Zekas: Antlers, amber and horns, oh my
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TARA WALTON
JEWELRY: DANDI MAESTRE
Jewellery designer Dandi Maestre has just finished dying two pieces of antler a deep purple.
“I woke up and felt something had to be purple,” she explains from her shop at 386 Huron St. “For me, it’s all about the experimental.”
No animals were hurt in the making of her art. The antlers are shed naturally and gathered in Canada.
Colombian-born Maestre works in organic materials like bull horn, rough amber, reclaimed wood, natural seeds and nuts, which she fashions into show-stopping bracelets, cuffs, necklaces, rings and handbags. “I recycle domestic cattle horn. It is a by-product. They use the animal for meat and it would just be thrown away,” she explains, adding that her family “has always had cattle farms.”
Some of the seeds are dyed; some are natural. “These red seeds are natural,” she says, indicating a bracelet. “I’d play with them when I was young; they fall from trees in Colombia.”
Maestre has been open since November in the former location of the Chelsea Shop antiques store. More art gallery than boutique, it has a tribal vibe, with many pieces displayed on horns. They are organic objets, bold and beautiful, pieces of sculpture rather than jewellery, all of which speaks to Maestre’s former career as a graphic artist. She studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York and worked as a graphic designer in Bogota before immigrating to Canada eight years ago when her husband, Rodolfo Moseres, became trade commissioner for the Colombia government. The couple has two children aged 8 and 10.
She started making jewellery four and a half years ago in a home studio. “For me, it was not doing jewellery, it was art,” she recalls. “It’s 3-D design. I have never taken any jewellery courses because I want my own vision.”
Her price points start at $50 for rings, up to $1,700 for crocodile clutch bags. She sells to 30 stores in the U.S., including Anthropologie and Donna Karan’s Urban Zen shops in New York and Sag Harbor. She crafted a special driftwood line for Karan for this summer.
In Canada, she sells to Holt Renfrew and the Art Gallery of Ontario. She also sells online at dandimaestre.com.
Though her jewellery has been showcased in magazines like Elle, Vogue, Flare and Glamour, she is not a follower of fashion. “I’ve never believed in fashion, but I believe in individuality,” she says. “I am inspired by the materials; they speak to me. I aim to elevate these organic elements, their natural colour and textures, to a new level by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect.
“My things are huge; they are not delicate. But I do some small charms so people can start small. And my pieces can be mixed up with what you have. They can be integrated.