Spotlight: Jeweler Mary Darwall
The deserts of the Southwest and the seas of Hawaii inspire this jewelry artist's designs.
Photography: (models) Courtesy John Yohman, (necklace) courtesy Jerry Anthony
As Mary Darwall sees it, there’s a marked similarity between the desert and the sea, and she draws inspiration for her otherworldly beaded jewelry from both. Darwall used to live in the artsy Kayenta community in Ivins, outside of St. George in southwest Utah, where everything was high-desert plants. “When you look at it, the structure is so much like coral,” she says. “It’s much like an underwater scene, but just dry.” Now relocated to the Big Island of Hawaii, Darwall peers out of a snorkeling mask and sees scenes that remind her of the desert. “There’s such a connection in all organic structures.”
A retired schoolteacher turned full-time artist, Darwall has been forging a reputation with her distinctive organic style of beading and intricate handcrafted pieces for almost 10 years. Typically, a single necklace is made from thousands of beads; the most elaborate can take up to 200 hours to complete. “I’ve always had a passion for jewelry,” Darwall says. “If you look at pictures of me when I was young, I was just dripping in it.”
Photography: Courtesy Greg Federman
Born in San Luis Obispo, California, Darwall grew up in Texas (College Station and San Antonio) until her family moved to Michigan when she was 13. The youngest of six children (one of whom is world-famous weaver Randall Darwall), she remembers herself as the “Martha Stewart” of the family, but instead of following her creativity into art, she initially followed it into teaching, where special education became a passion.
Now on the Big Island of Hawaii, halfway between the ocean and the paniolo (cowboy) country of Waimea, Darwall focuses her passion on producing pieces that seem birthed by the ocean itself. “My work is inspired by sea life,” says the designer, who puts her signature silver fish charm on all her pieces. But that doesn’t mean she has forsaken the desert. A fan of Southwestern jewelry, she continues making Southwestern-inspired pieces and says her creations also have Native American influences. “I will look at classical Indian jewelry and the stones they use and interpret it in my own organic style.”
The strongest aspect of Darwall's jewelry? “Playing with color.” Buying jaunts to Tucson, Arizona’s annual gem and mineral show ensure she can work with a rainbow of semiprecious stones, including lapis, turquoise, citrine, blue lace agate, jasper, carnelian, amethyst, coral, garnet, onyx, labradorite, amber, rose quartz, and rhodochrosite.
“I’ve had people come into my booth at art shows and say, ‘Where are you from — underwater?’ ” Darwall says with a laugh. She was especially amused when one prospective buyer quipped, “What do you feed them?” Whatever impression her intricate pieces make, “My jewelry,” she says, “is never ignored.”
Mary Darwall's work is carried at the Pura Vida galleries in Jerome, Arizona (www.puravidagalleryjerome.com), and Kapaau, Hawaii (808.889.0562); and at the Genesis Gallery in Waikoloa, Hawaii (www.genesisgalleryhawaii.com). For more information about Darwall’s Mais Oui jewelry, call 808.987.7060 or visit www.marydarwall.com.