by Meagan O’Toole-Pitts
Photographs courtesy of the artist

El Paso metals virtuoso Criselda Lopez is now bringing plastics into the spotlight with her exhibition La Frontera, on display at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft starting May 30.

Cluster Necklace Border Cities
Border Cities by Criselda

The contemporary jeweler with a 70s feel breathes new life into mundane objects, giving them a second life as wearable art. Because, why use vinyl to cover the table when you could wear it as jewelry?

How would you describe your work?
My work is very abstract. I work a lot in plastics and silver and what I’d like to do is bring plastic up to the level where silver is. What I want is for different materials to be recognized as precious also. So, that’s what I try to do with the plastic. I try to incorporate a lot of detail in it to make it also very interesting by working in multiples. What I mean by multiples is that I combine shapes…the technique of how it’s held together and the way it’s worn—all of the combined shapes become one whole jewelry piece.

0014_2012_july_criselda_1Why do you want to represent plastic as precious?
Mostly plastic is something that is used and thrown [away], used and forgotten about. I think I see the resemblance in everyday materials, everyday things. Everything for me deserves to be precious, deserves to be taken as something important. So that’s why I’m trying to bring plastic, in this case, to the level of silver, which everybody sees as a precious material. I’m trying to make other common, normal materials a little bit more upscale in that way.”

What inspires you?
Everyday life. Everyday jobs. Everyday materials-the way they are interwoven in each piece makes it look beautiful. That’s what I’m trying to do also with my everyday life.  How can I make it more beautiful? How can I make it more interesting?’

braceletsWhat is your process?
I collect bags from grocery and department stores. I have a lot of them already. I ask friends for bags. What I do is I fuse them with an iron and once they’re fused and they’re a little bit thicker then I cut shapes out of them. The shapes are usually circles. Once I have many, many, many circles then I weave them with knots using monofilament to create necklaces. Another process that I use is I take the materials that are usually used to cover tables—it’s a clear vinyl. I then cut pieces again. Again weave them together with the monofilament and then I dye it to get a little bit of color. I make one whole piece out of many fragments.

You are involved in Jewelry Exchange 2014 Worldwide.  Can you tell me about that?
The jewelry exchange is an online exhibition with artists from around the world. I have been paired up with another person from Barcelona each of us will make a piece of jewelry.  I’m working on a brooch made out of silver and I’ve drilled many, many holes in it and I have also cut pieces out of plastic, which I then will be inserting into the different holes that I have in the dome. So, it’s a domed silver brooch which has many, many drilled circles on it and then I will be inserting plastic pieces into each of the holes.

Echo Bracelet
Echo Bracelet

We will be exchanging the pieces. We will be making a piece for each other and we will be taking professional photographs of the pieces that we are sending. And we are taking professional photographs when we receive the piece, and those photographs are what is going to be exhibited on the exhibition.

You received a grant from the city’s Museum and Cultural Affairs Department (MCAD) to create five large necklaces representative of El Paso landmarks. How will you engage El Pasoans with this project?

Along with the pieces, I intend to make exhibitions in different libraries around the city. So, hopefully that will makes people in El Paso a little bit more interested in contemporary jewelry. I’m also going to be doing small workshops along with the exhibitions. It will also educate the people and hopefully, if possible, bring in some visitors from other towns.

To see more, visit the Facebook page,

Read more about Criselda on our March/April issue.