TULSA, Okla. – Drawings and ideas – some 30 years old – keep Chickasaw jeweler E. Dee Tabor awake at night.
When she sold her businesses in Edmond and Tulsa helping seniors find assisted living facilities in 2016, and after completing a 30-year teaching career, she expanded a jewelry making business once relegated to her kitchen table.
Now, she has a real, honest-to-goodness studio where she sometimes works into the wee hours.
“When it’s time, it’s time,” the Tulsa resident said. “If it is three or four in the morning, it doesn’t matter. If creativity strikes in the middle of the night, that’s when you get up and go to work.”
Tabor’s mind’s eye produces jewelry, each significant to her First American heritage. That is true of five pieces displayed at ArtesianArtsFestival.com, the Artesian Online Art Market. Each piece started out as an artist’s vision, then a drawing and then hard work to produce one-of-a-kind art priced to appeal to everyone.
Her favorite is “Dragonflies.” Images of golden dragonflies on a sterling silver bracelet provide art lovers and collectors with subtle elements from an ancient Korean technique called “Keum boo.”
“The technique involves pressure and heat. The gold and silver must be heated to approximately 500 degrees for a molecular bond to occur. The gold actually goes into the silver,” Tabor said. “It’s a fun technique to do … and I love it when I’m successful doing it,” she said with a hearty laugh.
Tabor explained both metals have to be super clean. So clean, in fact, that oil from her hand might impede the molecular bonding, so the process is exacting.
Two works of art by Tabor employ Keum boo to fuse gold and silver. The second piece does not have a title. It is a two-inch circular pendant with reticulated sterling silver positioned in the center. It is accented in 24K gold. The fine silver crinkles, shrinks and expands during eight torch firings with a thorough quenching and cleaning between firings. The final process gives the piece a beautiful texture resembling an ancient piece of jewelry.
Another stunning piece is more traditional. Using black moss agate and sterling silver on a 20-inch necklace with black matte onyx and silver beads, Tabor has crafted a piece that pairs well with a formal occasion wardrobe to T-shirt and jeans. “I like the piece very much. It was labor intensive though,” Tabor said. A portion of the stone is not polished to a sheen. It was purposely kept that way to bring out the black moss material emanating on the surface and inside the stone.
“I enjoy working in textures. Textures in metal, textures in stone and other materials. I look for ways to fabricate the metals to add texture and interest,” Tabor explained.
There are also two cloisonné enamel pieces. This technique required frequent firings in a kiln with more enamel added between firings, Tabor said. The enamel she uses is glass ground into a fine powder. It is called “vitreous enamel.” Her art, called “Path,” shows a spiral resembling a Chickasaw stomp dance.
“Path” is made from kiln-fired vitreous enamels on fine silver. The necklace is 18 inches long and is strung with freshwater pearls, Swarovski beads and a sterling silver clasp.
While the pandemic has forced Tabor to stay home or in her studio, she briefly discontinued her art to sew masks for first responders in Tulsa. Her two daughters live in Seattle, Washington, a city which saw some of the first cases of the coronavirus. Tabor was worried.
She began sewing masks for doctors and nurses at Tulsa’s Hillcrest Hospital and the Tulsa Police Department.
“The masks we were making would fit over an N-95 mask. The masks were designed by a nurse and each one required about an hour’s worth of work,” Tabor said. “We followed all the specifications. They were pleated and had metal over the nose and four layers of woven and non-woven material.
“It turned out great. It was a great thing to do and it brought me out of a stressful and worrisome place,” she said.
“After that experience, I was ready to jump back in the studio,” she said. After all, with the pandemic, she wasn’t going anywhere, “So why not do something worthwhile in the studio,” she said with a laugh.