Tuesday, June 15, 2010

MARIA BELEN NILSON

The Mount Fitz Roy (Cerro Fitz Roy) sits ominously along the borders of Chile and Argentina. Also known as the "smoking mountain," due to a cloud encircling its peak, among the natural wonder's first ascendants was French alpinist Guido Magnone. Argentina is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Maria Belen Nilson.


Has soaking up the ambience of an exotic locale altered your perspective in some way?

Has the positive presence of someone you admire played a major role in cultivating the person you are today?

For many people such experiences have changed their lives in ways they never predicted or imagined.

Nilson's story is one such tale of destiny. Although she had never been to Mexico, the designer found herself captivated by the country for years, even as a child.

At age 21, she traveled to the country, to relocate, and the visceral impact was instant. "I came here on my own with nothing, and I fell in love with Mexico the moment I arrived," she recalls. "I had a degree in Educational Studies and I taught literature in Mexico City."

Over time, Nilson would move to the State of Morelos where she developed her aptitude for crafts. "I learned about different crafting techniques and about working with different materials."

She would marry a Mexican jewelry designer and eventually move to Taxco, Mexico's premier location for silver mining.

However, at age forty, her life's journey would take a challenging turn. Newly divorced and caring from three children, Nilson boldly chose to become a silversmith.

"I had to go on by myself to provide for my daughters. I decided to set up my own workshop and I contacted renowned Taxco silversmiths to teach me the craft."

Nilson's love for her adopted homeland is readily evident in her beautifully sculpted sterling silver jewelry. Lithe curves, waves, curls, loops, and swirls are just the beginning.

Mexican iconography like Lady of Guadalupe, skeletal imagery from the Day of the Dead, Aztecan headdresses, and political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posados' character named Catrina each surface in Nilson's expertly crafted designs.

Though Nilson's creations are streamlined, she takes a fearless approach to it, in my opinion. She never allows the fantastic cultural imagery to be diminished by confining it to stodgy, modernized proportions.

The bijouterie is a great marriage of the past and present in pieces that are splendidly unique like her Skeleton Fish Cuff Bracelet, or strikingly bold like her Aztec Warrior Choker Necklace.

"I really enjoy doing what I do; it comes from a deep love for Mexico. I love this country; here is where I discovered my spiritual strength and I learned to follow my heart."

The metalwork is exquisite highlighting the commanding presence of the white and burnished metal.

Based on what I have seen on Nilson's Novica page, she makes limited use of gemstones and it takes absolutely nothing away from the overall designs.

I am amazed how designs of only precious metal or gemstones have such powerful magnetism and beauty on their own, and when placed together do not overshadow or detract from each other.

I think it speaks to these materials' inherent natural beauty as well as their effortless complementary nature.
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Photo 1 (top right): Sterling Silver Wilderness Necklace
Photo 2 (bottom left): Sterling Silver Trellis Cuff Bracelet
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