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He(ART) of Bellevue: Shamila Jiwa

August 26, 2021 - by Sandy Vo

Category he(ART) of Bellevue

He(ART) of Bellevue Artist:
Shamila Jiwa
Jewelry Maker Strives for Sustainable Use in Art

Inspired by a colorful childhood growing up along the East African coast, Shamila Jiwa would accompany her father to the local goldsmith to have special jewels commissioned for her mother and her sisters. Years later she would convert her hobby into a passionate career. Her work has been featured on the red carpet at award shows such as the Emmys, Oscars and the Grammys as well as special collections created for The Seattle Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Currently operating from Seattle, Jiwa creates jewelry for the modern woman, combining age-old goldsmithing techniques with modern day stylistic elements. Her love for travel and deep appreciation towards global aesthetic, design, culture and language are inherent in her work.

“From gleaming custom faceted gems to signature motifs, each jewel I design is made to fit as if it were a commission for the modern-day Cinderella,” Jiwa said.

She uses unusual gems and precious metals acquired from sustainable sources and family-owned mines. Jiwa enjoys keeping her jewelry simple yet symbolic, conveying a connection between her inspiration and her audiences.

You can see Jiwa and her jewelry in person at the Bellevue Downtown Arts Market next weekend, Sept. 4-6.

BDA: What type of art do you create?

SJ: I create bespoke jewels with a modern, global aesthetic in my Seattle-based atelier. I fabricate exquisite custom-faceted gemstones and sustainably sourced precious metals into luxurious, covetable heirlooms.

BDA: How long have you been practicing your type of art?

SJ: I have been creating and designing fine jewelry since I first moved to Bellevue in 2001 from Vancouver, BC. Presently, I am based in Seattle.

BDA: Where did you learn or develop your technique?

SJ: I'm a self-taught designer and take subtle cues from global travel and my heritage and interpret them in modern, minimalist jewels. In 2009, I became enchanted with Istanbul while apprenticing at a gold-smithing atelier. Istanbul’s historical decadence, majestic architecture and warmth of people made an immense impression on me. The Minaret collection features a signature motif inspired by the ‘lale’ or tulip -- the Ottoman Empire’s emblematic insignia for excellence in solid gold with diamond accents. The importance of quality workmanship, soft and sinewy finishes, heft of solid metals and the sparkle of unusually faceted stones is a culmination of form, balance and beauty I am always striving to achieve in my work.

BDA: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you and your artwork?

SJ: The pause on travel and events was quite difficult initially, as traveling is a significant part of my work for sourcing and connecting with gem purveyors for inspiration and to visit with collectors and clients at events. The forced slow pace allowed me to focus on my custom projects and dream of new collections. I also took a much needed time to rest and reinvigorate from what has been a nonstop decade!

 BDA: What is your latest project?

SJ: This year I created a special bespoke range of stacking rings featuring one-of-a-kind gems for when the world would wake up again. The rings were a huge success at my first post-lockdown event in Chicago this summer. The idea for this collection was to make a stunning set of interchangeable cocktail rings, which seamlessly cluster together to look like one piece - similar to my original stacking rings. Sizeable gems were faceted or carved by expert craftspeople from around the world. I used the finest grade amethysts, citrine, topaz and garnets hailing from Tanzania, Bolivia, Brazil and Madagascar. They were then cut in checkerboard, honeycomb, rose-cut and pillow-cut facets. The ultimate goal was to pair finely culled gemstones with warm, glowing gold to achieve a luxurious ring stack. The rings exude a modern aesthetic with very clean lines and they are the epitome of playful luxury.

BDA: Where can people learn more about your art?

SJ: Through my website, via an in-person appointment at my studio in Seattle, or at the Bellevue Downtown Arts Market. The best way to see my work is in person, especially to try on the stacking rings and to create your own perfect combinations. They are addictive!

BDA: Anything else you'd like to share with the Bellevue community?

SJ: I cannot wait to reconnect with my collectors in Bellevue! I have loved participating at the Bellevue Downtown Arts Market in the past and look forward to seeing everyone at the Arts Market on Labor Day weekend! Please follow me on social to keep up with my work:

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Started in 2020, this blog is part of our He(ART) of Bellevue blog series. Each week leading up to the Bellevue Downtown Arts Market, we'll feature a participating local artist and their story. Support all artists who will be attending this year's in-person arts market by browsing their artwork and portfolios.