Citrus has always played a prominent role in Talia Santos life.
“There was never this big aha moment,” Santos said. “I grew up Greek, so lemons were a huge part of my life. I spent a lot of time traveling in South America and limes became a big part of my life there. So I think I just always had this kind of citrus thing going on and one day out of boredom and curiosity just started dried out some oranges, which I’m not the first person to do, and turned it into jewelry.”
To be cautious of her roommates, Santos and I met at a local park instead of her home, so she could demonstrate some of the process with me as her assistant.
“The first thing I do is slice it,” Santos said. “Since I do it by hand, each piece comes out a little differently. So it makes each pair unique. After that I go through the dehydrating process, which takes about 12 hours, more or less. Then I go through the varnishing part which also takes a few days to varnish and fully dry and then I turn it into jewelry.”
Santos’ work isn't exclusive to just jewelry.
“I’ve also used citrus to create window pieces, umbrellas and lamp shades. I like going outside the box. Especially because of the way the citrus interacts with the environment, it’s kind of like a sun catcher.”
While creating jewelry from citrus might seem sustainable, Santos said that’s actually not the case.
“The great thing about using fruit is it cuts out a whole emission process of using plastic or metal or things produced in factories,” Santos said. “At the end of the day, I’m using metal for ear wires, I’m still having to buy packaging to put the earrings in. So there’s a lot of ways to offset those costs to make it more sustainable, but at the end of the day production is production.”
But regardless of these production factors, Santos says there’s beauty in the eye of the orange holder.
“I think it’s really telling of how much we can do with what’s right in front of us. How much we can use what’s in front of us. It’s an orange and it’s beautiful and you don’t have to go far and wide to find that.”
Before the pandemic hit, Santos’ art was available in boutiques and farmers markets in the Chicagoland area, but that of course has since changed. For more information on how you can order your “Citrus by Talia,” visit her website.
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.