Local jewelry designer Christopher Beaver calls his association with fashion designer Amy Yeung “a big tidal wave of energy.”
He’s not referring to the “super-bright explosion” of colorful masks, jewels and textiles that will be on display this weekend at Society Telluride, which will feature the work of both creatives Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Instead, Beaver is referring to other ways he’s teamed up with Yeung of late, in support of those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yeung is perhaps best known by the name of her clothing label, Orenda Tribe, for which she produces “repurposed and upcycled vintage pieces” (as a profile in Vogue recently put it) from her home in Albuquerque. A former L.A.-based design executive, the clothing designer relocated to New Mexico several years ago as part of a “soul journey” to better-connect with her Indigenous heritage, to “teach my daughter to live sustainably, to be a good citizen, and to protect the earth.”
Already aiming to help support her local community and Navajo Nation — this country’s largest Indian reservation — the pandemic focused Yeung even more fiercely: There have been more deaths per capita in Navajo Nation than in any U.S. state.
“What I do now with my time is everything,” she has said. “The clarity has been incredible.”
Beaver, whose Moon Bear Jewels, which he collaborates on with Colleen Thompson and Ava Nelson, is well known locally, was introduced to Yeung through his friendship with singer-songwriter Jewel (with whom he’s collaborated on another line of jewelry, titled Songlines).
“I think we trauma bonded,” Beaver said of his kinship with Yeung. “We became instantaneous friends. Amy is wildly amazing; a lovely human being. In the days after Jewel connected us, we talked about the need for masks, and hand sanitizers. She’d already been doing critical aid work.”
(For example, Orenda Tribe had partnered with Tohaali Community School — a public school in Newcomb, New Mexico, students in grades K-8 — to supply essential aid and services to the students and their families over the past year.) With Beaver’s (and other committed friends’) help, Yeung has been able to donate thousands of masks — and many thousands of dollars’ worth of aid — to communities in need in a short amount of time.
“It’s been an amazing dynamic,” Beaver said of his work with Yeung. “We both move really quickly. She can pivot really fast because of her history in fast fashion; I was involved in using my own friends and connections. We put on a massive online benefit concert with 40 artists in just 19 days called The Voices of Siihasin (the concert aired July 5). We delivered 42,000 boxes of food — 925,000 individual servings — 250,000 disposable masks, reusable masks and 7,000 pairs of socks, and that was just from the fundraising for the concert. We thought we didn’t do enough, but we were actually able to accomplish quite a lot in a short amount of time.”
The event Friday and Saturday is not a fundraiser, but it is unusual: Yeung “doesn’t do trunk shows anymore,” Beaver said (she obviously made an exception for her friend). It’s a “socially distanced, open-air event” that celebrates the work of two artisans who have found joy not only in the act of creating but in friendship, and giving back. “You’ll be able to buy masks that support the women’s shelter that Yeung supports,” Beaver said. The brilliantly colored creations (which can be viewed on Orenda Tribe’s Instagram site, along with examples of Yeung’s and other Indigenous’ artists’ designs) “are extremely comfortable, and have been wildly popular,” Beaver said. “I own 10 of them.”
Like Beaver’s Southwest-inspired, modern-yet-luxurious jewelry, and Orenda Tribe’s jewel-toned Southwest-inspired clothing, masks are ornamental creations, Beaver pointed out. And yet they are something more: they are statements of resolve, and purpose, and (in this case) also benefit those in need. “If you have to wear something like this,” Beaver summed up, “why not make it sonething like that? Why not the brightest, prettiest piece you can find?”
Christopher Beaver and Orenda Tribe’s open-air socially distanced trunk show will be Friday and Saturday at Society Telluride from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. To see more of Christopher Beaver’s work, visit MoonBearJewels.com.