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Shella Robinson

"Blue Ribbon Tears" - Shella Robinson, in collaboration with Daman and Marie Thompson

"Blue Ribbon Tears" - Shella Robinson, in collaboration with Daman and Marie Thompson

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"Blue Ribbon Tears" - Shella Robinson, in collaboration with Daman and Marie Thompson




sterling silver, turquoise, lapis, opals


20” in length
Eye Charm: 1 ⅜ x 2.5 inches
Bell Charm: 3/4 x1/2 x1/2 inches
Four Mountains/Corners Charm: 1.5x .75 inches

Artist Statement

The necklace, Blue Ribbon Tears, that I made for this High Low High Exhibition consists of several metaphorical charms, which are mostly made from reconfigured elements of the buttons made by Diné (Navajo) couple, Marie and Daman Thompson, and are connected by silver chain. This work is intended to speak to the injustice of this particular situation of a massive, globally successful company not honoring a business deal with a tiny family jewelry business and to celebrate the perseverance of Native peoples and the continuation of their cultural traditions, as in their jewelry making styles and techniques.

I found this situation particularly egregious because the buttons ordered by the company were to be used for a campaign intended to celebrate Native American cultures and crafts. This situation is a microcosm of a much broader systemic and layered history of business dealings with Indigenous peoples being reneged and the racism and abuse they have suffered for generations at the oppressive hands of people in power and ignorance. It also shows how corporations flaunt “allyship” in their marketing campaigns, but all too often, the actual motivators are to increase profits and their sales base, not to make structural and ideological changes that instill inclusivity and equality.

So, with all this in mind, I made a blue lapis eye “crying” white opal “tears” to be a metaphor for the crocodile tears of performative allyship and the whitewashing of history and marginalized people’s voices. I also made a bell out of one of the buttons to represent “sounding the alarm”: bringing awareness to injustices and taking action. It has a flower clapper (the part inside that swings to make it ring) to signify growth that can be fostered with awareness.

After doing some research, I made the charm with four triangles cut from another button, symbolizing the Diné people’s traditional homelands marked by four sacred mountains stretching across what is now known as the Four Corners states: AZ, NM, CO and UT. Daman and Marie’s stamping is visible on each triangle and the bell, which shows their hand in the making. Blue Ribbon Tears is, in part, an homage to the beauty and endurance of their cultural jewelry making traditions and the symbolism imbued into their jewelry.
Artist bio:
Shella Robinson was born in Seoul, Korea and grew up in New Hampshire. After graduating with an MFA in Metals in Jewelry from SUNY, New Paltz and working many years at a prominent gallery in New York City, she runs her own art consulting business. She works with numerous corporate and residential clients to source and acquire contemporary artworks for their collections and provides a full range of art services including art advising, installation, appraisal, transport, and framing. Teaching metals and jewelry classes has been a longtime passion and large part of her professional career and since graduate school. She taught classes at the 92NY in New York City for over 15 years and currently teaches Heidi Lowe Gallery, where she also works.

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