ANCIENT BLUE, from Circles series, of lapis, silver, turquoise, crystal, gunmetal, glass; handembroidery on fiber/wire base, 2010. Photograph by Tim Erskine, Peter Ciesla. Model: Rachel Garletts.
Skye and Peter Ciesla

Paths of Intuition




While each artist is responsible for her or his own series, help often comes from the other in the form of technical, material or conceptual contributions.

Encrusted with irregular, variously colored stones and lustrous bits of shell, the neckpieces of Wisconsin artists Skye and Peter Ciesla are reminiscent of the dripping mosaics of Renaissance grottos or the natural sea caves, illuminated by isolated sunbeams scattered on lapping water, from which those artificial sixteenth-century caverns drew their inspiration. Asymmetry in some of the neckpieces serves as an effective bridge between nature and aesthetic vision, but other examples dispose a natural variation of stones in more distinctly symmetrical designs, juxtaposing the polished lumps of turquoise, lapis lazuli, carnelian, rose quartz, garnet, amber, or aquamarine with tiny glass beads and reconciling all of these three-dimensional elements with an underlying two-dimensional geometry of circles, ovals and crescents. As if this complexity of formal relationships were not sufficient, beneath the knobby surfaces, like water swelling up below clusters of flotsam, fabric elements add both dimensionality and a curious impression of softness to the whole. Complexity reigns in these works, but the artists understand the necessity of an overarching harmony as well, and the ultimate effect is of serenity drawn from a multitude of independent, and sometimes even incongruous, parts.

Such an art is fitting for two artists who frequently collaborate to some degree on their works but at the same time are concerned with maintaining their individual identities. Before they met, each had accrued years of experience with different facets of what would eventually become a commonly held aesthetic. Skye (who uses only one name) had begun to explore sculpture in stone in the late 1980s and for seven years held a position as an artist-in-residence at a high school in Deerfield, Illinois. “I wasn’t trained in carving stone,” she explains. “It was just something that I had a passion for. It became my business, and the artist-in residence position helped a lot, because I had a studio there and students. But then I started getting carpal tunnel syndrome and I realized that I had to change what I was doing. I was looking for something else.” As it turned out, fortune would intervene to cast light on a medium that the artist had never previously contemplated and suggest a way of working that would thrive on the benefits of a second artistic perspective.




More Skye and Peter Ciesla jewelry images


Glen R. Brown is a professor of art history at Kansas State University who takes a particular interest in artistic collaboration. He found the jointly owned design business of artists Skye and Peter Ciesla to be an excellent example of the kind of collaborative enterprise that provides numerous benefits without unduly intruding on artistic individuality. In their respective workshops, Skye and Ciesla have negotiated the ideal working arrangement for two artists with different experiences and skills but a similar intuitive approach to design.


This article in its entirety appears only in the print magazine.

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Nubian Jewelry

Kate Mensah

Philadelphia Craft Show


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