“Electric Emerald” earrings, naturally iridescent because they’ve been sourced from seashells, encased in a bezel that has been handmade, hand-hammered and hand-fit by Balinese artisans.
The gleaming, 1.25-inch creations dangle and catch the light as you move. The creations are not only beautiful but “virtually weightless,” their designer, Heather Benjamin, has said. “We’re determined that these pieces feel as good as they look.”
Later this week, these pieces will do more than feel and look good: Benjamin’s jewelry will do some good, as well. For years, her bracelets, pendants, rings and earrings have adorned models in magazines from In Style to ‘W’ to Oprah (where the publication’s founder has worn Benjamin’s jewelry in a cover photo).
You can’t find these pieces for sale at any store in Telluride. But for a few hours this Thursday — in a first for Benjamin — you’ll be able to purchase them at a private residence. The get-together will be held at the Mountain Village home of Jim and Joanne Steinback; a portion of the sales will benefit the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program.
“I taught special education for 25 years,” Joanne Steinback said, “so when we moved to Telluride, it was the first thing I did: I signed up to volunteer with TASP. I’m good friends with Heather’s mom,” she added. “Over Thanksgiving, Heather mentioned that she was interested in having her work shown in Telluride. She wanted to give back some of the profits, which she wouldn’t be able to do if she was showing in a gallery.”
TASP, Steinback said, “was the logical nonprofit” for Heather to participate with, and Greenback’s home the natural (and generously-offered) venue.
Benjamin employs colors, elements and symbols in her work that evoke a sense of wonder for nature, which makes these pieces a natural fit for Telluride’s residents and visitors. (“At the heart of my creations is a sense that engagement with the natural world connects us to beauty at its purest level,” she has written on her website). For that matter, her mission “with my company, and all of my creative work/life,” seems to align ideally with TASP’s. As Benjamin has said of her jewelry, “It’s so much more than an adornment. It’s a way to connect: to ourselves, to each other, and to the world around us.”
It is TASP’s mission, too, to connect adaptive athletes to each other and to the natural world around them, through lessons on the ski mountain just above town. The sale Thursday, said the nonprofit’s development and events manager Caroline Grew, “is a precursor” to its biggest fundraiser of the year, the Blue Party, which will take place March 6 at the Telluride Conference Center.
“Heather’s jewelry uses recycled silver, deer antlers and cruelty-free bones” (among other elements), Grew noted. “Telluride loves to support initiatives such as this. And the funds we’ve raised from the Blue Party” — a “blue tie” (as opposed to black tie) affair featuring an auction with 300-plus items — “has gone toward quality winter and summer programs for low-income participants.”
A ticket price of $65, according to a press release, “includes a glass of award-winning Emeritus Pinot Noir,” a selection of “hearty appetizers” from Telluride’s top restaurants, including The National, La Marmotte, Altezza at The Peaks, Black Iron Kitchen + Bar, The Village Table, Rustico & La Piazza and more, a live auction and music by the Anders Brothers.
Funds raised by The Blue Party last year, Grew said, provided more than 3,500 lessons to 500 students with disabilities from Telluride, Norwood, Montrose and Delta. All the sipping, noshing and jewelry purchasing, in other words, add up to experiences that promote autonomy, confidence and camaraderie — things that are priceless.
Heather Benjamin’s first jewelry home show is Thursday, February 20 at 402 Larkspur Lane in Mountain Village from 2-8 p.m.; 10 percent of the proceeds will go to the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, or TASP. The nonprofit’s 24th annual spring fundraiser, the Blue Party, is March 6 at Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village from 6-10 p.m. (purchase tickets at https://tinyurl.com/rxljpuk). Dress up in your best blues (just like the blue TASP’s instructors wear on the mountain). To learn more about TASP’s programs, make a donation or get involved, visit tellurideadaptivesports.org.