Next time you’re admiring a richly textured necklace in a fashion magazine, check the artist’s name—it just might be Rosa Kilgore (LAS ’00). Kilgore is gaining national recognition for her heirloom-quality jewelry, each piece crafted by hand in her metalsmithing studio in Flagstaff, Ariz.
“I’m primarily interested in texture and shape,” says Kilgore, whose designs evoke ancient coins, natural elements such as bark and feathers, and iconic Western symbols. “I work with baroque pearls, which are not perfectly round, and with organic, natural beads and stones. I call them nuggets.”
She makes most of her beads and amulets using traditional metalworking and casting techniques, many of them learned by studying under Navajo artists. “I use their methods but I am careful not to use their designs. That’s derivative and disrespectful,” she says. “My designs are contemporary.”
Her tools include tiny saws and hammers for creating textured molds, an oxyacetylene torch, and a leather apron and gloves to protect her from the drops of molten silver or bronze that sometimes slingshot out of her centrifugal caster. She admits to an occasional burn, “but not many,” she says with a laugh.
In spring 2018, Kilgore was named artist-in-residence at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, a luxury hotel in Paradise Valley, Ariz. In addition to providing a high-profile showcase for her work, the residency enabled her to introduce guests to “the allure of metalworking” through workshops. She loves watching others discover the thrill of shaping silver: “There is something magical about working with metal.”
View Kilgore’s creations at rosakilgore.com.