World travelers create unique pottery, jewelry, handbags and throw pillowsBy Marina Davalos
Pictured above: Jean Esperson-Golden started making jewelry, such as these spinner rings, about five years ago. “I started hammering aluminum,” she says. When I had a stressful day of teaching, I’d come home and bang away.”
American-born sisters Christine Esperson and Jean Esperson-Golden grew up outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico, where their father was a plant manager at General Electric. “We were the gringos on the street,” Jean says with a laugh. When their father was transferred to Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 15 years later, Jean finished high school in their new location while Christine remained in Puerto Rico. “My husband and I owned a coffee farm in the middle of Lares,” says Christine, of the Puerto Rican mountain municipality where they lived. “Meanwhile, in Brazil, Jean was speaking Portuguese in six weeks.”
The sisters eventually found their way to Cape Cod, where their parents had retired, and both became foreign language teachers. Christine was a Spanish professor at Cape Cod Community College for 25 years before retiring in 2017. Jean has taught Spanish and German since 1999 at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School. While on trips with students and colleagues to Spain, Costa Rica, Cuba and Puerto Rico, Christine and Jean would pick up semi-precious stones, silver and fabrics.
But it was the discovery of Kenyan clay Kazuri beads at a shop in Maine that sparked Christine’s interest in jewelry and pottery making. She said to herself, I can make clay beads, and it took off from there. She took a pottery class at the former Sandwich Community School and practiced it more consistently once her son and daughter were grown. “But then I had all of this pottery and I didn’t know what to do with it,” says Christine. She hosted a party at her house and invited artist friends to showcase their work, which proved to be fruitful. “I actually sold something!” she says. She bought a used pottery wheel, and eventually, a kiln. Since 2008, she has been selling her work at the Hyannis HyArts Artist Shanties by the Ocean Street docks every summer.
Jean also picks up unique pieces in her travels, but it’s fabrics, out of which she sews stylish throw pillows. “Jean is really good at sewing—she made her wedding dress,” boasts Christine. While sewing has been a lifelong hobby, Jean started making jewelry about five years ago. “I started hammering aluminum. When I had a stressful day of teaching, I’d come home and bang away,” she quips. Jean loves the intricate craftwork involved in jewelry making—the cutting of a tiny strip of metal, the sizing of a ring, the hooking of a clasp. She often mixes her metals together, such as copper with silver, giving her pieces a striking contrast. She also sews drawstring jewelry bags with pockets inside. “They’re the type of bags your grandmother would have around the house, she says. “I just kind of modernized them.”
The two sisters are always learning from each other. Christine has been inspired by her sister to learn metalsmithing, while her pottery has moved Jean to try her hand at the wheel.
Watch Jean’s metalsmithing video on her Etsy account. She’ll be at the Hyannis HyArts Artist Shanties the week of July 9-15 and at the LoveLocal Fest in Aselton Park in Hyannis, July 29 and September 30.