By Emma Castleberry
A native of Western North Carolina with family roots going back to the 17th century, Linda Caristo has been making unique art jewelry for more than 30 years—but getting there wasn’t easy. “From my earliest memories of childhood I loved creating things,” she says. Her grandparents operated an inn in Edneyville called The Bee Hive, open during the summer. Visitors from all along the east coast would visit and many would participate in arts and crafts during their stay. “I loved to watch and learn from them,” Linda says. “Authentic mountain culture was alive back then. If you needed something, you made it: clothes, quilts, furniture. All of these cherished memories definitely had an impact on my desire to be an artist.”
During high school and college in the 1970s, Linda grew away from her art thanks to the conventional attitude of parents and teachers in that era: “You can’t make a living with art.” She entered the corporate world instead. “Those were very dark and dreary days for me,” she says. “I was lost and very unhappy.”
Then suddenly, Linda started dreaming about jewelry—vivid, repetitive dreams of finding vintage jewelry in an abandoned house or nestled in the dirt of a country road. “I dreamed that I was walking in the middle of a mountain stream and seeing jewelry beneath the water,” she says. “I dreamed of swimming in money. All of this had to have a meaning.” She signed up for a beginning jewelry class at a community center “and the rest was history,” she says.
Linda kept up her corporate career but came home to the release of her jewelry workshop. She studied with master jewelers and started to win awards and gain recognition for her work, much of which is inspired by the Art Nouveau era. She was always drawn to plique-à-jour, a technique that uses glass enamel to create a stained glass effect. The technique is particularly difficult to apply to jewelry because the glass enamel is either thin and breakable or too heavy for daily wear.
After taking a plique-à-jour class with a Russian artist and learning to make bowls, Linda was bound and determined to apply the technique to her jewelry art. After some trial and error, she figured out how to create the same effect using resin instead of glass enamel, which provided additional strength while keeping the jewelry lightweight. “These pieces are more durable and can be worn without the fear of breakage,” Linda says. “They are all designed to catch the light so that the translucent colors can be seen while wearing the pieces. An old art form has been made new.”
Linda left the corporate world and moved back home to the mountains, where she met and married her husband Carl Caristo. They purchased land in Fairview and built a home and studio. She is now a juried member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild and she and Carl regularly travel to art shows across the country. “I don’t necessarily regret the time I spent in the corporate world,” she says. “But in the solitude of the mountains you learn so much. You take the time to observe nature’s artistry: the details in the flowers, leaves, butterflies and other insects. My work is highly influenced by this beauty.”
While she wouldn’t say she’s swimming in money, Linda still thinks all of her dreams came true. “I will continue to design and create and be influenced by the greatest artist of all, God our creator,” she says. “I hope that those who purchase my pieces will feel the peace and dedication of my work.”
For more information, visit CaristoJewelry.com.