By Becky Idstrom
Pam Kester’s art studio is full of material ripe for creating. In just 10 short minutes she has already listed at least 15 different types of semi-precious stones, pulling open drawers and lifting box lids as she speaks. There are the river stones, the glass beads, the copper metal plates, the soldering materials, the fossils, the pictures, the coins – all different shapes, sizes, and colors.
In the 14 years I have known Pam, the precision, attention to detail, and artistry that she brings to her work – from a birthday card to a two-day educational hawk festival for the Audubon Society – has impressed me. Her jewelry is no less impressive. She mixes her varied raw materials to design and create one-of-a-kind necklaces and earrings in a collection she’s dubbed Rare Bird Artful Adornments.
Rare Bird Artful Adornments – jewelry inspired by nature and the beauty of the human soul – was born only two years ago. When Pam felt the urge to work with her hands, to create something, she turned her attention to jewelry making – something she had experimented with since age 18. Her creative passion has grown one bead at a time.
Looking at the materials she has laid out before us, it’s hard to imagine where one would begin. “I just start with one bead,” she says, “and ask—how can I use this? I choose something I’m attracted to, like this stone that reminds me of the delicate pattern on a dragonfly’s wing. Then the necklace just starts to build itself.”
Experimentation is key with jewelry building. Pam likes to bring together raw materials like fossils or river stones and embellish them with something delicate. She uses jade, garnets, topaz, kyonite, lolite, jasper, pearls, fossils, and more. She knows her materials well and chooses them carefully from all over the world. No matter what she makes, Pam brings a level of art to it. But it’s jewelry-making that she finds the most satisfying.
“I don’t make anything that doesn’t feel right. It’s good to have an outlet for my perfectionism,” she laughs, “because it wasn’t happening with housework.”
Rare Bird jewelry is more than simple precision. I look at a piece with chunks of light and bright blue kyonite along the front, the clasp a part of the decoration on the side, and a silver chain around the back. It has an almost living quality. Some women have told Pam they feel empowered when they wear her jewelry, that the piece embodies something especially for them. “It’s wonderful to create a piece and then find the person who was meant to wear it,” she says.
“The beauty of nature has always inspired my creativity,” Pam writes on her website. Her strong connection to the natural world has further sharpened her artistic eye, reproducing in her jewelry things from the natural world, like the beautiful sculpted scales in a milkweed pod or the shape of a butterfly chrysalis.
“I love that there is debris in these stones,” she says, gazing into a box of round river stones. “I’m not concerned with the perfect stone but the overall feel and look of it.”
While Pam makes all types of necklaces, she has themes for two special kinds: Amulets and Portals. The Amulets are a single round stone set in a large clasp on a chain. They have been used across cultures for centuries, Pam says, and are designed to bring protection, strength, and good luck to those who wear them. The Portals are more whimsical pieces: tiny collages or vintage photographs framed in glass or metal. They may contain mini collections of treasures, natural elements, or words and sayings.
The jewelry also tells stories. Some beautiful frosty-looking light blue and white beads, broken roughly into small rectangular shapes, tell a tale of another country. “I bought these at a bead show in Milwaukee from a family from Afghanistan,” she says. The father explained how the pieces are fragments of vessels, such as olive jars, which were transported along the Silk Road. The fragments are surfacing now after the current bombings in Afghanistan and people are finding them and making them into beads. Buried for centuries, the ancient glass has been given a texture and patina by the weather. Pam loves the idea of making something beautiful out of something that comes from such tragedy. “There is such a feeling of antiquity in the beads,” she says. “And it meant so much to this man to tell me their story.”
In the two years since Rare Bird Artful Adornment’s start, Pam has exhibited in a variety of shows and her work has grown. She is excited to see where the future will take her.
“I feel so fortunate to be standing in a landscape of creative possibilities that stretches beyond the horizon,” she says.
More info at www.rarebirdjewelry.com.