Kara Navradszky was just three-years-old when she made her first piece of living jewelry. Little did she know her passion for daisy chain necklaces would transform into a boutique floral design and jewelry business.
Home-based in Friday Harbor, Kara specializes in ‘wearables’ — elegant jewelry featuring living florals. Her first formal foray into floral jewelry was during high school art class. She learned to make haku hair wreaths — a Hawaiian flower crown.
After earning her Bachelor’s in Anthropology from the University of Washington, Kara continued her floral education. While teaching English in Japan, she also studied Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging.
But the path from flower class to floral jewelry designer wasn’t a direct one. Kara first sailed the Pacific Coast from Seattle to Mexico, became a surf instructor, fell in love, got married, moved to Friday Harbor, and had her first baby. (She and her husband, Emmet Sherwood, are now the proud parents of two adorable toddlers.)
But her artistic enthusiasm for flowers never ceased. In 2015, Kara began making flower crowns for little girls at Roche Harbor. “The problem was, the flowers were so perishable. So, I started researching opportunities for something that was less perishable. That’s when I found succulents,” said Kara.
The succulents were a game changer. Using a non-toxic glue, Kara mounts the plants in a moss bed attached to a piece of jewelry. Her ornate bracelets, necklaces, and crowns are fitted with flowers from Kara’s own garden.
Through word-of-mouth and her Instagram account (@apothecadesign), pieces are generally commissioned to recognize a milestone, such as a graduation, marriage or new baby. “I love that each piece I create is designed to celebrate an individual. I spend a lot of time thinking about who’s giving the gift and who’s receiving the gift,” Kara explained.
As the name suggests, living jewelry continues to grow. Pieces remain photo ready for roughly two weeks, but can often be worn for up to two months. By that time, the plants outgrow their platform. The jewelry can then become an elegant bedside arrangement. Sections of the succulent can be broken off and replanted. Or the wearable art can be reassembled to create a new piece.
That’s one of the things Kara loves most about her work — it’s lack of permanence. “Flower Art has a fleeting beauty, much like a Buddhist Sand Mandala. It’s meant to be enjoyed in the moment. But what sets living jewelry apart is that each piece has a life of its own,” Kara said.
Making Living Jewelry
Selecting the Flowers
For a commissioned piece, Kara will spend an hour or so selecting flowers — often from her own garden. “I’ll wander through the garden with a big basket, looking at what’s fresh and what speaks to me,” says Kara.
Depending on who is giving and who is getting one of her pieces, Kara may use succulents, fresh flowers or greenery. Or some a combination of all three!
The plants are mounted on a piece of jewelry that serves as a wearable foundation. Sometimes this is a dipped silver or brushed brass cuff. Other times it may be a headband or delicate string.
To the jewelry, Kara attaches a boss base. Using a non-toxic glue, she attaches the flowers — carefully nestling the living plants beside one another.
It’s always a celebration to give one of her pieces. This summer, MacKenzie Lommel requested several pieces for a photoshoot to celebrate her final trimester.
Kara joined the beautiful mom-to-be and her family for the shoot, helping to ensure the necklace, flower wreath, and moon-inspired flower arrangement were perfectly placed. San Juan Island-based photographer, Cere Demuth captured MacKenzie and her family on the beach — where they shared intimate moments wading in the water and walking along the shore.
Living Jewelry on Display
This August, you can find Kara and samplings of her work at the 2018 San Juan Summer Arts Festival. Held at Brickworks Brickworks Plaza in Friday Harbor August 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, and 31st.
About Cere Demuth
A practicing psychotherapist and published author, Cere occasionally photographs clients on San Juan Island and Orcas Island. Her work captures the intimate moments and highlight the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Her recently published memoir, The Way We Stay, is an exquisitely told story of heartbreaking love, vulnerability, faith, and healing.
More San Juan Islands Tips
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