(Photo by Ryder Redfield)
Hundreds of years of history come together on a single necklace with each artifact representing a place and moment in history. The historical artifacts are brought together by jewelry artist Kate Aspen and each piece is carefully selected to tell a specific story. Aspen’s Red Necklace Series are necklaces comprised of several one-of-a-kind historical artifacts affixed to a red beaded necklace where every item is authentic to the period.
Aspen has been in business operating Cowgirls and Indians in Sisters for nearly 15 years and she has been making jewelry for over 30 years. Running her own business has presented a challenge to Aspen in that she does not have the time to focus her creative energy toward all of her artistic talents. Therefore she chose to channel her artistic ability into making jewelry.
“I’ve been an artist ever since I can remember. I always had my sketchpad around. Growing up I only wanted to be an artist. I should have been an art teacher. My folks told me I couldn’t make a living doing that so I went along and did my own thing,” Aspen said.
Aspen started making jewelry by designing simple pieces using beadwork and earrings. Now her extravagant necklaces are on display in her gallery and featured prominently at auctions.
Fitting for the name of her shop, Aspen’s Red Necklace Series are wearable pieces of history featuring authentic vintage pieces and adornments from the old west. She scours antique shops and the internet for the perfect historical artifacts to complement each of her unique necklaces. No expense is spared to find the perfect centerpiece for a necklace.
“As far as design goes my vision always comes back to vintage one-of-a-kind artifacts that tell a story. I like history so I incorporate those artifacts into my Red Necklace Series. Once I have an idea I search high and low for those artifacts that will go into my next piece,” Aspen said.
Aspen’s jewelry has sold in museums and galleries and recently her Artic Transformation necklace sold in a CM Russell Auction. The necklace featured 100-year-old trade beads, fossilized walrus ivory, old fishing weights, a pre-1920s pendant and had a length of 31 inches.
Aspen’s Red Necklace Series uses 1880’s trade beads, Navajo silver, Fred Harvey Era silver and various authentic artifacts from the era. There are over 2,400 beads in each necklace. Each piece on one of her necklaces represents a time and place in history. It is difficult not to wonder of the stories of trade and bartering with each of the beads, who might have originally made the artifacts and how history has led each piece to one of Aspen’s historical necklaces.
“When I finish a piece I can feel it in my head and my heart. I know when I should stop tearing it apart and starting over again. It’s a piece of history all hung on a necklace. They all tell a story and you can talk about where those pieces have been, who has held them and the conversations around each piece. They are artifacts from a period in time hung together as a piece of history,” Aspen said.
Many of Aspen’s Red Necklaces have a tribal look. The beads she uses were made in Czechoslovakia between 1860 and 1900 and were traded to Native Americans in the old west. One of her recent necklaces called The Santa Fe Express used Navajo Silver, Fred Harvey Era Silver and Red Trade Beads combined with Navajo bells.
“Art is my heart and the Red Necklace Series keeps it ticking,” Aspen said.
Aspen can be reached at email@example.com or 541-549-6950 and her necklaces can be found at Cowgirls and Indians in Sisters.