Next month is a great time to visit the Philippines' Tubbataha Reef, an area rich with breathtaking natural wonders like the vibrant corals, unusual bird species, and marine life. The Philippines is also the birthplace to featured jewelry designer Kristine Dee.
A former industrial designer, who has conceptualized home accessories for Banana Republic, Dee understands that being detail oriented is a prerequisite to design and create jewelry.
In 2001, while studying at New York's Pratt Institute for a master's in industrial design, Dee made an inadvertent discovery that would captivate her creative inclinations.
"I accidentally walked into a jewelry workshop, and became so fascinated I signed up for metalsmithing classes," she enthuses. "It was such a fantastic feeling to hammer the silver and gold myself until a piece was completed."
Inspired by the poised, classic beauty of Natalie Portman's Queen Amidala character from the Star Wars prequels, Dee's jewelry collections reflect a perfect balance of understated and intricate proportions. They are a wonderful, gentle ballet of fluid metal structures; delicate yet powerful forms offset with minimal gemstones.
Each of her collections is composed of, in varying degrees, 14-karat yellow or white gold with gentle sprinklings of diamonds, cultured pearls, amethysts, and red sapphires. Based on her website, the focal point and signature of three-fourths of Dee's collections is carved out, open designs and floral motifs.
For her Metals in Motion collection, for instance, Dee creates several kinetic pieces called Chamber. The pieces, reminiscent of Brazil-based designer Yael Sonia's jewelry, feature cutout cylindrical structures with several cultured pearls inserted inside that move with the wearer.
The focal point of her Emotions collection is a single, geometric shape like a square, upon which she builds a larger pattern by placing carved out shapes and linking them side-by-side . Instead of repeating a sequence of identical shapes and sizes, she elongates one square and squishes another so that the pattern is somewhat irregular.
The perforated pieces from her Standstill collection are stunning with their arabesque detailing and modest scattering of cultured pearls and other gemstones.
The open designs surprisingly add an intriguing visual dimension. There is something about actually seeing the metal touching the skin and the skin peeking through. The piece becomes that much more a sensual, sinuous part of the body.
"It is very rewarding to see pieces I have envisioned from sketches and mock-ups become beautiful, wearable items with function, proportion, and form," she says. "I feel like all my late nights and hard work melted away."
In October 2009, Dee joined forces with fellow Filipino designers Michelline Syjuco and Paul Syjuco for a jewelry exhibit called Triad: An Approach to Futurism. Having already completed four solo exhibitions, Dee loved the idea of coming together with other jewelry artists. She also loved expanding her audience.
"I want women to feel as unique and beautiful as my pieces. I want them to be noticed when they wear it. Jewelry makes an outfit; it creates a look, sets a tone," she says.
"Wearing elegant earrings or an eye-catching cuff with a plain t-shirt dress will surely make people notice you."
Photo 1 (top right): 14-Karat Yellow Gold Perforated Cuff from the Standstill Collection
Photo 2 (bottom left): Coral Centered Necklace from Firma Collection