Reliquaries: Ashley Gilreath

I Am Who They Were1

When I first came across this necklace by Ashley Gilreath, I was elated to see such a beautiful piece of jewelry and a true work of art.  Yes, it’s like you’re wearing your family tree on your neck but for people who value their heritage and roots, this piece of wearable art will be very meaningful.


Gilreath is trained in metal design and is currently an Artist in Residence at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee.  Exploring boundaries, she ventured into the field of wearable art and the results are magnificent.  She explained, “I think to grow as a metalsmith, I need to work on becoming more comfortable with producing multiple pieces.”  Her experimentation with wearable art seems to delve into with memories and identity.  Her works are visually haunting in an almost melancholic manner.  Needless to say, I love it and would love to commission a piece when the time is right.

I Am Who They Were

I Am Who They Were, 2011, casted sterling silver, casted bronze,microscope glass, transparent decal


In Gilreath’s words: This necklace was made to represent the memory of my grandparent’s long staircase in their house. I want the viewer to see my history as the necklace wraps around, and to feel the sensation of climbing up and down the stairs as the images of my family line the walls. More importantly, I wanted my skin to show through as my family’s skin, so that my stories, my life and who I am as an individual is shown as the sum of all of the people that came before me.  I casted dollhouse frames from sterling silver and bronze, and printed my family directly onto the glass. I created a box clasp mechanism to support the weight of my loved ones.

Tie clip for David

Tie Clip For David, 2009, sterling silver, cuttlefish casting


Gilreath made this for a friend who is a biologist, specializing in small mammals; specifically bats.  The tie clip features a replica of a bat wing, using casted and fabricated metal.

Keeping Time In The Kitchen

Keeping Time In The Kitchen, 2010, sterling silver, casted rosemary, garlic


Gilreath explained, “This piece was inspired by the antique women’s pocket watch brooches. Traditionally used to keep time in the kitchen or while doing other household chores, the watches themselves were positioned upside down, so that when the wearer gazed down to check the time, it appeared right side up from their vantage point.”

Traveling With Me

Traveling With Me, 2007, sterling silver, photograph


This ring features Gilreath’s grandmother’s high school portrait.  I love the design of the ring and the delicate craftwork involved.  Gilreath speaks about honoring the history of her family and I think this ring is a noble example of that respect and tribute to her heritage.


In her words: Historically, reliquaries are containers used to preserve the remains of an individual, and often are illustrative in nature. With my work I attempt to honor the history of my family.  Having thoroughly researched my family’s past, whether through taped interviews of elderly members or digging through generations old documents, I investigated the lost biographies of those who had died long ago. The everyday experiences they shared interested me the most, and how they interacted with the people whose lives intersected their own. My pieces open and close, representing the dynamics of human relationships we experience in life. The found materials I incorporate in each work also play an important role in narrating the stories of the individual.


Confronting the history of one’s family and its antiquity often requires courage and resolution.  Hopefully one day I will be ready to do so and when the time comes, I too will wear a necklace which honours my ancestors.


x Sybil

(All images from Ashley Gilreath)

About fashionartisan
Bringing out the art in fashion

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