Many times people discover talents they did not know they had, and this artist from St. Louis reached back into her heritage to pull inspiration for her jewelry pieces. Not she is able to combine beads, florals, and stories from her past into her jewelry, and we are just happy that it is a hometown person showing the world their talent.
After the birth of her daughter, Naomi, Saleem set up a studio in a spare bedroom at her University City home. “My husband tore apart an old writing desk, raised it up and modified it for my workbench. We call it the Franken-bench,” she says.
The pieces she created on that ersatz bench led this outgoing artist on a revealing journey of self-discovery.
A heritage in silver, stones and beads • Saleem often enhances her sterling silver jewelry with turquoise or sapphires, cool colors that hint of the oceans. Hanks of African trade beads and glass beads hang on the wall.
“I learned my heritage is 17 percent Nigerian through Ancestry.com. My beadwork is influenced by the multistrand jewelry of the Yoruba tribe. I recently bought 45 pounds of African trade beads from a gentleman from Gabon that I am incorporating in my pieces,” she says.
Saleem, who is biracial and identifies as Black, integrates her European ancestry into her pieces with flowers, cut into metal or cast. “When I worked part-time as a librarian, I discovered Culpepper’s Complete Illustrated Herbal,” she says. The book Nicholas Culpepper penned more than 350 years ago still inspires herbalists, writers and artists today with its complex language of flowers.
Each photo in her Taylor Saleem Jewelry Instagram account carries Saleem’s notes, often lyrical, sometimes funny, and always encouraging. “Storytelling is important in my work. I have depression, which went undiagnosed for a long time. Now diagnosed and treated, when I’m feeling something I can’t verbalize, I can say it through the flowers.”