Sea Change

Jewelry artist Cheryl Eve Acosta
Jewelry artist Cheryl Eve Acosta

A childhood spent beachcombing informs jewelry artist Cheryl Eve Acosta’s sense of identity and inspires her work.

Puerto Rico-born and raised, artist Cheryl Eve Acosta holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Jewelry from New Mexico State University and a master’s in Jewelry and Metals from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Acosta says her environment—including her current home here in Kansas City—has a profound effect on her designs.

Kansas City Spaces: How would you describe what you do?

Cheryl Eve Acosta: I would call myself an artist more than anything. My focus is in jewelry. I call it sculptural jewelry because I like to create three-dimensional pieces that not only evoke a feeling on the body, but also as an object displayed on a table or a shelf or wall. They’re fine-art pieces for the body.


KCS: Why did you choose jewelry as your medium?

CEA: As a kid, I always was drawing fashion, clothing, architecture, furniture. I drew a lot and was interested in design. I was also doing a lot of beadwork. I was probably about 6 years old when I started making bracelets with those tiny little plastic beads. Then it developed into using by-products of nature in my pieces. I grew up on an island in Puerto Rico and was always collecting shells, seeds, bits of coral and other organic elements. When I grew up and left Puerto Rico to pursue my degree in metalsmithing, the inspiration I got from the ocean translated into my visit and concepts. I didn’t always know I was going to design jewelry; it just happened naturally. When I was doing my undergrad, I took sculpture classes and was going to be a sculpture major. My sculptures were always things that would fit the body. I was making these huge metal skirts, for example. Then I thought: What am I going to do with these huge pieces? So I scaled down to make smaller, wearable pieces.


KCS: Where can people find your work?

CEA: I do a lot of specially commissioned pieces. For example, the Women’s Foundation commissioned a brooch as a gift for Madeleine Albright to mark her recent visit to Kansas City. I have a studio in the Crossroads and host First Friday events from time to time. Some of my pieces are also available at TallulahBelle’s [in Park Place]. I also do a lot of art and fashion shows. I did the West 18th Street Fashion Show, and you can find me at the Plaza Art Fair this year [Friday, Sept. 25, 2015 to Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015]. In October, I’ll be involved with the Kemper Gala “Bright Nights” as one of several local designers that has been invited to create something special for that event.


Identifying with the Ocean

Although her collections have been inspired by the diversity of the environments she has called home, it is clear that living by the ocean has been the greatest influence on Acosta’s work.

“When I was doing my thesis for my master’s degree at Rhode Island School of Design, it was a very conceptual degree, and I was sort of soul-searching to understand why I do what I do and what I am inspired by,” Acosta explains. “To me, the ocean was sort of an immediate connection to life and who I am. I was trying to find an answer through the ocean. As a kid, I would walk on the beach and collect all these natural specimens and question how they were made. The coral and shells became a metaphor. My mom is French and my dad is Puerto Rican. I never felt like I was American, French or Puerto Rican. I always felt like I was something else. I found that I identified with life in the ocean because we have such a hard time classifying so much of it—is it an animal? Is it a plant? I could empathize with that sort of uncategorized-categorized identity.”