CARRIE BILBO WAS studying painting at Pratt Institute when she got the jewelry bug and switched majors to enter the school’s jewelry and metal smithing program. “I had a knack for it and could see a future career,” she says.
The Cincinnati-born Bilbo was fascinated by the cicada hordes that came out the year she graduated from high school. “I thought they were very cool; their wings are little stained-glass windows.” Butterflies may be beautiful, but Bilbo is attracted more to what people fear. In fact, her senior college collection for which she won top honors was based on phobias — of spiders, moths, trees. When she graduated — the first year after the market crashed — there were no jobs, so she launched her own company in 2010, turning her ideas from her senior collection into more commercial applications.
All her jewelry — rings, bracelets, earrings and pendants — focuses on patterns and texture in Naure but done in precious metals, primarily sterling silver, and stones. Her higher-end collection is in 14K gold into which she clusters herkimer diamonds, which are not actually diamonds but quartz. Bilbo prizes them for their clarity and their facets. For the Craft2Wear show, she’ll be bringing this higher-end collection, which includes her favorite Niaca ring and classics like her Mating earrings (each piece is meticulously handcut in the shape of a wing and designed to make a jingling noise that mimics the sound of cicadas). She’ll also be bringing some brand-new brooches, rings and necklaces, inspired by the wings of tree hoppers and lantern flies.
Who buys Carrie Bilbo wearable sculptures? “My customers,” says Bilbo, “are women who appreciate craft and well-made and timeless designs. “I don’t design with current trends in mind,” says Bilbo.
By the way, her attraction to insects runs in the family. Her younger is brother getting a degree in enytmology. And the calendar that hangs in her studio? Pictures of bugs, of course.
— Janet Kelly
The Smithsonian Craft2Wear show and sale will take place at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW, Washington, D.C. For tickets to the October 6-8, 2016 show, go to Smithsonian Craft2Wear. Daily admission is $15, but you can save $2 and avoid the lines by purchasing online.
For even more fun, consider getting your friends together to attend Friends Night Out, a special party on Friday evening, October 7, from 5:30 to 8pm. The $20 ticket includes admission to the evening event plus the Friday daytime hours, one cocktail and light hors d’oeuvre. You’ll also get to meet 80 craft artists, plus 25 artists from the country’s top design schools. A cash bar will showcase a more-liquid craft: the best craft cocktails by four of D.C.’s top celebrity mixologists.