Local jewelry designer’s work is a treasure chest of inspiration
Denise Peacock peers through a window, tracing with her finger the curves of a blossoming cherry tree outside. She locks her eyes with the bark, as if she and the tree sit in joined meditation. She describes how her jewelry design is largely inspired by things like this tree: twisting branches and erratic color schemes, the way things blossom, how the light passes through leaves and petals, and the muted shadows that juxtapose the hues.
Peacock is an artist of two aesthetic worlds: nature and city. During her youth in England, she moved between London and the bordering countryside in Kent where she would romp free with her siblings in the open fields and woods. After attending university in London, she moved to New York City with her husband and two daughters, taking photography classes and visiting galleries. And now she and her family live in Santa Cruz.
Her inspiration by both natural chaos and manmade structure comes to a head in Peacock’s handmade jewelry line, “Delisch.” Metallic chains and strands clutch at uncut organic gems and vintage stones, in an off-kilter design that exemplifies the mixed inspiration behind her work.
“It’s weird because I really love cities, but I get very excited and inspired by natural beauty,” says Peacock. “It’s like a combination of natural beauty in terms of organic shape, and light passing through a stone … but also I get really excited about manmade stuff.”
Peacock began making jewelry about six years ago. Her first inspiration came with a walk along a beach in Cambria, Calif., after a storm. She noticed a long strand of kelp that had been whipped up by the storm waters and strewn onto the beach in a helix shape. Caught inside of the helix were pieces of abalone shell and pebbles. She was moved by the beauty, took a few photographs, and realized that she wanted to capture that shape in jewelry.
When laid out for show, the pieces Peacock creates look almost like little candies, hence the inspiration behind the name “Delisch.” Each Delisch piece is original, handpicked, and strewn by Peacock herself. Clustering of oddly shaped stones and gems, along with unusual color pairing, are definitive trademarks of her collection.
“I’ll sit, and I’ll have all of these incredible materials,” she says. “I’ll have been for a walk or something, and I’ll put two things together and go ‘really, does orange go with greeny-gray?’ And it does. I do take risks with color, but it pretty much always pays off. And people get excited about that because, I think increasingly nowadays, people appreciate things that have a story and are handmade and artisanal rather than mass-produced.”
Peacock has many experiences and world travels that lend to her eye for pleasant peculiarity. For example, she spent 15 months backpacking around the world when she was in her late 20s. Five of those months were spent in India and Nepal. Peacock says she can still see the color of the light in that part of the world, and with her eyes closed for a moment she describes the warm, bright hues that filled the streets and shop windows of Rajasthan. The aesthetics of the area never left her and continue to influence her work.
“The more strong and vibrant colored pieces I design are definitely influenced by that experience,” Peacock says.
As she talks about her work, Peacock wears a long baroque pearl necklace of her own design. She says that before selling a new creation, she always tests her own work out for a few days to be sure it is comfortable.
The strand of pearls around her neck is organized in a design typical of Peacock’s work, but quite curious to the traditional world of pearl necklaces. The pearls are not perfectly circular, they are not lined in rows, and they are not knotted to a strand of silk as is customary. Rather, the pearls are in their natural baroque form, uneven shapes clustered together at odd moments along a slim golden chain.
“I am really interested in the baroque pearls and really any things that have slight irregularities—things that in and of themselves are really beautiful things,” Peacock says. “I’m drawn to something that is more natural and less symmetrical. Often times when you look at nature it’s this aspect that’s slightly skewed that’s exciting and makes that particular thing unique. And the arrangements of my jewelry have that slight asymmetry to them, which I just like. I think it’s more eye-catching.”
To learn more about Delisch and Denise Peacock, visit delisch.com. Peacock’s work is sold locally at Cameron Marks and Annieglass in Santa Cruz, and Azure in Capitola. Her work can also be found at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and in various boutiques across the United States.