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Scarlet ChamberlinSketch Pad

Scarlet Chamberlin
Stones along the road
by Kathy Anderson

aking wishes is an everyday occurrence for Scarlet Chamberlin; she saturates her custom-made jewelry with good intentions and the healing properties of gemstones, along with a color, structure and style meaningful to the wearer. After moving from Oregon to Washington to Florida, New York, Ohio, back to Oregon, Washington then Oregon again – all before high school – she now resides in NE Portland.

Every intention
Scarlet Chamberlin's custom-designed jewelry is made to bring out a person's individuality by adorning not only their neck, ears or wrist, but their spirits as well.

Jade, carnelian, peridot, iolite, garnet, citrine and leather.

"There's a huge capacity to express ourselves in our personal fashion," she said. "If you're feeling sensual, putting on something you consider sensual illuminates or expresses the feeling – and that could be a white T-shirt and jeans with some long ruby earrings. Or if you're feeling insecure, grabbing your pink tourmaline and rose quartz necklace infused with self love and self acceptance could be just the right thing to bring you out of your shell a little bit."

Scarlet uses high-quality semi-precious and precious gemstones, gold and sterling silver, sometimes incorporating leather or cultured freshwater pearls into her creations.

"Gemstones are available in all levels of purity and clarity," she said. "The higher the quality, the higher the therapeutic value. I'm dedicated to using the finest materials available to fit the design and the client's budget."

Another purpose of the custom-made pieces is expressing something about the client or reminding them of something in their lives.

Carnelian rounds and sterling silver from Pakistan.

"Every time they look in the mirror or touch their piece, they remember that intention," she said. "And every time someone takes notice of their piece, it serves as a gateway to expressing themselves."

Powerful moments
Scarlet's jewelry career began with a simple, four-strand amber bracelet she made for herself and called her "personal power bracelet." Friends started asking for their own.

After attending a birth, Scarlet made a bracelet for the new mom out of some gemstones she'd brought along – a reminder of the moment the baby was born.

"I realized that adorning these powerful moments, or a new intention in your life, or your most favorite or quiet parts of yourself that you would like to bring forward, is sacred," she said. "It's the fashion of your personal truth."

Scarlet's clients are generally women. But sometimes it's their partners buying for them, which she sees as the sweetest thing in the world because they get to express their wish for them through the jewels.

Characteristically, her customers appreciate handmade crafts and aesthetic beauty.

"They're definitely romantic and sensual creatures," she said.

Wishing well
The creative process begins when Scarlet meets with a client over the phone or in person. She asks about the person: where they are, where they're headed, what it is they want from life. She'll ask if they have a vision of the piece, about structure, color and if they're drawn to any specific stones.

Blue topaz and glass from Asia.

"We have a conversation that's like a dance," she said. "Then I give my initial thoughts on which stones I might use and design ideas. What about a belly necklace with a moonstone droplet falling gracefully over your lower abdomen, worn inside your clothes just for you, or outside to show off? And so forth.

"The more freedom they give me, the better. Because often our original ideas of stone combinations don't work when I sit down to play with the design. I hold the intention of this person's piece as I shop for beads, pick up and hold stones, play with my supply of beads, and all of a sudden it will all fall together and I'll know this is it!"

Throughout the design process, Scarlet will call the client if she has questions. She sends one scan of a portion of the design to get an OK, then sends another scan before she clasps it.

"Once the piece is finished, I infuse it with wishes that it be exactly what they need. If it is a piece that has been tried on by others, I set it out overnight in the moonlight to let it be cleansed of any energy not meant for the client."

The piece is then wrapped and placed in a container with four cards: One is blank for the giver to write a note, one has care instructions, one has the ingredients and the properties of the stones used, and the fourth card has a wish or blessing for the receiver.

"It's a luscious process and is so fun and full of intention," she said.

Amber, citrine chips and sterling silver.

A piece can take Scarlet anywhere from two to six weeks to complete, depending on whether she needs to order certain beads or do research. The time of year factors in, too. The holidays can be busier.

Into the deep
Scarlet has been influenced by East Coast artist Lizzy Flannigan, and Deborah Spencer from Portland. Both women have shared with her their visions of bringing deeper meaning into the jewelry design process.

Chrysoprase, amethyst, blue lace agate, pink tourmaline, quartz, olive jade, blue topaz, carnelian, garnet and sterling silver.

Another influence is Susan Seddon Boulet and her feminine images that "stand their ground."

