Published May 14, 2017
SULPHUR, OKLAHOMA — Chickasaw jeweler Kristen Dorsey will unveil her new “Hatchet Women” collection Memorial Day weekend at the Artesian Arts Festival May 27.
Dorsey will be available throughout the festival to discuss her work, which draws from her Chickasaw heritage, life experiences, and personal style. Her art encompasses all sorts of personal adornments–rings, necklaces, bracelets, pendants, earrings and gorgets.
“I have always been drawn to the stories of heroines, women throughout history who display an unrelenting resilience and perseverance,” Dorsey explained.
She looks to her own heritage and sees examples of such powerful women. The “Hatchet Women” collection is a shining example.
Dorsey said Chickasaw women have always protected and defended lands from invaders. She pointed to the reputation the Chickasaws garnered in the 1700s with the French, who saw them as formidable adversaries whose villages were nearly impossible to attack.
“This was due in part to iron hatchet-wielding Chickasaw women,” Dorsey said. “The French were surprised to see women could become warriors and that women were as essential to war as they were to peace.”
She said today’s Chickasaw women wield knowledge instead of hatchets, but are no less fierce than their mothers and grandmothers, and will pass this gift of strength to their daughters and granddaughters.
She is still putting the final touches on the collection, but explained it will feature argentium silver pieces accented with natural gemstones such as labradorite and tourmaline.
Dorsey has always been aware of her Chickasaw heritage as it was passed down through her ancestors on her mother’s side, with the Colbert family. She knows where she came from, but also represents the living, dynamic Chickasaw culture as it thrives today.
In youth, Dorsey found herself growing and learning in Los Angeles, California, enveloped with fashion and art. She spent time exploring the beach and ocean. Her father, who is of Irish heritage, was a marine biologist and taught her to enjoy such environments. He also taught her to surf, something they enjoy together to this today.
The impact of these early years can be seen in Dorsey’s art, just as the appreciation of her cultural heritage can be.
She grew up distanced from the Chickasaw ancestral homelands and relocated territories of Mississippi and Oklahoma. That didn’t stop her from engrossing herself in the art and culture of the Chickasaws.
“My art is all about my Chickasaw heritage and my deep love of the natural world,” Dorsey explained. “Our Chickasaw ancestors actually loved pearls, shell and copper for their adornments. Today, I incorporate contemporary materials to reference the older adornments such as rose gold to symbolize our ancient copper working traditions.”
Her jewelry tells a deeper story using a number of techniques, from the motifs and themes down to the metals she chooses to work with.
“I enjoy working with both copper and silver. I always try to hint at the duality of everything in life with these metals. Silver and copper, two different tones, the sun and the moon, I combine them and unite them and create a world within a piece,” Dorsey said.
She said her designs, symbolism, and materials are all very intentional because she aims to educate others about Chickasaw history and jewelry traditions.
With the Artesian Arts Festival on the horizon, Dorsey looks forward to visiting what she calls her second home of Oklahoma. If she had a favorite room in her second home, it would be Sulphur.
“I always try to squeeze in a jog or walk through the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, and I love staying at the luxurious Artesian Hotel or the Chickasaw Conference center,” she said.
Some of Dorsey’s favorite artists are fellow Chickasaws, whom she anticipates seeing at the Artesian Arts Festival. She finds it inspiring to see their new work and ideas.
She recalled a fond memory in Sulphur, a fashion show at the Dynamic Women of the Chickasaw Nation conference with Margaret Wheeler, the Chickasaw weaver and textile artist. She remembered how fun it was to present her art alongside Wheeler’s while working with the models.
Dorsey maintains an online presence to showcase her collections and tell her stories at www.kristendorseydesigns.com.
Her work is on exhibit in New York through the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Two of Dorsey’s pieces showed in the Native Fashion Now exhibit, also through the Smithsonian, which has garnered press in Women’s Wear Daily, the New York Times and the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Video features covering Dorsey can be found at www.chickasaw.tv.
She will be joined by more than 100 other esteemed Native artists representing 25 Native American tribes at the Artesian Arts Festival, one of the fastest growing arts markets in the United States.
For more information about the Artesian Arts Festival, contact the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts & Humanities at (580) 272-5520, by email at [email protected].
The Artesian Plaza is located adjacent to the Artesian Hotel and Spa, 1001 W. First Street.
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