Judith Altruda, a jewelry artist from nearby Tokeland, Washington, has designed a line of jewelry to be sold exclusively through
RiverSea Gallery in Astoria. Called River Jewels, the series of one-of-a-kind pieces is hand fabricated in silver, gold and
gemstones and the designs are inspired by river, mist and shore.
Tokeland sits small but proud on a tiny peninsula on the north end of Willapa Bay, in Washington State. There isn't much around
to distract one from the grandeur of the area's wind-swept, rain-soaked beauty. People come seasonally to watch the birds migrate,
but other than that, a nearby Indian reservation, a crab cannery, and the post office are the only measurable outposts of any real
Judith Altruda lives right down near the beach. From her studio, she looks out over Willapa Bay. "Itís quiet. Itís remote,"
says the artist. "There are no distractions here because there's really nothing to do."
The quiet surroundings give her lots of time to create her jewelry. She often begins by going to the beach, out to a little
island called Empire Spit. "You have to go out on a low tide to cross the channel," says Altruda. It's there she wanders, soaks
in the beauty of the place, and always seems to find exactly what she's looking for: little black pebbles. "I haven't found
another place where you pick up black stones that stay black after they dry," says Altruda.
The little gems work their way into bracelets, rings, earrings, all made by hand, all inspired by the places in which they were
found. But, precious jewelry with non-precious stones? The contradiction isn't lost on the jewelry maker who might pair a found
stone or beach glass with the gleam of 18 karat gold.
"I like that juxtaposition of the precious with the ordinary," she enthuses. "In some ways it's more approachable. It relates to
a sense of wonder and discovery."
Each piece of her jewelry is an original work that bears the marks of a skilled artist who has spent a lifetime absorbing the
energy and aesthetic of the Pacific Coast and Columbia River. The patterns of weathered wood, the textures of timeworn pilings,
the rhythmic marks of wind and waves, all make their way into Altruda's creations. The edges of a bracelet might be irregular
and free-flowing to mimic the meandering lines found in the natural world.
In a black opal bracelet, strands of hammered silver undulate around an Australian stone that burns bright blue. Three gold
balls appear to float amongst the rippled silver. "That's one use of a particular texture to evoke the flow of tide in water,"
The artist's hand-selected gemstones voice, through color and shape, the moods and mysteries of our ancient coastline. Whether
they are exotic Peruvian opals, glimmering blue chalcedony, shards of beach glass or homely river pebbles, all are inspired
by watery environments.
"For instance moonstones have an iridescent sheen," explains Altruda. "That's a transitory kind of condition that is very much
like fog or mist. That's how I work a selected stone into a piece."
Altruda's River Jewels collection at RiverSea Gallery is the distillation of the artist's relationship with her environment.
The beauty of the jewelry is the same beauty found when one gazes into the mist and fog with an open mind.
Judith Altruda's Work at RiverSea Gallery
Click on the following thumbnails to see bigger pictures.
Exhibits at RiverSea Gallery