Although paper is regarded as somewhat ephemeral, paper beads designed by Kiff Slemmons are meant to endure.
Slemmons’ works are represented in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. According to Amy Yee in The New York Times, her unusual one-of-a-kind creations normally sell for $5,000 to $10,000, but most of her chunky contemporary jewelry designs for Arte Papel Vista Hermosa in San Agustin Etla sell for well under $50 (Note: The price tag visible on one of the pictured bracelets is in pesos, 250 pesos, or about $14.).
The paper workshop was founded by artist Francisco Toledo in 1998 in a former hydroelectric plant that once served Oaxaca City. Using the available water supply, native plants surrounding the workshop and traditional natural dyes, a dozen artisans tapped by Toledo make their living at the workshop.
Yee wrote that Toledo invited Slemmons to el taller in 2000. Her resulting jewelry designs involve folding and rolling strips of the workshop’s handmade paper. Slemmons now makes time annually to travel from Chicago to work with the craftsmen in Oaxaca, refining the pieces and refreshing herself by experiencing “what can happen through collaboration.”
Sheets of textured paper, kites and jewelry perfect for that first anniversary celebration are available at the workshop and in museum shops in Oaxaca City.