By Stephen Milligan
Spring Green metalsmith Ali Kauss, whose work can be found in Taliesin’s gift shop, makes jewelry pieces she describes as transformational adornments, a term she herself devised to best characterize her creations.
Transformational adornments lie at the intersection of the art world, the scientific world, and the spiritual world. These are customized jewelry pieces that Ali crafts after consulting with a client and deciding upon an achievement or milestone the client wants to celebrate. Not all pieces are made to honor a special occasion or specific event, though.
“I really feel strongly about celebrating the work we do as humans to…continuously grow and transform,” Ali says.
Her own personal experiences have informed the idea of transformational adornments: Ali felt disconnected from her true self after her graduation from Arizona State University, where she earned a degree in metalsmithing. She then sought fulfillment through service to others.
“I really questioned what my service is to humanity, and I believe art is a service but on a deeper level,” Ali explains.
Her philosophy is very much grounded in nature. Ali believes the health of the individual—emotional, physical, and spiritual—is tied directly to the health of the planet, and her intention is that when clients wear the custom jewelry pieces she fashions for them, they are reminded that they, too, have the opportunity to be of service to humanity.
Considering her current proximity to Taliesin and her nature-based belief system, a working relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright’s home was inevitable—perhaps even destined to happen. Born in Wisconsin, Ali actually grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, near Taliesin West, Wright’s winter residence. Even though as a child she was not necessarily conscious of Wright’s reputation, she certainly felt his influence in the area.
When the opportunity arose to create commissioned pieces to be sold in Taliesin’s gift shop, Ali visited the property to renew her acquaintance with Wright’s work, ultimately taking inspiration from the landscaping and from Wright’s geometric forms. At first not accustomed to working with such strong geometry, she came to appreciate it after designing a pair of earrings based on the triangles found in the quarters of Wright’s wife Olgivanna.
“Working with the triangle has inspired now my work—to look at the symbolism of the triangle, and I’ve been using it in a…series that I’m working on,” Ali notes.
The benefits she has reaped from working with Taliesin go beyond artistic inspiration. From a financial standpoint, Ali’s relationship with Taliesin has had a positive impact on her business. The gift shop compensates her for each collection upon its delivery.
Whether it’s through one of her personalized transformational adornments or a piece of jewelry inspired by the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, Ali’s hope is that the wearer will be mindful of his or her purpose and how that purpose can contribute to humanity.
“I think jewelry has the ability to have magic,” Ali says. “You’re activating something in yourself, you’re putting something on your body in a very intimate way because it pulls people in, but it’s also touching you. To look at it as magic or…something bigger or more profound, that’s always been at the foundation of what I do.”
Ali’s exclusive Taliesin-inspired pieces can be found in our gift shop. Consider activating your own magic—and clarifying your purpose—with the work of a local artist inspired by a local architect.