Using the same type of color-changing paint found in custom car paintjobs,Rachelle Thiewes welds life into her collection of bracelets,earrings and brooches,works she calls “Heat.” The 17 pieces were on view at Jewelers’ Werk Galerie on Cady’s Alley in Georgetown last month.
Thiewes teaches metalsmithing at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“Rachelle is very a helpful and a brilliant metalsmith. She helped me through my three metal classes,giving me her input and help,” said Alexandra Valdez,one of Thiewes’ students. Valdez is senior at UTEP,majoring in psychology.
“Instead of pushing your ideas down because they might be too cliché,she helps you make them uniquely yours,” Valdez said.
Gallery director Ellen Reiben has hosted various works of Thiewes over the years. “It’s evolving,as more of her work does. She usually works in silver and black,which is interesting because she dresses colorfully,” Reiben said.
Thiewes and her husband’s fist experience with a lowrider car happened soon after she was hired by UTEP and moved to El Paso. “We were at a stoplight in the downtown area behind a lowrider. I was busy looking at the car paint when the hydraulics started going off,” Thiewes said.
A lowrider is a style of car modification originated by Chicanos in which the suspension system is often replaced with hydraulics. The height of the car can easily be adjusted to ride as low as possible. Lowriders tend to be classic cars from the 1950s and are known for their bright and elaborate custom paint jobs.
“It’s no surprise that I would use them. It just took a while,” Thiewes said.
Since that day back in 1976,Thiewes has taken a liking for lowriders and regularly attends car shows to keep up with how colors are used on cars.
The jewelry uses bright,candy-colored paint on steel. It is mostly angular cut cylinders and circles in different variations and relationships. Prices range from $2,400 to $5,200.
“It demands commitment from the wearer’s part,” Reiben said about the pieces.
“It’s not heavy or uncomfortable,but it requires attentiveness,” Reiben said. She described Thiewes’ jewelry style as engaging for the wearer and responsive to the times.
Reiben said one customer plans to buy a bracelet but hasn’t decided which one.
Looking through past collections of Thiewes’ jewelry,such as “Desert Rhythms” or “Ring of Thorns,” the influence of her surroundings becomes apparent.
El Paso wraps around the Franklin Mountains in the Chihuahuan Desert,giving Thiewes plenty of natural inspiration to draw from.
“I go hiking a lot. If you’re not aware of the placement of your feet,you might get caught on a cactus or hit a hard surface,” Thiewes said. In that same manner,Thiewes explores the awareness of the desert in her work. “You have to negotiate how you place your body.”