How architecture and textiles influence contemporary jewelry artist Paulina Otero

Born in Cancún, contemporary jewelry maker Paulina Otero says she draws inspiration from many of her memories of growing up in Mexico. In her studio at collaborative Midtown art space Cherry Pit Collective, Otero uses eccentric materials, colors and shapes that have caught the attention of many local shops and galleries. Read about Otero and how she developed her statement colorful crystalline jewelry design style.

What’s your origin story as an artist?

My mom is the one who first introduced me to jewelry making. I would sit with her after school, and we would make jewelry together for hours. As I got older, I went to an arts boarding school called Idyllwild Arts Academy [in California]. Even though I left Mexico and moved to a new country, I was very excited to be in the U.S. After developing more skills as an artist, I decided I wanted to apply to art colleges, and that’s how I eventually moved to Kansas City. I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Kansas City Art Institute and graduated from the Fiber department.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from a lot of sources, one being Mexican modern architecture, mainly because of its colors and shapes. I think a lot about the house I grew up in and the playful furniture that I had in my bedroom. I also think about water a lot and the colors of the sunsets. Growing up in a city like Cancún really impacted my relationship with nature. Using transparent materials such as plexiglass makes me think of the way water reflects the colors of the sky. I’m drawn to tile patterns as well, specifically tiles from the Yucatan region.

Do you have a favorite piece of work?

In terms of accessories, I’m obsessed with the Flower Cloud Hoops from my most recent collection, Bloom. I wear them every day. In terms of textiles, my favorite piece is titled “Birth.” I made it when the pandemic had just started and I had to move my tufting frame to my apartment, which was quite an adventure. The piece is made out of a combination of tufted wool yarn, handmade felt and quilted fabric. “Birth” has participated in two very important exhibitions and has been awarded by the Surface Design Association.

Are you working on anything new you can share?

I really enjoy working with other creatives and am currently in the stages of building a furniture piece with woodworker Zac Jurden. There will also be another collaboration release with the artist Jason Pollen, who I will be designing a jewelry collection with using a combination of vintage fabrics and plexiglass.

GO: Find Otero’s work on her Etsy shop, PaulinaOtero, or purchase and commission pieces via her Instagram @paulina_otero_accessories. Or find pieces at Dear Collective (3566 Broadway Blvd., KCMO).

Kansas City Favorites

Dear Society/Dear Collective and Duet: “These shops are an experience to walk into. They inspire me every time I go in there.”

Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, Sherry Leedy and Haw Contemporary: “These galleries do a really good job representing local and international mid-career artists.”

The Filling Station: “It’s right next to my studio and I can just chill there for hours.”

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