October 31st, 2018
Lou Zeldis Collection
I met Lou Zeldis by chance in Tucson, Arizona in the late 1990's. I locked eyes with him in a sea of people, and noticed how direct his gaze was, and admired the array of necklaces he was wearing. He was sporting at least 10 necklaces of varying lengths and materials, most of which I immediately recognized as ancient stone beads excavated in Mali, West Africa. We started chatting, and I walked with him to his booth of finished jewelry for sale. I was so inspired by the elements and medias incorporated in his various collections. His silversmithing techniques, wood and stone carvings, shells, seed pods, fossilized mastodon ivory, traditional rattan and fiber weavings, and some karat gold jewelry! I was amazed! I learned that Lou was the designer, and had started a series of NGO's (Non-government organizations) of silversmiths, carvers, weavers, and fiber artists, drawing from traditional crafts of the Indonesian island of Bali. He was an early founder of such an NGO, employing fair wages to artisans in a number of villages in Bali. Lou and I became friends over the years, and soon found that we had many friends and business associates in common, and we helped each other sourcing materials and contacts.
I watched Lou struggle with cancer for a few years, and was so sad to hear of his death at age 72. I learned through my good friend Leah Rivers, who is now the vice president of Nina Designs, a wonderful sterling bead/components company with original roots in Bali (and who was my original employee in 1988 at Bead Paradise) that his personal studio of supplies would possibly be for sale. Lou's close friend Penny Watson, who managed his business in Bali when he was in the States.