La Vie De Petra
MADE IN HOUSTON
DePetra Is Taking over the World
Partnership with Anthropologie? Check. Seal of approval from Anna Wintour? Got it. Why you need to know this Houston jewelry brand.
Houston-based De Petra Art in Jewelry is redefining jewelry. Sisters Cynthia Sheridan and Lorena Rodriguez turn hand hammered brass and leather pieces into colorful, feminine art you can wear—the perfect antidote to mass-produced accessories. The global-bohemian-tribal pieces are all one-of-a-kind, and steeped in spirituality.
“We love doing amulets and spiritual pieces,” says Sheridan. “It becomes a talisman.”
The first time I came across DePetra’s magical creations was a few years back, when a friend of mine informed me that the fabulous long white earrings she was wearing were in fact made with coyote penises. I laughed, but the truth is, THAT is unforgettable.
Stuffed with everything from jellybeans to human hair, DePetra’s leather pouches are a favorite. Found on leather cuffs and beaded on earrings, the Cosmic Eye is another staple of the brand, said to bring awareness and a sense of connection to the wearer.
The pieces are created in DePetra’s charming Montrose bungalow-cum-studio using everything from feathers and antlers to Tibetan beads and vintage Swarovski crystal rope found in Europe.
“I especially love finding blue jay feathers,” Rodriguez says of their treasure hunts.
The duo’s unique offerings can be found at Kuhl-Linscomb, High Gloss and Leap, and have attracted notice well beyond Houston, too. DePetra has an ongoing collaboration with Anthropologie, and a snow sled made for that line was recently hand-selected by Anna Wintour as one of Vogue’s best holiday gifts. Their timelessly chic work has also been featured in Free People catalogues and multiple fashion mag editorials.
“Our clients are well-travelled, and maybe they already have diamonds, so they want pieces that are unique and artful,” said Sheridan.
When I first saw De Petra jewelry, I was captivated. It was more than just the distinctive stones, the thoughtfully raw edges, or the subtle shades of moonstone playing with colorful leathers, but the genuine, unequivocal ownership of an aesthetic. What was also clear though, was that this aesthetic is more than just an aesthetic, but a medium of communication, a way that the sisters of De Petra share the innate magic that comes with every piece of De Petra jewelry. The phrase “sisters of De Petra” is itself a double entendre of the most wonderful sort: the sister duo of Cynthia Sheridan and Lorena Rodriguez source and create this enchanting jewelry, and those with whom they share these pieces are also part of a certain “sisterhood” that stems from the energy and spirit embedded in each piece. That energy of De Petra jewelry is palpable, and even before I met the remarkable women behind this art, it was clear that the De Petra aesthetic is a conduit for something beyond sartorial perfection.
Growing up in Mexico, Cynthia and Lorena’s childhood home had a constant flow of “sensitive, thoughtful, inspiring people” streaming through. The daughters of a respected politician, artist, and intellectual, the sisters always counted aesthetics and art as a part of their daily lexicon and experience. Cynthia painted; Lorena loved fashion design; and both continued to explore their respective arts upon arrival in the States in the early 2000s. This intrinsic artistic inquiry took a critical turn in 2008 when Cynthia and Lorena began to explore ways to wear different minerals and stones. Cynthia had compiled a collection of natural stones, and the sisters began toying with how to wear minerals in an elegant, distinctive way. Lorena laughs as she recalls how she started hammering volcanic rock in an attempt to work that rock as well as other stones into something wearable; mission accomplished, and De Petra was born.
When asked what inspires them, the sisters pause before definitively citing nature as their “number one inspiration. We look at the combinations in flowers and explore how to emulate those colors and patterns in a piece,” Cynthia explains. Lorena also emphasizes the importance of “moments, moments in which you experience the personality, clothes, and spirit of a woman and want to make a piece for her.” De Petra believes women are powerful, feminine, and spiritual, and De Petra jewelry reflects this triumvirate. This “strong feminine feel” resonates with many, including creative think tanks Anthropologie and Free People. While both stores carry pieces of De Petra jewelry, Cynthia and Lorena are also in the midst of making exclusive pieces for the Anthropologie home collection; these one-of-a-kind pieces are slated to debut this fall.
