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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.”

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Artesian Arts Festival

Kristen Dorsey

Please Join Us in Sulphur, Oklahoma for the Artesian Arts Festival this Saturday, May 26th.  Meet our designer Kristen and shop her unique, handcrafted jewelry.  For more information about the show, click here.

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Our Mother's Day Gift Guide

Kristen Dorsey

1. Our new Hatchet Women apparel has arrived! Gift to those fierce moms in your life. They can flaunt their unique strength with all new relaxed fit T shirts and tanks featuring the Hatchet Women logo.  

2. We added brand new hatchet pieces just in time to spoil mom.  The delicate cut out work adds new layers of dimension to the powerful hatchet designs.  These earrings can be made with or without her favorite gemstone and are light weight for comfort and style. 

3. The new small hatched pendant is designed to wear alone or to layer with other KDD pieces.  Mom will especially love the meaningful story of the Hatchet Women detailed on the collection card packaged with each piece. 

4. The new Hatchet wrap bracelet makes the perfect gift as it's crafted out of luxurious sterling silver, and USA sourced leathers that have been processed and dyed with environmentally friendly materials. One size fits all makes this the perfect piece to gift for any stylish mom.

Did you Catch Our Big Announcement!

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Dear KDD Family,

I am always in awe of the strength that we women possess, yet now I am witnessing it firsthand as my first child, my daughter grows inside of me. I believe that love is our greatest source of power and strength.  It was a fierce love for their children that led my Chickasaw ancestors, the Hatchet women to defend their homes. It is this kind of love that I am already feeling for my daughter. As she grows larger and stronger each day, we become more and more connected, and my love grows deeper.  She is already a fierce little being, kicking with more and more power. As I prepare to welcome her into the world, I adorn myself with symbols of the powerful women who came before us, and as she grows up, I will gift her this jewelry so that she can keep the love of generations of fierce women with her always.

She is arriving this summer, and we can’t wait to welcome her into our hearts and home.

We have crafted a special gift guide to help you celebrate this Mother’s Day.  It features some very special pieces that I designed in honor of my daughter and the generations before us.  

-Kristen

Pearls in Native American Jewelry

Kristen Dorsey

Pearls have been used by my Chickasaw ancestors for thousands of years.  Chickasaws lived in the southeastern region of the United States until we were removed from our homelands beginning in 1836.  Our original homelands encompassed an ecologically diverse area spanning from northern Mississippi, and northern Alabama, to southern Tennessee.  Our contemporary tribe is descended from the mound cultures of the southeastern region of the united states.  Great earthen mounds still standing today were a part of a vast trade network of large cities, located throughout the Mississippi river watershed. Sophisticated agriculture, hunting, and fishing sustained these large populations.

 Map of southeastern mound sites.  Image from Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South. 2004. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Map of southeastern mound sites.  Image from Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand: American Indian Art of the Ancient Midwest and South. 2004. The Art Institute of Chicago.

The rivers that these cities were next to were essential to the vast trade network that ran from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. this trade network allowed for the flow of exotic materials to artisan workshops located at the city centers.  These workshops produced finely crafted objects and adornment for use in ceremony and regalia.  Pearls harvested from the Mississippi watershed were a popular material for adornment.  They were hand drilled and fashioned into necklaces, sewn onto clothing, and even draped from important buildings.  

Pearls were valued for their luminescence.  Reflective surfaces represented the reflections of light on water - the meeting of the sky world with the water world.

Hernando de Soto's Chronicles Describe the Use of Pearls.

The violent conquistador Hernando de Soto and his men were the first group of Europeans that our Chickasaw ancestors encountered.  They arrived in the southeast in search of gold, and brought violence and disease wherever they went (the Panther Woman Collection Celebrates the Chickasaw victory over de Soto).  Along their conquests De Soto and his army did document their interactions with the many Nations they met.  These first hand accounts describe many details about the adornment and art forms unique to the southeast, including the use of pearls.  

Pearls were frequently mentioned in these documents, as the Spaniards were most interested in any items that held value in European cultures.

In 1539 an account of the temple of Talomeco (in present day South Carolina) describes "The upper part of the temple about the walls was adorned like the roof outside with periwinkles and shell... with skeins between them made of strings of pearls and seed pearls hanging from the roof." Bailey, Garrick. Continuity and Change in Mississippian Civilization. Hero Hawk and Open Hand. University of Chicago Press. 2004.

In 1540 De Soto and his crew traveled through South Carolina. They came to a town called Cofitachequi. They were greeted by the leader of the town, Lady of Cofitachequi. She gave De Soto pearls as a welcome gift.  

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I am continuously inspired by the craftsmanship and innovation of ancient southeastern artisans.  They created objects of great beauty and meaning, and their materials and techniques inform my work today. I love using pearls in my pieces to reference this history, and continue these traditions. These statement necklaces are brand new to our online store and both feature beautiful pearls. 

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