Jewelry Inspired by Costa Rica — Designed by Phyllis Warman

by Doris Hobbs

Phyllis Warman, Founder of Phyllis Warman Jewelry Design, is one of Costa Rica’s finest designer-artists experimenting with an array of precious gemstones and metal details. She is changing the traditional approach to her craft and the result is a striking homage to this glorious, age-old tradition.

Phyllis, a native of southern California, wife and mother of three, spent many years of her life as a landscape designer in the Pacific Northwest. One year, she set forth on a voyage to Costa Rica where it ignited a number of profound life experiences. “In Costa Rica I’m more free-spirited which inspires me and allows me to be more creative. I bring this feeling back with me to the States and now enjoy a near stress-free lifestyle in Seattle,” she states.

The Lasting Impression of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Designer Phyllis Warman

On a journey to Tamarindo, Costa Rica 12 years ago, Phyllis embraced the cultural atmosphere of surfing beach towns with its diverse moods and tranquil lifestyle. During a return venture six months later, she recalls traveling to a number of surf points that a friend had marked on a map, one of which was Santa Teresa, a sun-gleaming, sandy oasis on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. “The journey to Santa Teresa was the most difficult. We boarded the wrong ferry, got lost and drove into town in the middle of the night,” Phyllis remembers. “It wasn’t until morning when we received our first real glimpse at the beauty of Santa Teresa.” From the remote, gritty location, void of Wi-Fi and paved roads, Phyllis knew this would be a place to explore further with her husband and children.

Three years after her initial visit, Phyllis acquired residences in Santa Teresa and found herself during the off-season of business enjoying the art of jewelry construction. From an array of gemstones gifted by Barb Dewhurst, a local restaurant owner, a new career as a jewelry designer and artist began to form. Around the same time, Barb would wear one of Phyllis’s designs while at the restaurant. One evening a shimmer of the gems caught the eye of another local who today is Phyllis’s business manager.

Soon after, Phyllis was invited to sell her pieces at Pranamar Villa, an oceanfront hotel, stating, “I was flattered. I was curious whether they would sell and had no expectations one way or the other.” With this prospering opportunity she found herself able to fund what she once called a joyful hobby into a fruitful venture.

Gemstones, Metals and Buttons — the Phyllis Warman Difference

Since starting her venture, Phyllis has experimented with numerous ways to create unique pieces from varying the colors, shapes and sizes of precious gemstones to adding metal details. For the first year, her signature bracelet was a beaded wrap, or Tri-Wrap, as she calls it. “The more common ‘wrap’ bracelet was made popular by designer Chann Lu which consisted of beads on thread with threads ‘wrapping’ around the outside of the leather cording, knotted and finished with a small simple sew-through type button,” explains Phyllis.

Today, gemstones play an intricate role and are widely used in the form of necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Phyllis sews her gemstones directly onto a cotton cord and passes the needle and thread through each bead 5-11 times — depending on the size of the gemstone — for added durability. She also chooses natural gemstones that are uniform in size so the bracelet is tight, straight and less ’tribal’ looking than the traditional wrap bracelet.

There is a stunning contrast between the natural gemstones with the silver, brass or copper metals and the beads carved into various shapes which all accent an array of antique buttons. “The button dictates the bracelet’s design while other times I start with the gemstones, the bracelet and find a perfect button to match,” she explains. These buttons have become her signature trademark, with a number of her clients collecting multiple designs.

From the relaxed lifestyle and shifting colors of Costa Rica’s exotic Pacific coast to the rich majestic landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, Phyllis Warman Jewelry brings travel to each piece designed.

Photos by Hanit Selekter & Michelle Guadencio 

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