De Petra is more than jewelry and décor though; De Petra is the “synergy” between two sisters; it is two creative visions coming together in the name of common values and a singular commitment to creating spiritual, thoughtful art that results in De Petra. Cynthia and Lorena’s choice to call their line De Petra Art in Jewelry is not arbitrary. Each piece is handmade in their Houston studio, and with only two in-house assistants, the majority of pieces are designed, sourced, made, and finished by Cynthia and Lorena. Every piece of leather is hand cut; every piece of metal is hand hammered. As the De Petra team agrees, “when you finish a piece in the studio, you really feel the energy (in the piece).” Each piece is “well-made, not ‘perfect;’ each piece has a soul. Lorena and Cynthia point to the importance of an artist actually putting their own hands on a piece as such an intimate process of design and construction allows for the artist to transmit their own thoughts and love into that piece. In this sense, it is no surprise that the women who wear De Petra feel a visceral connection to the jewelry. The essence of De Petra is “life, power, femininity, and spirituality,” thus it follows that for the wearer of De Petra “pieces are an extension of herself” as “she marries her spirit with the piece.”
No collection better exemplifies the soul of De Petra jewelry than the Cosmic Eye collection. The sisters differentiate between Cosmic Eye and the Evil Eye; the former refers to a “cosmic consciousness,” and is a “means of connecting (with others).” Lorena and Cynthia explain how these pieces are “a reminder to be conscious,” when consciousness is defined as interconnectivity, interdependence, and empowerment. The sisters refer explicitly to the “sisterhood of the Cosmic Eye,” that is, the stunning network of compassion and collaboration that is possible when relationships are prioritized and a common experience is emphasized. In this sense, De Petra is a conduit for something far greater than The Perfect Outfit; De Petra is a vehicle for meaningful connections with others.
Jade, or ‘yu’ in Chinese is also known as the "Stone of Heavens”. Jade was the Imperial stone and belonged exclusively to the Emperors Royal Imperial Court. Jade is a desired stone prized for thousands of year in China for its protective powers and healing qualities. Today, the Jade is regarded as a symbol of the good and the beautiful. It embodies the Confucian virtues of compassion, wisdom, humility, peace, harmony, modesty, justice and courage.
Jade is as magical as it is healing. Thought in the orient to protect one from evil spirits, a travel guardian, cleanser of the environment as well as the wear, it's also stated to be one the lucky stones. Linked to Isis and Empress in Tarot the crystal is also said to encourage the development of magical wisdom; the knowledge of the magical process and aids in the practice of it. Jade can be used as a magical ward or amulet. To cut and cleanse auric archs, as wand it provides a natural burst of energy.
Jade Magical use
Jade Healing use
- Immune system
- Blood cleaning
Shop Your Local Museum
"We hand-make everything from carving the leather -- from cutting the metal, from forging it and everything. All the magic is done in this little table," says Cynthia Sheridan, sitting in her design studio.
She and sister Lorena Rodriguez hand-make their De Petra jewelry line there, while their mom watches over them in a picture.
"My mom is a great inspiration. So I see her all the time there, and it's like so I imagine how she would look with this or that. It's just an inspiration, a great inspiration, my mom," says Sheridan.
De Petra jewelry started more than ten years ago and each day, each piece of work starts with a single mineral or stone.
The sisters pride themselves with using raw, earthly materials with an ancient feel. They say, in the end, it connects the world to the wearer.
"The beautiful part is that people who get to choose our jewelry they feel just connected with it. It makes them feel powerful, feminine, but yet strong," says Sheridan.
Many of the stones and minerals they use actually come from the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) in the first place.
"So it is kind of like the ultimate recycling gig. Taking pieces of nature from the museum store transforming them into master works of jewelry and then offering them back for sale in the same store. It's kind of cool," says Joel Bartsch, president of HMNS.
"But moreover, Bartsch adds, "When you shop at a museum store, it allows you to take home a piece of your experience with you. Every single penny that we make as far as profit from the museum store goes to support the museum's education programs, so support your local museums, get in the museum stores, buy things for yourself and buy things for others too. Not only will you treasure them but they will as well."