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Museum of Fine Arts Hosts its Second Annual Artisan Market

Artisan vendors lined the walls of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston’s Shapiro Courtyard on Saturday, November 17 for the second annual MFA Artisan Market. The event started at 9 a.m. for museum members and was open to the general public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There were 14 vendors in total at the event. A few of the female artists and entrepreneurs shared what makes their work unique and how they got started.


Barbara Silverstein

Credit: Megan Forsythe

Barbara Silverstein was the first artist to ever use braided stainless steel to make jewelry. She said she first “fell in love” with braided stainless steel in the plumbing section of a hardware store. While Silverstein didn’t know what to make from it, she knew she had to use it for something.

It took her over two and a half years to finally make something she could be proud of.

“Anytime I started to work on it, it sort of said ‘I want to be jewelry’ and then it was jewelry,” said Silverstein. “It’s absolutely the perfect material for jewelry but no one had thought about it before I came on the scene.”

Silverstein said she never really wore jewelry before she started making it, which she credits with helping her create unique and new designs.

“It was all very new to me. I was like a kid, I was free, I didn’t have any preconceived notion of what to do or make it look like,” said Silverstein. “I was totally free to do whatever the material told me to do.”


Sylvia and Camila

Credit: Megan Forsythe

Sylvia is Camila’s mother and together they are the mother-daughter artist duo behind Sylca Designs, which draws from both of their names. Sylvia has a background in fashion and first came up with the idea of starting her own jewelry line. Since Camila was studying marketing, they decided to try working on the line together.

“When we first started eight years ago it was really tough. We knew each other as family members but we didn’t know each other as a working team,” said Camila. “Once we figured that out it has been pretty much smooth sailing ever since, but it was trying to get that balance where we learned to respect each other as business partners.”

According to their website, they say they aim to empower women to feel fashionable and confident when wearing their unique pieces. Most of their works draw inspiration from natural elements and geometric shapes.

“We thought, ‘Why don’t we mix art with fashion?’ so we came up with art to wear,” said Camila. “The color usually draws people and once they get close most of our customers love the fact that the jewelry is very lightweight. So even though it’s statement it’s large you barely feel like it’s on.”

Joan Goodman

Credit: Megan Forsythe

Joan Goodman is the designer behind the PONO jewelry line based in New York City which she started 15 years ago with her sister Barbara Goodman. Before PONO, they used to design and sell buttons in Italy to designers which, when the button business went down in popularity, gave Joan the background she needed to start her jewelry line.

“The processes are complicated, making the materials is complicated. Some of these things have to be completely done by hand,” said Joan. “So these are materials I knew.”

Now all of their products are still made in Italy in one of their old button factories. At the time they started the line, PONO was one of the few jewelry companies to be using resin for designs, which has grown in popularity since then. Joan said the colors they use is now what makes their work unique.

“I feel like the materials [and] colors speak for themselves because they’re so beautiful,” said Joan. “I think there’s a certain nuance of color where I use a lot of color and I can make them neutral so they have a broad audience and our shapes are kind of classic with a twist.”


 Zainab Sumu 

Credit: Megan Forsythe

Zainab Sumu is the artist behind and founder of her company, Zainab Sumu Primitive Modern. While originally from Sierra Leone she studied art in London, Paris, and at MassArt.

Sumu works mainly with textile art and draws inspiration from the cultures found in North and West Africa.

“The [colors] are happy and that’s my thing I want people to see,” said Sumu. “I want when it’s cold that you have something, your go-to, is that scarf you wrap around you that brings a smile to your face.”


Carole Sousa 

Credit: Megan Forsythe

Carole Sousa is a Brookline-based artist who has been making jewelry since 1974. After being inspired by the sequin necklaces she saw being sold on the streets of New York, she started to make her own. She got her start by setting up a vendor table of her jewelry outside the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“Every day 10,000 students would walk by and they just got their student loans and it was like I was in business,” said Sousa. “Didn’t take any investment and I learned how to make jewelry by selling it.”

Over the years, the type of jewelry Sousa makes has evolved and changed. She now uses a riveting press, a device used in the 1920’s for jewelry making, for most of her work. Instead of sequins, she now mostly uses stones that she frosts and then backs with gold to give it a glow.

“[The jewelry] has a one-of-a-kind feeling to it because I’m like, ‘Oh I don’t have that stone anymore, they’re not making it anymore,’” said Sousa. “So I’m going to have to change everything but make it kind of the same. So there is a certain element of making a work of art.”


Ashley Vick

Credit: Megan Forsythe

Ashley Vick is the artist behind Filomena Demarco Jewelry, named after her grandmother. She is a graduate from MassArt who started working on her jewelry full time in 2010. Her jewelry is inspired by the Southwestern U.S. and is focused on the unique stones she collects and then designs her pieces around.

“For me, it’s a very bold, independent woman that wears my stuff,” said Vick. “I like that it has this earthy organic feel but yet there’s a sense of femininity to it.”


The MFA Artisan Market provided the opportunity for Boston locals to meet the people behind the art and support various artisans.


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Megan Forsythe is a sophomore at Boston University. She is a dual degree student studying both Journalism and Political Science. While originally from Southern California, Boston is home to her now. Apart from writing, Megan spends her time working in a caffe, obsessing over street art, and exploring the city with friends.
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