Former United States Secretary of State Dr. Madeleine K. Albright was in Kansas City recently to celebrate Truman Library’s opening of Read My Pins, a traveling exhibition of more than 200 pins worn by Albright herself throughout the years. She is known for using her brooches as a diplomatic conversation tool.
She spoke at the annual luncheon hosted by the Women’s Foundation of Greater Kansas City (WFGKC) whose mission is to raise, invest and grant funds to promote equity and opportunity for women and girls.
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As a token of appreciation, WFGKC invited local designer, Cheryl Eve Acosta to design a brooch for her to be gifted during the luncheon. We wanted to talk to Acosta and see where her concept and inspiration came from for this one-of-a-kind brooch.
Spaces: How did you get involved with the WFGKC?
Acosta: Raina Heinrich, the Retail Operations Manager of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, introduced local jewelry designers and artists to the Foundation because they were commissioning a brooch to be gifted to Madeleine Albright during her visit to Kansas City. Each artist had the opportunity to present his or her concept and designs to the WFGKC committee.
Spaces: What was your inspiration in creating this brooch for Dr. Albright?
Acosta: I was inspired by a combination of factors. My connection to water and nature comes from my Caribbean background. Now a Midwest transplant, I find refuge for my love of water and nature in the iconic flowing fountains and the majestic river of Kansas City. Water, the blood of life and constant flow, invigorates my creative vision. Its vitality and purifying qualities are the inspiration for the design and creation of the Albright brooch.
Also, after reading Dr. Albright’s book Read My Pins, I was able to understand better her background, how she started collecting pins and how she used them as a communication tool. When designing her brooch, I wanted to create a piece that presented and embodied her, evoking a sense of belonging, but also engage her as part of its creation.
Spaces: How long did it take you from concept to final creation of the brooch?
Acosta: It took me a little over a month to design and write my concept and finish the actual piece. While I create work, it is important that my jewelry speaks to me visually and physically.
Spaces: Does the brooch signify anything in particular?
Acosta: The Albright brooch depicts an oasis-like basin, emitting three gold and silver algae/plants, spiraling around from a blue enameled water pod. These three river-like plants represent Albright’s daughters while she would present the basin that feeds them. It is an emblem of longevity to be passed on to her three daughters representing vivacity, growth and perpetuity. The brooch hopes to embody Mrs. Albright’s endurance and attest to her legacy.
Spaces: Were you nervous creating a brooch for someone of her stature?
Acosta: I was more excited than nervous to make a brooch for Dr. Albright. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to create a piece for someone whom I admire for her leadership as a woman and her unique communication skills.
Spaces: How did you get started in jewelry making?
Acosta: I started when I was about 6 years old. I first used fishing wire and plastic beads. It later developed into using nature’s byproducts such as shells, seeds, wood, among others. When entering college, I realized jewelry was my devotion and left the Caribbean to study jewelry and metalsmithing at New Mexico State University. I never suspected my passion would have lent me to also pursue my masters at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Spaces: What’s your favorite part about designing jewelry?
Acosta: For this project, preparing my presentation to WFGKC was my favorite part. I enjoyed sketching my idea and writing about the concept behind Albright’s brooch, my inspiration and the connection between the two. Seeing the finalized piece is also very gratifying. It’s magical to have a vision and be able to make it come to life.
Spaces: Do you have any upcoming shows?
Acosta: This April, I will be taking part in TMC’s “Fashion for a Cause” where I will launch my clothing and jewelry collection to help raise funds for the hospital. I will also be participating in local art fairs and trunk shows.
Spaces: Anything else you’d like to add?
Acosta: I would like to thank Kansas City in general for its dedicated support in the arts. I feel very excited to be here during an emerging time in our community, which is full of energy and commitment. I am appreciative of the WFGKC as well, for its involvement in helping women advance their inspired paths in Kansas City. I am also grateful for the opportunity to create a unique brooch for Dr. Albright.
To see more of Acosta’s work or a list of her upcoming events, visit www.cheryleve.com.