Jewellery that tell a story
“My pieces have to tell a story,” says Rasheda Tennant, a young Jamaican jeweller, who said she combines her clients’ personal choices, their stories with an eclectic mix of media, colours, and design. The jewellery that she creates is a statement – literally and figuratively.
Tennant said creating is in her DNA. Her grandfather and father were woodcarvers and she, from as far as she can remember, spent her childhood and teenage years in their workshop, tinkering with the tools, carving, and hammering wood.
“I was always helping my father; I used to accompany him whenever he went to the sites. I helped him in his workshop,” Tennant said. She told The Sunday Gleaner that the training was hands-on and on the job.
“That’s how I have these muscles,” Tennant said, as she flexed her chiselled biceps, shaped by hammers, nails, saws – not your typical doll-totting girl. The play things from childhood have a major influence in her work – wood is an essential, if not the major medium, that Tennant uses.
“Working with wood (especially mahogany) is something that comes naturally.” She said mahogany has character and speaks of Jamaica, its culture, and people. Her pieces reflect the sculptural elements in the wearable art.
She calls her creations ‘Jewellery with Personality’, which are inspired by the individual tastes, and preferences. Her products are drawn from different cultures.
“I am particularly gravitated to African and Indian cultures,” Tennant said. This could, perhaps, be because of her ancestry; the similarities and complexities of design in both cultures and the methodology employed.
Tennant considers her jewellery pieces “unique, one of a kind”.
The 2008 graduate of Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing arts majored in goldsmithing, a trait that made her visit Alaska.
“It was a great learning experience,” she recalled.
“I worked at Klondike Gold Dredge in 2007, where we use to smelt the gold to make jewellery.
“Most of the times, the process was spontaneous as we were catering to the cruise ship clients,” she said. There was no luxury to think over processes or wait on an idea to hit. Designs had to be discussed, conceptualised and, created within hours. She also studied in China in jewellery-making techniques.
Earth tones, mixed with the spiritual mindset make silver, brass and, copper are her preferred choice of metals. “I so love silver,” she said as she filed a ring at her workstation. Her workshop is furnished with a blowtorch, machinery, sets of pliers, chips of metal, wood, as well as finished and semi-finished pieces.
The spiritual realm is not the only source of inspiration for Tennant, she is a supervisor at Chupse, an arm of the Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities
Chupse jewellery and accessories are produced by persons with disabilities.
“Being at Chupse has given me a lot of insight,” Tennant said. “It has given me a different perception of dealing with situations, widening my creative horizons.”
“As a parent, I have learnt to be patient and objective when dealing with situations,” she says.
These special persons, she said, are motivated, creative, and pack the zeal to do more. This is borne out of love – a key element in her creations.
Tennant wanted to be a veterinarian but said practicing medicine was not to be.
“There were financial constraints, and arts school happened,” she said, adding that her parents were supportive of her career choice.
Sheathed in spirituality, and guided by her name Rasheda – which in Arabic means ‘rightly guided by true faith’ – she, like her father, wants to build a legacy and encourages her son to learn her craft.
“Creativity, I believe, should not be confined to oneself,” she said. “It needs to be spread and passed on to the next generation.”
In the words of Sufi mystic, poet and scholar, Rumi, “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
In Tennant’s work, heart, soul and spirituality converge … the results are pure bliss.