probably based off of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker which made the southeastern swamplands it's home but is now feared to be extinct due to loss of habitat.  The woodpecker appears in Chickasaw stories and is considered to be a guardian figure.  You can view video of other Chickasaw artists and leaders discussing the significance of the woodpecker on ChickasawTV

Illustration of a woodpecker design on a clay vessel* found at Moundville.  Moore, Clarence B. 1905. Certain Aboriginal Remains of the Black Warrior River. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.   *The vessel was possibly excavated from a burial site so out of respect to that ancestor, I have opted not to publish the photograph of the vessel.  Many pieces from Moundville were taken out of graves by robbers and archaeologists without permission from descendants of the deceased.  

Illustration of a woodpecker design on a clay vessel* found at Moundville.  Moore, Clarence B. 1905. Certain Aboriginal Remains of the Black Warrior River. Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.  

*The vessel was possibly excavated from a burial site so out of respect to that ancestor, I have opted not to publish the photograph of the vessel.  Many pieces from Moundville were taken out of graves by robbers and archaeologists without permission from descendants of the deceased.  

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I usually start the design process by drawing the piece to scale on graph paper and then rough carving the shapes into wax with files.  The wax starts off as a solid sheet and is very hard to allow for intricate carving. I then continue to carve and add in detail with wax carving tools in a variety of tips.  This piece took about 20 hours of carving.

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The finished wax (above) is then cast in silver through the lost wax process.  The silver piece is then molded so that multiples can be made in different types of metals.  The finished bracelet is cast in silver or in bronze with a rose gold plating.  It is set with a bright turquoise colored amazonite and is attached to a band of woven leather.  

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Woodpecker Bracelet
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Holiday Trunk Show at Industry DTLA

Kristen Dorsey

The KDD headquarters recently re-located to Downtown Los Angeles and we feel very fortunate to be a part of such a vibrant and creative community.  It's amazing how so many new small businesses are popping up on every corner, from restaurants to shopping to fine art Downtown is quickly becoming a cultural and shopping mecca.  Industry DTLA is one of these hip, new venues.  They feature a luxe hair salon and a boutique which carries local clothing and accessory designers.  We are excited to be hosted by Industry DTLA for a trunk show on Sunday, December 15th during the Downtown LA shop walk.  We will have champagne to celebrate the occasion and will be running some special holiday promotions.  The event runs from 12pm to 6pm.