Wandering through the booths at The French Nest Market in Fort Collins last July, I discovered the handmade Peruvian jewelry of Edú Muñoz. Dozens of earrings hung on felt boards. Necklaces and bracelets filled tables all around the booth.
Edú was no stranger to open air markets. He had put himself through veterinary school in Peru by selling his jewelry in parks and beside streets. Nonetheless, he hung back the day I met him, letting his wife Lindsay Saperstone, a CSU graduate born and raised in Fort Collins, greet customers and answer their questions.
The jewelry that they were selling under the name Wari Designs was astoundingly intricate and very reasonably priced. Lindsay explained that Edú uses an alloy made of copper and zinc and a small amount of nickel to make affordable jewelry with a silver tone.
Seven months later, I learned more about Wari Designs when I visited Lindsay and Edú at their home in Denver.
Turning Stone and Wire into a Work of Art
Edú begins designing necklaces like those pictured above and at left based on the stone. About 70 percent of his stones he picked out one by one in the markets of Peru. He thoughtfully selected stones that stirred his imagination. He sees the finished piece in his mind’s eye and begins to shape the metal that will hold and enhance the stone.
Most of his stones are cabochons that have been polished on the surface and flattened on the back. In addition, they have a shallow groove around the edge that helps hold the wire in place. No glue is required.
Edú’s inventory of metal consists of assorted sizes of wires and strips of copper, bronze, the alloy known as alpaca silver, and sterling silver. When a piece of jewelry is completed, Edú coats the metal with ProtectaClear to prevent oxidation, tarnish, or other reactions with air, skin, and chemicals.
Edú keeps a few chains on hand, but most chains he makes himself. Aside from those few purchased chains, every twist, every braid, every motif Edú creates himself.
Only in dance have I ever seen hands move as gracefully as Edú’s fingers do when he is shaping wire. There are no brief halts, no sudden reverses — just a constant fluidity of motion of his smooth, golden brown fingers. Within seconds he showed me nearly half an inch of perfect loops similar to those on the chain of the lower necklace at right. There had been no measuring, no stopping to assess, only an internalized knowing.
Turning a Work of Art into Business
Lindsay and Edú are exploring new markets for Wari Designs. With an MBA in global social sustainable entrepreneurship, Lindsay is well prepared for the task. She has started taking steps to place Wari Designs in galleries. She and Edú hope to be accepted into art festivals in the mountains that draw thousands of visitors ready to purchase something different. They have also added “Contact us for custom orders” to the back of their business cards since I first met them.
For now, they know they will be at the Boulder County Farmers Market frequently starting April 11. This weekly market hosts primarily food vendors, but once a month there is a special area designated for artisans. Follow Wari Designs on Facebook to learn later dates at the Farmers Market and other festivals. Recently posted is a picture of their display at Vines Vintage Market in Fort Collins, near the corner of Drake and Shields. If you’re in Fort Collins, this is a chance to see in person how lovely Edú’s jewelry is.
To widen the market for Wari Designs, Edú and Lindsay are considering adding stream-lined, contemporary designs that might have universal appeal to American tastes. The wire-wrapped pendant on the right in the picture above is an example. On the left is a pendant in Wari Designs’ traditional style.
I know my preference. What’s yours? Let me know in comments by clicking “reply” just below the title of this post. And enjoy browsing through more of Edú’s designs at WariDesigns.com.