OUTSTANDING: This model wears Koko Karibi jewelry. —Photo: Olivia Fern

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Jewelry designs with a difference

By Essiba Small  

Coconuts, Caribbean and beaches. While most of us were hard at work dusting, painting and varnishing this past week, jeweler Jacqueline Charles was in her design studio churning out pieces for her Christmas collection.

The CEO of Koko Karibi Designs, a contemporary accessories design studio that produces limited edition pieces, Charles's 20-piece collection features earrings, statement necklaces, cocktail rings, bracelets and cuffs.

"The collection was influenced by my exploration of the basic elements of design: line, point, form, shape, space, movement, colour, pattern, texture," Charles said.

"I wanted, in a very simplified way, to convey these elements and the guiding principles for using them by using minimal materials, but emphasising creativity, great design and quality

She used 14kt and 18kt gold/silver plated wires, sheet metals, hammered and textured brass, copper, precious and semi-precious gemstone, Swarovski crystals and fresh water pearls to achieve her one-of-a-kind jewelry.

"I am inspired by many influences, people, places, art, design, architecture, nature, events, and music, both of national and international scope," Charles said.

She added that she works best at night and in the small hours of the morning "when the world is quiet" but that having a creative space away from home, at #27 Jerningham Avenue, Belmont, has forced her to work in the day.

Charles is what one would call a certified bench jeweler, meaning she has the knowledge and skills to work with precious metals and gemstones from scratch.

"I learned the art of traditional Bench Jewelry making at Metal Industries Company Ltd," the organiser of The Monthly Arts Market and interim chairman of The Association of Caribbean Accessories Designers (ACAD) said.

" I started doing jewelry informally while studying for an Associate Degree, in Visual Communications Designs, at COSTATT, (John S Donaldson Technical Institute).

"At John D, Visual Communications Designs study encompasses both graphics and applied arts, which gave me the opportunity to explore the forms my creativity would take."

To gain an income while she was still a student, Charles made jewelry using alternative materials and techniques.

"I used seeds, stone, bone, paper, fabric, clay, glass, tin, etc. I reached a point where I needed to marry the design concepts in my head with the appropriate skills, which I lacked. So I applied to do a two-year full-time course of study at MIC Ltd.

Officially, Koko Karibi Designs has been around since 2006. It has been around even longer, however, since Charles always marketed her skills as an artist/designer.

Her company's name was inspired by her love for all things Caribbean, she said.

"It's really a play on the words coconuts, Caribbean, and beaches. It is important to me not to be identified as a Caribbean designer, but as a designer from the Caribbean on a global stage. "My perspective is that in order to be truly effective we need to be able to place ourselves alongside our global contemporaries in terms of what we create without the restraints that geographical location presents."

Koko Karibi Designs remains relevant, the jeweler said, because of her passion and love of art and design.

The company has evolved in ways that Charles herself didn't imagine to include the production of bags, clutches, laptop bags, belts, promotional items such as key rings and corporate logo pins.

"What sets Koko Karibi apart are our aesthetics. As a brand Koko Karibi Designs is a lifestyle. The focus is on promoting individuality and a love of art and design."

In 2011, after she recognised the need for aspiring jewelers to have proper training, Charles established Koko Karibi Design Studios.

Soon Koko Karibi will be facilitating a series of short courses that will focus on the basic fundamental techniques needed to gain entry level positions in the jewelry industry. The courses will be done through the Youth Training & Employment Partnership Programme (YTEPP), and The National Training Agency.

Upon completion trainees acquire both skills and certification.

Charles's growing clientele is as a result of client referrals and Facebook.

"People often commission pieces, but we do attend select exhibitions and forums. We also supply work to select national and international boutique retailers."

"At present we are working on redesigning our website, to accommodate e-commerce.

Charles is looking forward to the coming on stream of the Association of Caribbean Accessories Designers (ACAD) which she would lead. The body will advocate for the accessories sector of the fashion industry in Trinidad and Tobago and will be launched early next year.

Those interested in Charles's work can visit her Facebook page Koko Karibi Designs.

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