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Teresa M. Bevan

Sargassum

Sargassum
Fire Mountain Gems and Beads' Jewelry-Making Contest 2014 featuring Metal
Finalist

Meet the Designer-Artist


Where do you live?
Like the Civil War musket enveloped by the tree it was left leaning against, Florida has absorbed me as one of its own. A visit initiated by my father following my Ohio high school graduation in 1974, turned into my permanent home of sand, heat and hurricanes, and phenomenal beauty.

What inspires you as a designer-artist?
Nature has always been my main source of artistic expression and passion. When my children were young, I DETERMINED that I wanted my children to be involved with their Florida environment. I immersed them in outdoor educational activities through field trips and 4-H projects, family outings and school assignments. One of our most enlightening experiences was through a series of adventures orchestrated through 4-H called "Sea Science Saturdays." Led by an incredible marine biologist, the children experienced the ocean habitat with hands-on lessons out in the "field." During one such Saturday on Miami Beach, we explored the floating sea grass called "Sargassum." We would scoop up clumps of the golden vegetation and gently shake it over a glass bowl of sea water, observing the creatures that we had dislodged from their floating home. Of all the years I had spent at the beach, I NEVER knew seaweed to be anything but an annoyance! It completely changed my perspective of the ocean and its inhabitants.

What medium do you work with mostly?
Wow! A "medium" sounds so spiritual! I'm really not sure how I have one! I get a concept in my head, and then think about what materials might represent the individual aspects of the design. IT tells ME what materials to use.

Why did you become enchanted with this style of jewelry-making?
I do enjoy working with wire because of its freeform potential. (Loosely translated, that means I can make a boo-boo and it will fall under the "creative license" heading!)

What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
Sargassum

What inspired this design?
The brownish-yellow drift of floating seaweed in the Atlantic Ocean, called Sargassum weed, acts as a mobile transport habitat for a great variety of marine life, and as a sublime refuge for young fish, sea turtles, crabs and shrimp. The seaweed got its name from Portuguese sailors who, when noticing that the weed's small, round gas-filled bladders looked like grapes, called it "salgazo." These air bladders allow it to float like a thick blanket on the surface of the water creating a diverse ecosystem for the ocean's youngest inhabitants and a water-front diner for larger fish.

When you scoop up a clump of Sargassum weed from the ocean, and gently shake it over your other hand, you can occasionally see a Sargassum Fish, a pipefish, and even a seahorse carefully camouflaged among the fronds. When young sea creatures find a safe haven in Sargassum weed, they are far more protected from predators, and more likely to survive to adulthood.

The Sargasso Sea occupies a vast stretch of the North Atlantic Ocean around Bermuda where floating islands of sargassum provide shelter and food out in the open ocean. Christopher Columbus described these masses of seaweeds in his diary and Andrea Bianco included them on his charts in 1436.

The greatest concern to this floating diversity of life is the disturbances caused by shipping and fishing cutting up these large masses.

In March of this year, five countries--Bermuda, the U.S., the Azores, Monaco, and the U.K.--signed the Hamilton Declaration, committing to the protection of the Sargasso Sea with the goal of trying to identify critical migration routes for ships crossing these areas.

Once I realized that this golden vegetation held more purpose than just getting stuck in my bathing suit while swimming in the ocean, I wanted to bring the knowledge of this "floating rain forest" to the attention of others. Unfortunately, few people at the beach were as entertained as I was when I would shake the clump of seaweed above their hands and a crab would land on their arm!

The idea of the jewelry seemed a less stressful way of teaching about this ocean habitat, and the design took shape in my mind rather quickly.

How did it come together?
With this design "Sargassum," I knew I wanted it to have movement; the gentle sway of the seaweed fronds playing against the flow of the water. To achieve that movement would mean lots of loose, individual parts attached to a central "branch." I wouldn't realize it until the piece was finished, that the sound of all those parts was reminiscent of seashells rolling in the surf. Copper was the obvious wire choice from the original concept, given its similar coloration to the sargassum, and I knew I wanted it to drape loosely around the neck like Mermaids might adorn themselves with seaweed and shells while trying to entice sailors at sea.

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