Everyone is creative in one way or another, but the search for the right outlet for that creativity can be long — endless, in some cases — and deeply frustrating.
Jewelry artist Almeta Dellagnolo, set to exhibit her colorful, life-affirming, diversity-embracing work at the Woodland Art Fair for the first time this weekend, had a shorter, happier search than most.
Dellagnolo — who moved to Lexington from Europe with her husband, Sven, and their two children five years ago — dabbled with knitting and sewing for about a year before settling on jewelry making about two years ago.
“I really enjoy trying different things,” Dellagnolo, 40, says in an interview at her home studio in the Beaumont neighborhood, from which she runs her company, Babaloo Jewelry. “I started with precious-metal clay, which burns down to a precious metal that’s very beautiful, but for that you need a kiln, which makes it a lot more difficult and time-consuming.”
Then she discovered polymer (synthetic) clay, which is easier to work with, and for which a kiln is unnecessary. (She bakes the molded clay pieces in her own home oven.)
“I really fell in love with the versatility of it,” says Dellagnolo, who currently sells most of her work at events such as Mayfest and the Lexington Maker’s Market. “You can custom-mix your own colors. It’s extremely lightweight, and you can make anything with it, which I found really fascinating. I can still play with it, still experiment, but stay within the same medium.”
Once comfortable with the material, she lost no time turning out a body of work — mostly rings, pendants and earrings, with occasional forays into larger objects such as teapots — that reflects both her experience as a stay-at-home mom for many years and her ongoing interest in promoting diversity.
A series of cameo-style pendants made to celebrate Mother’s Day, for example, features mother-daughter pairs with brown skin and dark hair as well as others with light skin and blond hair. “I made them in many different ethnicities and colors,” Dellagnolo says. “I want all people to feel like they’re represented in the work.”
Did Dellagnolo’s own ethnicity — born in Idaho, she is Native American, part of the Nez Perce tribe — inform these artistic choices? “Perhaps,” she says, “but it’s not something I consciously did because of my background.”
A bigger motivating factor, she says, is simply to depict “joyful moments,” often involving children and animals.
In one pendant, for example, a little girl in a red dress and wearing a red bow in her hair stands in the rain under her bright yellow umbrella, accompanied by a duck the same color as the umbrella. In another pendant, another little girl and her companion, a bunny, gaze up at the moon.
Dellagnolo’s work will be an excellent addition to this year’s Woodland Art Fair, says Adrienne Dixon of the Lexington Art League, which organizes the annual popular fair along with Lexington’s Department of Parks & Recreation. “She makes really lovely and fun jewelry.”
“My favorite thing is when people come into my booth and look at my pieces, then become happy, and smile,” Dellagnolo says. “The best compliment I ever got was when a woman said, ’I love these. They’re all so happy.’”
Woodland Art Fair
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Woodland Park, 601 E. High St., Lexington
Number of artist booths: 216