Tapping Into The Talisman's Powers
"To Have and To Hold" - Object gold-plated, 18kt gold.

Celebrated Jamaican artist Jasmine Thomas-Girvan returns home for a limited time with her latest fine jewellery collection, Talisman. Based in Trinidad for the last 22 years, the gifted Queen's School alumna brings the full range of her extraordinary artistic powers to this exquisite collection.

The acclaimed sculptor, jeweller and installation artist was trained in jewellery and textile design at the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York in the '80s. A recipient of the Tiffany Honor Award for Excellence while still studying at Parsons, she first started making one-of-a-kind jewellery shortly after graduation — work that was so stunning she soon established her own studio on Madison Avenue and began designing and producing jewellery for retail chains such as Macy's and Fortunoff.

Her work evolved from small, wearable objects to large-scale installations with multimedia elements, including her forays into paper-making and glass-blowing. Like a Caribbean Frida Kahlo, Thomas-Girvan delves into the kind of magical realism that allows people to reconnect with Africa, the Middle Passage and slavery, and the many sociopolitical and race issues that frame modern existence. Her commissions have been presented to the Queen of England and she exhibited in the US, Trinidad, Venezuela, Mexico, the UK, and, most recently, in Europe. Her exhibition, Bathed in Sacred Fire, ran from October 1, 2021 to March 22 this year at Kunstinstituut Melly in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

In addition to receiving a Commonwealth Foundation Arts Award in 1996, her brilliant and thought-provoking installations and sculptures compelled the National Gallery of Jamaica to bestow upon her the Aaron Matalon Award in 2012 and then again in 2017, as the artist who made the most outstanding contribution to that year's Jamaica Biennial. In 2014, she also received the Silver Musgrave Medal from The Institute of Jamaica.

Thomas-Girvan returned to her first love — jewellery — for what may be her last collection for some time. Made to be objects of beauty, Talisman's pieces are meant to evoke the power and majesty of Caribbean culture — as well as exude the power to protect, heal and bring good luck. Talisman features familiar universal symbols — hearts, flowers, birds, and the Om, the symbol of divine togetherness. Thomas-Girvan hopes that with these talismans, the wearers will remember events and moments of significance that will help them grow, have a connection with a person, time or place, and give them a sense of well-being.

"As jewellery objects, they occupy our intimate space," Thomas-Girvan explained. "As we wear them and carry them with us, their beauty is an outward celebration of the wearer's beauty and a cue to reflection."

With Talisman, she felt moved to create simple pieces in precious metals which have resonance with the Caribbean story, in keeping with her focus on the region's aesthetics — the sea, Adinkra symbols of the Motherland, Taino implements, inspirational Jamaican proverbs, cricket, and special events in the liberation story of Haiti and Cuba. Keys, universally understood as symbols of opening and unlocking, denoting liberation, knowledge, mystery, and initiation, have taken on special significance for Thomas-Girvan. Having read The Promised Key by Leonard Howell, she says it is now the focus of one of her offerings in the Kingston Biennial, on view now at the National Gallery of Jamaica.

Does she wear a talisman? And does it help her in any way? "I do," she said. "It is a daily reminder of the magnificence of our Caribbean civilisation. I wear these symbols with tremendous pride." She is inspired by Christina Sharpe's philosophy that beauty is a method. Sharpe revisited "what that might mean or do; what it might break open, rupture, make possible and impossible; how we might carry beauty's knowledge with us and make new worlds".

Thomas-Girvan hopes that close proximity to her Talisman symbols will allow the wearer to embody the energy they represent and affirm ever-positive systems.

Her groundbreaking work, which fearlessly engages with deep, often painful aspects of our history, has been studied by artists and archaeologists alike. The most recent issue of the Journal of Caribbean Archeology features her work on Taino cosmology in an article written by Joanna Ostapkowicz from the Institute of Archeology at Oxford University.

"We're celebrating the present!" says Suzanne Rousseau, co-owner of the luxury boutique Island Magnolia, which she and her sister, Michelle, currently own and operate at Harmony Hall, an 1886 house on a former sugar plantation. Now a National Heritage Trust site, Harmony Hall is also home to their restaurant Summerhouse, whose menu focuses on modern heritage dining, an elevated presentation of the culinary heritage, personality and classic style of the West Indies, with simple, pure, modern interpretations of the region's most traditional and delicious ingredients.

"We're thrilled to showcase Jasmine's extraordinary limited fine jewellery collection at Island Magnolia. Her beautiful and meaningful art is often a lyrical love letter to our existence and having both her and the jewellery in the store is a fantastic start for our season of style," says Suzanne Rousseau.

Shop the Talisman collection on Sunday, December 4, 2022, at Island Magnolia, Harmony Hall, St Mary. A private preview will be hosted on Saturday, December 3. RSVP by e-mailing hello@islandmagnoliaja.com

"Jewels from the Sea" earrings, sterling silver.
Multimedia artist and jewellery designer Jasmine Thomas-Girvan(c) MICHELE JORSLING 2017
Orchid necklace — sterling silver and Carnelian beads.
"Jewels from the Sea" earrings, sterling silver .

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