It’s a living thing . . . Shelly exclaims. It’s made of hair; it’s fibrous; it’s indescribably light and soft . .. she is lighting up now, talking about the the hues of charcoal and camel, the gentle white and gold and earth that emerge out of it; talking about one of her favorite things. Horn.
Shelly Batt loves fine, very fine, craft and has traveled into the distant furrows and folds of the world to find artisans whose work is finer than all the rest. Even into prison.
Twelve years ago, Shelly went to Peru looking for new material and was captivated by the qualities of cow horn, a by-product of the Peruvian beef industry; she saw shadow and light and beauty in this refuse. But she was also looking for skilled hands that knew how to master it and finally tracked down what she was looking. Lider was a political prisoner - at one time a young law student passionate about the poor - now 14 years in a cell with 3 other men, a few tools, and a bright, eager mind. It was a match. For years, Shelly returned to that prison cell and not only learned from her skilled cohort, but learned with him, and carried their work home to offer in the US, allowing him to send his son to college while he was still behind bars.
When Lider was finally released, Shelly continued to visit him, working side by side in the slums of Lima to build a portfolio of her own designs. The result is magic. Horn jewelry so light, so luminous, it brings honest joy to wear it. Maybe that’s because Shelly loves the material so much - she finds the beauty hidden in each piece, and polishes away the rest.
This is not water buffalo horn found prevalently in Asia. Cow horn is smaller in scale and has a greater variety of color. Working with the material, she discovered a gorgeous matte finish rarely found anywhere else, soft to the touch and the eye. Each piece is heated and flattened, cut by hand and then shaped into the link or sphere that is required for her jewelry. The result is something that only the finest of craftspersons could create.
When I introduced Charlotte Moss to Shelly’s work, she signed on immediately and sketched a signature earring of loops upon loops that I had never seen or imagined. I sent the drawing to Shelly who then stayed up nights figuring out how to accomplish it, and did at last. Now we have a selection of offerings from this collaboration of designers: a gorgeous choker of golden spheres, a necklace of circles mixed with thin metal, a charm bracelet, an Egyptian collar, and two pairs of earrings - one bold and striking and the other a staple you can wear everyday.
Horn, I’ve learned from Shelly, is a living thing made lovely thing in the hands of one who knows how to clean, polish, warm, cut, coax, shape, shave, and love it. Charlotte and I are thrilled to offer these stunning, hand-wrought pieces - limited in quantity naturally, because they are difficult and time-consuming to make. Here’s your chance to pre-order. Perhaps you’ll want to scoop up yours now before this one-of-a-kind art goes public?
Here’s to Shelly and her twelve patient years of honing skill, her persistence in finding the best with whom to collaborate, no matter where they live. Here’s to all of us getting out of our own prisons of thought to live our most creative lives, transforming whatever refuse comes our way . . . into spectacular.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker
Read more of Shelly’s Horn pieces made especially for Charlotte Moss for Ibu and pre-order.