A native New Yorker, the industrial landscape of the city inspires the artwork of Shauna Blythe Burke. Her environment is at once tough, gritty and yet exquisitely vulnerable; she finds this disparity comes together when delicate elements are combined with rough cut stones and textural patterns. Working primarily in 18K gold and oxidized silver, all work is handmade in Burke's studio in Brooklyn, NY.
As a metalsmith and a professor I am acutely aware that most of the materials that we use in the industry are mined, often from countries where regulations might not be maintained. Therefore I choose my materials wisely; I use a casting house and a metal distributor that use recycled materials, I mainly make my own chains and I choose gemstone dealers who source their materials in a sustainable fashion. My tourmalines come from Robert Bentley Gemstones, Robert works with individual gem traders in Brazil and has helped build a small enterprise in poor communities. My diamonds come from a gemstone trader in Israel who sources only Kimberly certified materials (rough that was fairly mined). He cuts much of his own stones. My pearls come from Indonesia and a Pearl Farm that donates proceeds back to the community.
For this series I focused on the South Sea Pearl because a pearl is one of the most sustainable materials that we as jewelers can choose. In a quote from Jennifer Heebner of the Cultured Pearl Association, "South Sea pearls like white, silver, and golden as well as black or Tahitian pearls can only grow in pristine aquatic environments. Why? Oysters are filter feeders that remove inordinate amounts of nitrogen from aquatic environments. Too much nitrogen leads to over-fertilization of oceans. Because of this, oysters significantly reduce marine pollution, which is one of the United Nations Foundation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Oceans where South Sea pearl farming occurs are extremely healthy."
My goal was to create a small body of work that was both fierce and feminine while simultaneously addressing issues that we as metalsmiths must contend with while trying to develop work that does not cause environmental harm. I hope that you like the series!
Shauna's work is currently a part of our Virtual Exhibition 'Built to Last'. CLICK HERE to learn more about this collection, and view the other artists' work.