By Brandi Simmons
During a visit to New Orleans, Shirley De’Vard stumbled upon a shop with a piece of jewelry she just had to have. As she made her purchase, she watched the shopkeeper creating similar pieces on the spot and was immediately in love. “I thought, ‘I am going to invest in this. If she can do it, I can do it too,’” she says.
As an educator—in East Baton Rouge Parish public schools and at both Southern University and LSU—she realized the importance of being knowledgeable about her new passion. She studied everything she could about the process and created her own style along the way. In 2004, De’Vard retired to pursue her hobby full time. “One thing has led to another, and now it just consumes me because I love it so much.”
Each item is largely inspired by the world around her, translating color palettes she sees in everyday life into her unique statement jewelry. Pieces combine seed beads and metal work, including crocheted wire and bead necklaces that are simultaneously delicate and sturdy, into one-of-a-kind, handcrafted jewelry. Her dedication to each piece and love for the work definitely drives her. “I’m almost too passionate. I have to stop myself from working sometimes.”
De’Vard’s passion is certainly resonating. In addition to being accepted into a number of juried shows and festivals, she recently became a Fellow of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi, Inc. and will be creating a new line of jewelry inspired by the African diaspora as one of the craftsmen at the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. You can meet her a little closer to home on Sunday, May 6, when she visits the LSU Museum of Art for our annual Mother’s Day Trunk Show.
Brandi Simmons is LSU MOA's communications coordinator.