For a few hours Wednesday evening, Pearson’s Jewelers in downtown Los Banos turned into an art gallery.
The occasion was a trunk show for Gustine artist Caroline Rocha, whose hand-painted and jeweled leather cuffs are sold in businesses big and small – from local retailers such as Pearson’s to big names such as Disneyland.
“I always tell people, I work on leather, paint and Swarovski crystals, so it’s not platinum and gold, but it’s also not completely costume. It’s more of an art piece,” Rocha said. “So I fit in between that gap, and more than anything, I think it’s getting people to understand the labor of art and the originality of every single piece. Nothing’s mass-produced, nothing is copied, and so I feel a little different than my comrades when I meet up with them at shows, because I am different than they are, but we still come together.”
Sherry Pearson, owner of Pearson’s Jewelers, said she tries to select pieces for her shop that have artistry to them, and Rocha’s cuffs fit the bill perfectly. Each is handmade and no two are the same.
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“She signs each one of them, because it is an original piece of artwork,” Pearson said. “And the quality is major to me, because I don’t want people dissatisfied and bringing things back, so I thought long and hard before I even put the line in the shop. I had a customer who is a bracelet person, and she has been a faithful customer for a long time, and she posted on Facebook about Caroline’s line, and I thought, ‘Oh, if she likes it, it must be good.’ ”
Pearson sported an aqua-colored piece during the event – one of three Rocha cuffs that she owns personally – and said she regularly gets comments on it. Some of Rocha’s fans have become collectors – a few from as far away as Fresno dropped in on the Pearson’s event.
“What happens is, just like people that collect art, if you find an artist you really like, you buy one, and then you progress on to buy another one. You become a collector,” Pearson said. “We have many customers who are collectors. There’s one lady here tonight that has 70. You get hooked. You get one color, and then you want another color to go with another outfit.”
For Rocha, having the support of a local business is a big thing, even though her pieces are carried from Hawaii to New York to the United Kingdom.
“For me, it’s like dessert,” she said. “I have a certain warmth about my hometown and where I come from, and I’m even more honored that they would accept something from their own, and that they’d be proud to wear it.”