Monday, July 5, 2010


Green Sapphire Lariat Necklace
Standing on Livingstone Island in Zambia, Africa we get a breathtaking view of the cascading waters of Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders).

According to historians Scottish explorer David Livingstone first discovered the falls in 1855. Africa is also the birthplace of featured jewelry designer Shirley Ephraim.

The intricate art of weaving varied materials, from animal hair to plant fibers, has a long, distinguished history in Africa. Different regions of the country reflect different weaving styles.

The traditional fabric of the Yoruba people in Nigeria is Asoke cloth, which is categorized by 4-inch wide, woven strips of rayon thread while Kuba cloth is customary to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kuba cloth is characterized by tightly woven strands of raffia palm leaves.

Nigeria-born Ephraim actively enlists the weaving techniques of her father's village, as well as the crochet skills she learned from her mother.

"There was so much craftsmanship and highly skilled artistry going on with the local village artisans. Some of these techniques date back as far as 40,000 years.

They took fibers from the earth and embroidered or wove them into whatever people needed. My mother's side of the family is South American, and I grew up around a lot of intricate filet lace. My mother started teaching me crochet at the age of five," she explains.

"Ultimately, my jewelry is cultivated through a combination of weaving, sculpting, and shaping the threads through hand weaving and lace making techniques."

Actor Emmy Rossum Wearing Twisted Silk Crochet Earrings in DARE

With a fashion design degree, received from New York's Parsons New School for Design, about six years ago Ephraim began an internship with famed couture designer Donna Karan.

At that time, Ephraim responded to a Craigslist ad that required a person highly skilled in crocheting techniques. As it turned out, a Hollywood producer placed the ad for jewelry work needed on the Oscar nominated film, The Visitor staring Richard Jenkins.

"Doing jewelry for film is very collaborative. The piece is ultimately the vision of the director and costume designer. It is very specific to the characters, who they are, what they do, their lives, and their desires."

Her work on The Visitor led to a second feature film collaboration for director Adam Salky's 2009 film Dare starring Emmy Rossum.

"The success of my work in The Vistor has been instrumental to the launch of my brand while working closely with Donna Karan helped me to understand the commercial aspects of bringing forth a cohesive and sellable collection."

The classically trained dancer takes an eco-conscious approach to her jewelry implementing organic cotton and naturally dyed silk to create designs offset with Crystallized Swarovski Elements.

Josephine Items from DARE Collection
Based on what I have viewed online her KIFE Collection (the word kife is Yiddish for `enjoyment') highlights neutral and earthy tones which sets a mood of calmness and tranquility.

Colors of suede, brass, copper, jet, and moss are nicely understated allowing the complexity of crochet patterns to shine through.

The tight loops and supple twists provide an easy sensuality as the pieces actually breathe against the skin. Nothing is showy or brazen; pieces are subtle while possessing a unique aura of femininity.

"I think a lot of women can appreciate the delicacy and intricacy of the jewelry. The jewelry is bold and feminine while also being effortless and complex at the same time."
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