Astoria artist preserves and showcases ‘very old treasures’

Intricate. Unique. Durably elegant. These are a few of the words that embody the hand-crafted jewelry made by Astoria artist Celeste Olivares.

For 30 years, she has used a needle-weaving technique to make pieces of wearable artwork that incorporate vintage beads and handmade wire cord.

“I can’t really stop at this point,” said Olivares, who exhibits and sells her work at Imogen Gallery in Astoria. “The work just calls to me to be made.”

Although Olivares has been stringing beads since she was a little girl, she was first introduced to the needle-weaving style 30 years ago by an artist who invited her to study one-on-one in California.

“She saw I resonated with it very strongly,” Olivares said.

Olivares was drawn to the technique’s meditative quality, the practice of patience, and the dexterity required of the fingers and hands. The cord has to be kept taut while the piece is being created. Unlike cabochon jewelry, Olivares’ style “evokes that spirit of fiber art, of weaving.”

“It’s such a pretty way to have something elegant but really sturdy,” she said.

Preserving people’s treasures

Originally, Olivares relied heavily on the use of seed beads for her bracelets and other jewelry. Her passion has evolved over time — she now works with unique vintage beads, crystals and heirloom pieces.

“When I walk into a bead store, it’s like a candy store to me. I’m wide-eyed, mouth agape,” she said.

Olivares has also refined her style and started making her own hand-woven cord to showcase beads and other alluring trinkets she finds.

Looking back at pieces she made during the first 10 years or so of her journey into needle-weaving — when she was mostly “product-testing” her work — Olivares notes that they are more stylistically rudimentary than her current creations. Her evolution as an artist has involved making each piece more elegant and refined, and finding techniques that enhance durability.

Over the past few years, she has gained recognition for her style of jewelry-making, resulting in more frequent requests for commissioned work. Often, custom orders involve taking the client’s prized antique beads or aging pieces of jewelry. then fashioning them into something new that preserves and showcases the valuable materials in a beautiful and durable way.

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