"I drool over the work of Rene Lalique, an early 1900s Art Nouveau artist. His ornate dragonflies, figures of women, gold, and use of opals, chrysoprase, moonstones and rubies is unbelievably gorgeous.

"And Karim Alaeddine, a painter who listens enthusiastically to his clients and is deeply devoted to the necessity of art."

Scarlet's inspiration comes from long walks that get her out of her head and into the world around her. The colors and combinations of nature inspire her combinations. So do Art Nouveau's curves, quality, gemstones and symbols, and stones, beads and metal in the raw.

"Adventures, relationships and experiences that cause me to grow are also inspirational," she said. "And, believe it or not, the endless stack of magazines in my studio."

Inspiration incorporated
Along with many private showings of her work, Scarlet also has "jewel gatherings" – parties co-designed with a hostess for a group of friends.

"The hostess gives a theme to the evening, often a wish she gives to her friends. I come with all my jewels and stones for them to play with. There is a loose structure and intention set, and basically we explore beauty and adornment and how the jewels make us feel.

Pink tourmaline, turquoise and sterling silver.

"Guests can take a piece home with them, or choose to begin the custom process for their own adornment."

Scarlet also arranges informational gatherings for expectant and new parents. She talks about which stones can benefit the mom during pregnancy, labor and postpartum, then incorporates them into jewelry.

"This jewelry adorns a very important time in their lives and is therapeutic as well," she said. "A popular piece is the breast-feeding bracelet. When mom is feeding she can switch the bracelet back and forth from wrist to wrist to remember which was fed from last.

"It makes a great gift for partners to give to their pregnant loved one. It's functional and they can infuse it with a wish like peace and serenity during labor."

Scarlet's original jewelry can be found at Sheba House of Elegance and Insage Bridal Design Studio, both in Portland. Her custom pieces are worn by folks from coast to coast.

Dalmation jasper and sterling silver.

And there are future partnerships in the works with a tattoo artist, salon owner, boutique owner and a midwife, too.

"I'd really like to work with certain people in Portland, and stars like Janet Jackson," she said. "She's been an inspiration for the dancer in me since I was a teen-ager."

Let it bead
Drawing, coloring, baking and dressing up in mom's clothes were the pleasures of Scarlet's childhood. She remembers the exact day she discovered beads.

"I was about six years old and a teen-age girl down the street, who I thought was way cool, invited me over to her house," Scarlet said. "She shared her bead collection and at that moment I knew I wanted my own.

"Thus began my infatuation with the history, meaning and beauty of beads. By 14, I was a little entrepreneur taking my jewelry designs down to NW 23rd and selling them to various boutiques."

Smoky quartz and sterling silver.

While taking graphic design and ceramic classes in high school, Scarlet was inspired by Art Nouveau and rock 'n' roll posters from the '70s.

"In each class, I'd take out my pens and paper and make very detailed masterpieces of a psychedelic/curvy/colorful genre," she said. "My senior year I designed the yearbook cover."

Scarlet went to college on a basketball scholarship. Thinking she would pursue fine arts, she ended up spending her time and energy playing ball.

"My spirit was calling for a more well-rounded experience, so my sophomore year I didn't play and instead went to Italy to study the language and art history," she said. "While I was traveling in Italy and beyond, I decided to go to massage school. I went to East West here in Portland and have had a private healing-arts practice ever since."

Scarlet is self-taught in the areas of drawing and jewelry design.

"I asked a lot of technical questions of the women working at the bead store when I was younger. Now, collaboration with other artists is key," she said. "However, I am beginning a metal-smithing apprenticeship to further my skills."

Tidbits left behind
With her jewelry and beadwork, Scarlet wants to help her clients claim their whole self as beautiful; their bodies and voice, their ups and downs, mistakes and successes – their personal power, vision and humanity.

Amber, citrine, carnelian and sterling silver.

"I want to impact teen-age girls with this message, along with women in all phases of life, by using jewelry to remind them of their individual beauty."

Another dream of Scarlet's is to adorn Janet and Liv and Oprah for fun and for the challenge of co-creating a piece that is unique and meaningful for them.

"I want to adorn all the incredible women and men in my life with something precious and full of love just for them," she said. "Maybe all these jewels will be heirlooms, little tidbits left behind for a grandchild or friend to treasure.

"There is my art, and then there are the people that need to be there so the art can happen."

E-mail Scarlet at jewels@sforscarlet.com. Reach Kathy at kanderson138@attbi.com, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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