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Kristen Dorsey Designs: Native American Inspiration with a Modern Execution
Photographer: Anthony 'Thosh' Collins

Inspired by Native American tradition and crafted with traditional Chikasaw techniques, designer Kristen Dorsey’s latest jewelry collection fuses elements of traditional Native American jewelry with details that pay homage to the beauty of the California coastline.

Celebrating her cultural heritage, Orange County-based jewelry designer Kristen Dorsey creates powerful, but feminine, handcrafted pieces reflective of her Chikasaw family history.

“My mother’s side of the family is Chickasaw, originating from the southeast region of the United States; the Chickasaw were one of the tribes removed on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma,” says Dorsey. “My family ended up in California after selling off their land during the Dustbowl.”

Trained in jewelry chasing or “pitchwork,” Dorsey uses the specialized process that artists use to create relief sculpture from flat sheet metal. Also called “repousse,” in French – “to re-push,” Dorsey works the metal from both sides to push it into form. Using the pitch or petroleum, Dorsey holds the metal in place while she finishes the pieces with different tools and tips for the desired effect.

Dorsey creates her jewelry using traditional materials, characterized by shell carving, copper relief sculpture, and freshwater pearls. The result is stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces that turn heads and spark conversation.

One particularly impressive design is Dorsey’s “Stingrey Breastplate.” Expanding on the theme of Dorsey’s first collection of “Earth, Wind and Sky,” this second collection focuses on “Sky” and is inspired by the story of the “Sky Serpent” deity.

“The Sky Serpent controls the weather, which can be very soft and gentle, or it can be ferocious and terrifying,” says Dorsey. “I want my jewelry to be empowering and strong, but also feminine.”

The Sky Serpent served as the muse for the collection’s photo shoot. “I wanted [the model] to be very ethereal and other-worldly; powerful and strong,” says Dorsey. “I loved playing with the materials on the chest piece. I had this stingray skin and beautiful blue larimar stone, and I just wanted to create this bold statement piece that wraps around the [model’s] back to illustrate my concepts.”

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Photo Shoot Credits

Photography: Anthony 'Thosh' Collins

Hair/Makeup: Paloma Alcantar

Styling: Bethany Yellowtail

Model: Lacey Bollinger


Lauren Hurley

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