Asheville Art Talk: Christie Calaycay of Calaycay Design

photo courtesy of Calayca Design

The Balangay is a plank boat and the oldest known watercraft found in the Philippines. Large enough to hold 90 people, these finely built wooden cruisers are still constructed and used. And, while it’s an unlikely vessel to be seen paddled down the French Broad River, replicas can be found at Calaycay Design at Pink Dog Creative.

These replicas aren’t to size. In fact, they won’t fit a single body. Nor are they made of wood, but rather hand-formed bronze or sterling silver. They’re not boats at all, really, but Christie Calaycay’s latest collection of jewelry, inspired by the shape of the Balangay.

IMG_5815For more than 15 years Calaycay, a first-generation Filipino-American, has been making handcrafted jewelry in the mountains of North Carolina. What initially brought her to the area, however, was not jewelry, but her pursuit of a Master’s Degree in Folklore from Appalachian State University.

During her first semester, Calaycay took a side job at a jewelry shop in Valle Crucis, 30 minutes outside of Boone. “It was a small town, and I’d taken workshops in jewelry making throughout college, so I was a good fit,” Calaycay says. By the end of the semester, however, the lure of folklore was no match for Calaycay’s new position. She decided to drop out of her Master’s Degree program to pursue jewelry making.

It was then that Calaycay discovered Asheville. “I decided to move here after many visits to good friends who lived in the area,” she says. “I picked up on the sense of community that this city offers, which was something that I’d been looking for for years.” Upon her arrival, Calaycay worked office jobs to supplement her income, while she continued to make jewelry at home.

During this period, Calaycay also sought ways to further improve her craft. She enrolled at Haywood Community College, taking a workshop with master jeweler Diannah Beauregard. The workshop led to an apprenticeship with Beauregard, which, overtime, evolved into a full-time position with the master jeweler.

IMG_5824Beyond the craft itself, Beauregard introduced Calaycay to the business side of jewelry making. “She taught me intentionality,” Calaycay says. “She showed me how to work efficiently.”

Calaycay has since opened her own business: Calaycay Design. Many of her designs incorporate patterns and structures inspired by the natural world. Her more recent projects — like her Balangay inspired necklaces and earrings — aim to explore cultures. “My goal is to capture a new culture each year,” Calaycay says. One of her upcoming projects will incorporate the very culture which led her to the mountains in the first place, that of the Appalachian Folklore.

To learn more about Calaycay Design, visit her website or stop by Suite 100 in Pink Dog Creative, at 344 Depot St.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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