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Spring elicits a welcome sense of anticipation and rejuvenation with its warmer temperatures and bustling activities. At CERF+, we are excited for the thousands of artists returning to shows and open studio events across the country, many for the first time since the pandemic began. For this month’s blog, we spoke with contemporary jeweler Lorena Angulo about her experience navigating shows during this new phase of the pandemic.

Lorena Angulo and MAD About Jewelry curator Bryna Pomp.

As one of 46 of the top international jewelry artists invited to participate in MAD About Jewelry, a highly anticipated jewelry show and benefit sale that was held April 27-30, 2022 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, Angulo felt honored for the chance to represent her artwork in New York City for the first time. “Being involved with all those amazing artists and having my work judged was really important, and I was pleased with how well my one-of-a-kind brooches sold.” There, she interacted with a variety of collectors and fellow jewelry artists who appreciated her exquisitely detailed narrative jewelry, which celebrates her Mexican heritage.

Angulo began venturing back out to the show circuit, participating in two events during the winter of 2021 at the San Antonio Museum of Art. But it wasn’t until early April 2022 at the Fiesta Arts Fair, a prominent juried art show organized by the Southwest School of Art, that she first felt the boundless energy flowing from artists and customers alike. “People were just so happy to be there. You could feel the excitement from attendees to see and buy artwork in person again. I think it is so important for us as artists to go back and represent our own work.” Angulo displays her jewelry on her classic red tablecloths, and the color red also adorns many of her pieces through beads, painted imagery, and cording. To her, red represents good, positive energy, which perfectly captured the mood that unfolded all around her.

Drawing upon her rich memories of her childhood spent in Chiapas, a state in southern Mexico, Angulo creates jewelry that is infused with traditional Mexican folk imagery, symbols, and bold colors. There, cultural traditions and Mexican folk art entwined every part of life, leaving an indelible impression upon her. “I love to create pieces that represent me, my country and culture, and that can tell a story.” Today, Angulo is an American citizen who lives in San Antonio, Texas, where she is surrounded by her family and the vibrant arts of the Southwest School of Art, where she teaches classes. She reflected, “The United States has given me so many opportunities, but you never forget where you came from.”

Angulo’s primary medium is metal clay (powder metallurgy), a mixture of fine metal particles (bronze or silver) suspended in a pliable organic binder matrix. Using variety of small tools, she meticulously shapes and carves fine details on the front and back of each piece. Once satisfied, she fires the metal clay in a kiln for several hours, a process that burns out the organic binder, leaving behind solid metal. Her artworks are bold, richly textured, and often adorned with colorful stones.

During the pandemic, she took a virtual class from Jillian Moore and learned about aqua resin, a type of sculpting resin. Inspired, she began incorporating paper and aqua resin into her metal jewelry. These materials allow her to add layers and depth to her work through bold colors and narrative imagery. Although she says her work is not about the materials and is more about the craftsmanship and design, she appreciates the similarities between her use of paper and aqua resin to papier-mâché, which is used extensively by artists throughout Mexico.

Living as an artist, however, has not been without its challenges. She felt nervous about going to New York City during the ongoing pandemic. Although COVID vaccines were required for all artists who participated in MAD About Jewelry, the event was open to the public, and it marked her first time not wearing a mask indoors. Still, when presented with a challenge, Angulo’s habit is not to shy away, but to confront things head on. Her secret is to never say no to opportunities when they arise. During the pandemic, she learned how to teach virtual classes. She found that online teaching was greatly preferred by some students, who found it easier to observe her demonstrations and try out her techniques within the comfort of their own studios. A decade ago, she was searching for a book that showcased not only the fronts, but also the backs of contemporary brooches, only to find that such a book did not exist. Despite never having written a book before, she accepted the challenge, and in 2014, her book Behind the Brooch was published, quickly becoming a resounding success. Angulo credits her family and mentors like Bob Ebendorf, who have supported her through her journey and given her confidence when she needs it. But, it is her own unique artistic voice, fine craftsmanship, and resolute can-do spirit that are the strongest pillars of her success.

All photos courtesy of Lorena Angulo.

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