Anna Ruth Henriques: Weaving a web of beauty
Anna Ruth Henriques left home and explored the world, gaining immense creative knowledge - but now she has returned home, jewels and all.
In 2007, the Jamaica-born artist and writer took up the mantle of jewellery making and designing, and has made her mark on this luxurious path, getting her inspiration from the land of her birth and nature.
Henriques spent the first two years of her life in Morant Bay, St Thomas, which is where she garnered her appreciation for nature. She loved her time in rural Jamaica - the animals, especially insects. It was easy for her to zoom into their entire make-up and their mechanics. And from an early age she knew she would one day become an artist.
"I always wanted to be an artist, but it was at the age of seven when I found out that I shared the same birthday as Leonardo da Vinci, that it was confirmed that, yes, I was going to be an artist," she admitted to Flair.
Henriques completed her primary and secondary education at Hillel Academy and Immaculate Conception High School, respectively. But before entering university, she went to live in France for a year to explore and do an art programme, a decision she described as a very rewarding experience. While she did not know one word in French before leaving Jamaica, she adapted quickly and within two months she was able to communicate with native French speakers.
After her sojourn in France, she moved to the United States where she received her bachelors' in art history at Williams College in Massachusetts, then moved on to her graduate studies at the University of California, San Diego. She nurtured what she called her compulsion - art, and travelled extensively to several countries, including England and Spain. But it was not until she was leaving Japan that jewellery making became a thought in her creative lifestyle. It came about through the persuasion of a friend.
As it neared the end of her time in Japan, a friend she had met encouraged her to take up jewellery making lessons with her, to maintain their friendship. It was something Henriques was uncertain about, but to her like a web - everything is linked - family friends and even the people we might not think of. This friendship was a link.
After a few classes, her friend called it quits. However, Henriques developed a love and a passion for the art form. She described it as almost magical. She made pieces in class and her friends would encourage and enable her new hobby by purchasing her creations and requesting sets.
"They would ask for earrings to match the necklace that I made," she told Flair. From there, it was one fluid movement for her.
She then found herself making a line in 2007. She made hand-painted amulets. Each was symbolic and every amulet had the spider web at the back and a tiny spider dropping from the chain as well. She has made the spider her statement symbol. To her, it's a representation of womanhood. How creative the spider is as she builds her web, how self-sufficient she is at catching her prey, and the uncanny way she rebuilds her web after it has been knocked down. It was very rewarding for Henriques when her jewellery was accepted and sold in Barneys in New York. From then on, there was no turning back for her.
She loved the reception she received from people and the joy that her pieces brought to them. They are usually symbolic to the customer, which means so much to her. This passion and love is something she was grateful to share (along with two other jewellers) to 36 Afghan, to whom they taught the art of jewellery making. The women went on to create a line called Aayenda Jewellery, which is now available worldwide.
But now it's time for Henriques to return to her roots. Despite her extensive travel, home was always her favourite place to return to. The place that allows her art to flow through her veins and make its way to a canvas. So now she brings her gems and jewels to the land of her birth. She told Flair that she always knew she wanted to return home, but raising her daughter Ise was her first priority. Now that she is 17 years old and heading to university in September, Henriques will have to let go a bit of her little "inspiration" and "toughest critic", but will have more time at the place she calls home.
She officially launched her line in Jamaica last Wednesday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel. She told Flair that now that she is home, she is open to sharing her knowledge to help Jamaican youths, as she believes that they are immensely talented.
"We need to have more of our things in our stores," she told Flair emphatically.
Henriques admits that there is not just one medicine that works for everyone - no one path, some might be able to stay focused, while others might need to have an open mind - but at the end of the day, everyone needs to follow their gut. They should not allow anyone to choose their path for them because that will be the root of their happiness.