Artist Marylène Agat is also a great jewelry designer

Marylène Agat in her jewelry workshop - Photo: Évelyne Chaville

Marylène Agat is known for her pictorial works but many also know her for her original jewelry. Indeed, for nearly twenty years, the artist has been going to the forests of Guadeloupe to collect everything Mother Nature leaves on the ground (branches, bark, leaves, seeds etc.) and sculpt unique jewelry that make women beautiful. Her workshop is a real Ali Baba’s cave, there are thousands of jewels. Every Saturday in July and August, the designer decided to organize a jewelry fair in her exhibition room located in Lasserre, Morne-à-l’Eau. Despite the tropical wave crossing the archipelago, the first edition on Saturday, June 2 was a great success.

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Kariculture : When did you start making jewelry?

Marylène Agat : The jewels were born almost at the same time as the painting, within a few months.

Kariculture : Before or after painting?

M. A. : After painting

Kariculture : How did you decide to become a jewelry designer?

M. A. : It was a challenge from my husband. When he saw that I was “starting” to be an artist, I was looking at trees and I said to him: “teach me about trees!” He is someone from the wood, who was born in Morne-à-l’Eau… So I learned all the trees, I knew them all by heart. When I went to schools, I asked the children: “which tree is it?” I was doing a study on trees and, while doing this study on trees, I realized that we could make jewelry with these trees. So my husband challenged me: I remember he found a bark of a multipliant tree and he told me: “ou awtis, fè on biten avè sa!” (you’re an artist, do something with that!). And then I thought about the earrings, I took my scissors, I cut the bark of the multipliant, I put them to my ears and said to him: “what do you think?” He said, “wow!!!” And that was the beginning of the adventure.

Kariculture : How do you find all your materials?

M. A. : I like the forest.

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Kariculture : Everything you have here comes from the forest?

M. A. : Everything I have here is wood that I get from the forest, bark, leaves and so on. The forest brings me everything I have here.

Kariculture : The forest of Morne-à-l’Eau and elsewhere?

M. A. : I go to Morne-à-l’Eau, but I also go further away. I go to Basse-Terre, I go far away to collect a few things. Today, I see that it’s the new fashion, everyone does the same thing, but before, there were the Rastas who made jewels, they are people who are in the “Zion”. I think I was one of the first to make them (after the Rastas), I had the nerve to “take them out”, that is to say to give value to the jewels made with leaves, branches because for some people only gold jewels have value… I also had personalities who were very interested in what I was doing. That was in 2004, 2005.

Kariculture : The first jewel was with a multipliant, and then what happened?

M. A. : The multipliant has multiplied.

Kariculture : Fortunately it was a multipliant! You chose well…(laughs)

M. A. : Every Saturday I was in the forest, collecting all the wood I could find, all the branches lying around.

Kariculture : You were cleaning the forest?

M. A. : I was cleaning up Guadeloupe. I put everything in the trunk of my car and went home. I locked myself in my workshop and I created. When I made my first event in Morne-à-l’Eau – it was on the occasion of the first edition of the Fête du Crabe (Crab Festival) – I presented my work, people were excited, I never sold so many jewels ; they were small earrings for 12 euros, people bought 4, 5, 6 pairs, my table was empty. I looked at my husband and I told him…

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Kariculture : I should have become a jewelry designer!

M. A. : Exactly! The following year, I did a presentation like this again and I went to Martinique with it to participate in the Biennale du Marin, I sold all my jewelry… One day, my sister called me and said: “Marylene, all the pieces of wood that people see on the ground now, they pick them up”. So, the thing was understood. I still have little secrets that I don’t do anymore but I will promote them. I keep them for now.

Kariculture : People understood the resources that we had, do you gave them the desire to create?

M. A. : We have so many things around us that are important and people don’t know how rich they are. Now, there are people who started in this sector but unfortunately, there is no more creation, there is copying and the problem is that in a fair, we have the same work. For months, I was making jewelry, I went to all the events, I looked at everything that people were making.

For months, I made jewelry, I went to all the events, I looked at everything people were doing, I fed a little bit from others (feeding myself not copying), I took inspiration.

Kariculture : And this has been going on for years…

M. A. : It’s been years… It’s just to eat. But I am in the creative process, until today.

Kariculture : Now you have a space in your house for your jewelry and people come to see you.

M. A. : There are people who come to see me from their first earrings until now, they never let me down. Some people say to me: “Have you seen Mrs. Agat? And I answer them: “My God, it’s old, earrings that are 8 or 9 years old!”. People choose what they want…

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Kariculture : Are there people (women) who call you and say: “I have such and such an outfit in such and such a color, could you make me matching jewellery?”

M. A. : Exactly. There are people who come in with their clothes and say: “Marylène, are we going to find something to match?”. If we don’t find it, I create it. Marilyne Dahomay came to see me with a beautiful dress for a concert and she asked me to make a necklace that comes to her knees, I told her no problem and I designed a beautiful necklace, this is a very classy lady… Every time it’s a challenge. I also have a lot of clients from Paris in July and August. So, I decided that every Saturday during July and August, there will be a jewelry sale in my exhibition room. This is an event that I will do every year from now on.

In addition, I also work with a gallery in Paris, which has some of my paintings, which puts me on the international market, I touch another facet of art. It’s a lady who gives us confidence, and who tells us: “go ahead, go ahead, your art is very beautiful, you can do such and such a thing”.

Kariculture : Do you have more confidence in yourself, in your abilities?

M. A. : I became aware of my possibilities and I became confident in my possibilities. There is also this other lady who knows the history of art, who works with great masters and who likes my work (…)

Kariculture : This is another clientele…

M. A.: This is another clientele.