We consider handcrafted, unique, and one-of-a-kind jewelry a “piece” of art. We compliment great necklaces and rings by saying, “that’s a great piece!” Which means jewelry like Rebecca Williams Sako’s are definitely pieces of art. Her one-of-a-kind cuffs, earrings and necklaces are made from vintage and scrap materials that also draw upon Sako’s experience as a clothing designer and textile artist. Her use of upcycled and vintage materials give the pieces a down-to-earth and natural look.
Sako’s necklaces are constructed with vintage sequins from the 1930’s, which were made in France and Belgium and then exported to New York Fashion houses to make elaborate evening gowns. When the US entered WWII, imports from Europe quickly stopped, and the remaining sequins were stored away. Unlike modern sequins which are made from plastic, these vintage sequins are made from gelatin, and have an earthy quality to them.
The sequins are strung face to face, so we miss out a bit on the shimmer they were made for, but bring out a new dimension and character – one that is reminiscent of Native American jewelry. What makes this jewelry even more interesting is the limited supply of the sequins, which underlines their unique connection to the past and their re-invention as art in the present.
Rebecca Sako tries to use sustainable materials throughout her entire process. The cuffs, bracelets, and earrings are made from scrap leather and wool sourced from local clothing manufacturers and the thread comes from local scrap shops. Each piece is uniquely designed, embroidered, and treated as thought it were a painting, Sako says, “I design as I go, allowing the pattern to emerge by intuition.”
Sako, who was born in Texas and raised by a weaver and opera director, was always experimenting with her hands and materials. She trained as a fashion designer and textile artist, spending many years in Japan and Asia. As she describes her art:
“I have a deep affinity for fibers and the connection they give us to the earth, sometimes as art. My jewelry work is an exploration on a smaller scale of this relationship using a hybrid textiles/metals approach, which satisfies my needs to use both a sewing machine and a blowtorch.”
This past summer, Sako was selected to feature her work at the 33rd Annual American Craft Council Show in San Francisco. She was one of 10 finalists who showed their work in the Alt-Craft Exhibition, which featured DIY practices and creative repurposing of materials. You can find Sako’s pieces throughout the San Francisco area and in the Netherlands. Check out her website for individual stores.