Thank you for visiting my dentalia jewelry page. I'm still pretty new at making dentalia jewelry but it has been really fun and a great honor.
I am a non-Native artist who has had the honor of volunteering with the Steilacoom Tribe (a non-Federally recognized Tribe in Washington State) for many years. It was through the Steilacoom Tribe that I was asked to participate in the annual Canoe Journey that takes place in the Salish Sea every summer. Many of of my basket, jewelry, and other creations come from my involvement with the Journey and the need to make hand-made gifts for potlatches, thank you dinners, general gifts, and other ceremonies.
I learned about the history and use of dentalia from Mandy McCullough at a workshop at the Squaxin Island Tribe's Museum Library and Research Center (MLRC). In ancient times, dentalia shells were collected by Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast and used for jewelry and decoration, as well as a form of currency when trading with other Indigenous Peoples throughout North America. Records of dentalia use go as far back as 4400 BCE and they were used extensively for trade between Tribes in the 19th century.
I now make a variety of dentalia jewelry using materials that have meaning for me in some way. For example, for red beads I often use coral as I have traveled in Ladakh and central Asia and for black beads I often use black coconut as I visit Maui often. Being a bit of a science geek, one way that I bring my own design style to my baskets, jewelry, and other creations is by incorporating the Fibonacci sequence, a series of numbers (1,1,2,3,5,8,13...) that creates a pattern that is seen throughout nature; in the shape of the Milky Way, the shape of a nautilus shell, the pattern of sunflower seeds, the proportion of butterfly wings, etc. In many of my pieces this is realized through the bead sequence: one dentalium shell, one large bead, two small beads, and three very small beads or rings. In doing so, I also believe that the final product reflects the continuous flow of life as the pattern gets repeated over and over again in the piece, rather than having a piece that starts at a central point and mirrors itself on each side.
I give all of my designs a name...a plant or a local place I have visited that has meaning for me. You can see some of these standard designs here. I am always happy to create a new design or use new materials so just let me know if you'd like me to take on a special project or commission. I give most of my jewelry away to family, friends, friends of friends, etc. because I enjoy making them so much. So if you'd like one, just contact me. If you would like an item but really REALLY want to purchase it, I generally charge $34 for bracelets and $55 for necklaces. I donate half of any profit to the Steilacoom Tribe since it is through the Tribe that I was given the opportunity to learn such crafts.
Below are some standard designs...you can click on an image for a larger picture.
The design above is an Honor design for Veterans and Elders. It is made with dentalia shells, coral, lapis, gold heishi rings, and a gold magnetic clasp.
The design above is named "sq'Wuq'Walachats" (a transliteration of the Lushootseed word for 'paper birch') and is made with dentalia shells, black labradorite, coconut heishi beads, silver heishi rings, and silver magnetic clasps.
The design above is named "Potlatch" and is made with dentalia shells, coral beads, coconut heishi beads, copper heishi rings, and magnetic clasps.
The design above is named "pu'ohe'ohe", the Hawaiian name for Job's Tears seeds, and is made with dentalia shells, pu'ohe'ohe seeds from Maui, coconut heishi beads, and magnetic clasps.
The design abive is named 'Okika', Hawaiian for "orchid", and is made with dentalia shells, pink lace jade, BD jade, coconut, and a gold magnetic clasp.
The design above is named 'ula'ula', Hawaiian for "red", and is made with dentalia shells, red sandlewood seeds from Maui, coconut, and a copper magnetic clasp.
And finally...above are just a few more options!