This exquisite dentalium necklace consists of eleven strands of white dentalium shell, red abalone, irridescent glass beads and white deer skin. The red abalone was traditionally harvested along the California shoreline of Chumash territory by Leah Mata and her family. Red abalone is specific to this region. Each carefully shaped crescent of red abalone is cut, drilled and threaded to align with the white dentalium shells. This spectacular necklace is handmade using traditional techniques and materials by artist and traditional regalia maker Leah Mata of the Northern Chumash tribe, California.
Leah Mata is a member of the yak tityu tityu (the people) Northern Chumash Tribe, located on the Central California Cost. Leah works as a Traditional Artist creating contemporary living forms of regalia and jewelry, allowing for the opportunity to experience California Indian arts. Her work as a traditional Northern Chumash Artist is rooted in the past, yet she also incorporates her contemporary artistic expressions and blends them with traditional knowledge to create special pieces.
Leah’s is an award winning artist and has been awarded top honors such as the Autry Indian Market 2012-Best in Diverse Cultural Arts, Heard Museum Fair 2013, 2016- First Place, Traditional Attire. In 2011 Leah was awarded the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, and a Master Artist recipient for ACTA 2013.
Leah’s education, B.A. in Anthropology and a Masters in Cultural Sustainability, has afforded her access to collections and archives to further understand the traditional expertise of the Chumash people.
Given that most of the materials needed to create traditional Northern Chumash material culture are natural, it can require years of planning. Leah, along with her family must gather materials seasonally before they can be processed and then used. Leah is committed to environmental issues that play a role in the ability to gather materials needed to sustain her traditional arts. Finding ways to making sure each generation can sustain these art forms is an integral part of Leah education, and allows her the ability to incorporate her artistic practice with her academic goals.