Michelle Lowden is the owner of Milo Creations, and hails from the Pueblo of Acoma. Located in New Mexico, Acoma is known as being the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America.
Interestingly, it is this ancient legacy that informs the contemporary work produced by Lowden (she is pictured left, wearing a pair of her earrings). She specializes in creating jewelry hand-painted with detailed geometric designs on lightweight basswood. Although her designs have a distinctive urban street vibe, her inspiration actually derives from traditional Acoma pottery, which is historically known for its intricate and dazzling patterns.
Some of her earrings remain true to the black and creamy white palette of Acoma pottery, while others go beyond, fusing pretty pinks with melon greens, or sunshine yellows with watery blues. Below, Lowden answers some of our questions about her work, her process, and her inspirations.
BB: Your work exhibits a high level of professionalism and refinement - how long have you been creating jewelry?
ML: I started Milo Creations back in August of 2009. I wanted to find a way to blend both of my family's artistic backgrounds into one medium. I had a fondness for collecting unique earrings, so that became my platform for creating something new and unique.
BB: One of the hallmarks of your jewelry is the intricate hand-painted details - what is the general process for creating your work?
ML: To create my jewelry I currently use a mixture of pre-cut and hand-cut basswood pieces. I then work on the background colors by sectioning off the parts I want to have blended colors from the solid colors. For blending, I use a coral sponge or flat paint brush. In the beginning I had to pencil on all my designs, but after much practice most of the designs are drawn free-hand. The finished products are then sealed with a brush on gloss and a hole is drilled through the wood piece where the ear hook will be placed. A set of earrings usually takes anywhere from 5 to 6 hours to complete but depends on the size and amount of detail added.
BB: It seems as though a lot of care goes into each of your designs. What matters to you most as an artist?
ML: As an artist keeping my culture alive is what matters most to me. Every year more and more youth are beginning to lose interest in one's traditional culture. By using centuries-old pottery designs in a contemporary form I am sure I can instill in the youth that you can balance the modern world with the old even if it is through art.
BB: It's clear that Acoma pottery patterns play a huge role in your inspiration, but can you tell us more about what inspires you?
ML: Mother Earth plays a large part in inspiration for me especially when it comes to the color tones I use. My family as a whole has also been my inspiration, not only for their artistic talents but for their beliefs and work ethic. As an artist my goals are to push the boundaries and to take the time to learn the art of pottery making as my late Grandma Carrie Charlie would have wanted. My design philosophy is to stay true to the intricate nature of Pueblo pottery designs. The goals that I have for Milo Creations include maintaining a professional and high quality service with my jewelry. I also hope to expand into more respected art shows like the Santa Fe Indian Market.
BB: I see you as playing a key role in the contemporary Native fashion movement - What does Native fashion mean to you?
ML: In my opinion, in today's society when I hear the word "Native fashion," it means expressing one's style through blending modern trends with elements of our ancestors' everyday clothing. My favorite designers include Summer Peters, Virgil Ortiz, Patricia Michaels, Alexis Augustine, Orlando Dugi, Jamie Okuma, Bethany Yellowtail, SabaWear, The Soft Museum, Kevin Duncan, Uneek System, OXDX Clothing and Wayne Nez Gaussoin.
Click here to shop her collection.