"Fluidity and grace, light and shadow, keeper of the secrets of the stars, she controls the movements of celestial bodies.
The wind is her breath.
She is the ancient one.
The sky serpent, soft as a delicate spring breeze fluttering blades of grass, and terrifying as electric bolts crack across the sky, trees are uprooted, buildings toppled as rain floods the fragile life of earth.
Giver of life, taker of life, seductive as the twinkle of starlight in the darkened night."
- Kristen Dorsey
Beyond Buckskin is extremely honored to present a new collection by one of our favorite artists, Chickasaw metalsmith Kristen Dorsey.
Dorsey's jewelry combines exquisite beauty with ancient historical forms. Her designs span from graceful simplicity to intricate sculptural forms. All of her work is conceptual to some degree: referencing Chickasaw stories, paying homage to ancestral feats, or utilizing ancient techniques. Dorsey approaches her work, and executes it, from a distinct Chickasaw worldview.
Her second collection, the Shokmalli' (lighting) collection, explores celestial themes within Chickasaw culture. She explained, "Throughout the design process, my muse was the Sky Serpent, a being depicted in carved shell objects by the Southeastern ancestors of my tribal affiliation the Chickasaw Nation." Dorsey also referenced the Sky Serpent in her first collection, where she created a statement necklace, earrings, and cuff bracelets that all featured hand-sculpted silver scales in cloud-like formations. This powerful deity is represented in ancient shell jewelry artifacts as a snake-like creature with wings. The Sky Serpent controls the winds, rains, thunder and lightning.
In this second collection, Dorsey takes her artistic rendering of the Sky Serpent even further, interpreting it as wind whirls in some pieces, and almost taking on the perspective of the Serpent in others - what would this creature see?: celestial objects up close, the ancient site of Moundville from above, the talons of a nearby fellow sky being. Dorsey stated, "In this collection, the Sky Serpent is visually interpreted through my use of the Southeastern wind spiral design, and a color palate of soft blue for the sky and rose gold and yellow for the sun." Her vision brings a heavenly glow to Shokmalli'.
The sophisticated collection also features materials that carry cultural value, such as shell. But Dorsey brings something new to this timeless material: shell laminate, which is created from recycled natural shell pieces, a by-product of the fishing industry. Dorsey explained, "The innovative shell composite material, which is an environmentally friendly alternative to mother of pearl, symbolizes the wide use of shell in traditional Southeastern Native American adornment. Shell was a favorite jewelry material with my ancestors due to its pearlescent shimmer that reflects the light of the sun."
The collection also considers the many facets of the Sky Serpent ranging from soft to bold. From the refined elegance of a delicate pendant design, to a bold and chic one-of-a-kind statement neck piece of inlaid stingray skin, the designs capture both the ethereal beauty of a celestial being, as well as its immense power, qualities that each piece brings to the wearer.
Click here to shop the collection now. All images above are from Dorsey's Lookbook, photographed by Anthony Collins, styled by Bethany Yellowtail, HMU by Palomar Alcantar, modeled by Lacey Bollinger.