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716 S. Los Angeles St.
Los Angeles, CA

(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.”

The process and inspiration behind the woodpecker bracelet.

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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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