Yello Interviews: Dominican Artist and Jewellery Designer Yaena Eugene
by Karen Rollins Apr 5, 2021
Dominican artist Yaena Eugene is a sculptor and jewellery maker and the owner of Khreations Jewelry.
Yaena has always been a creative person and taught herself how to make jewellery after finishing high school. But she originally only made pieces for fun and never considered turning her talent into a business until a friend encouraged her to give it a go.
Inspired by Dominica’s stunning natural environment and her down-to-earth African style, Yaena’s classic but simple aesthetic is rapidly gaining her attention.
Yello asked Yaena to tell us more about her life as an artist and designer.
Describe yourself using three words.
Motivated. Creative. Mindful.
Please share a bit about your childhood.
I live in Gommier in Giraudel. I’ve been here for most of my life. In my earlier childhood, I lived in Goodwill, Princess Lane.
I attended the Convent Preparatory School in Roseau and then moved onto the Convent High School. After that, I spent a short time at the Dominica State College.
My family owns a tourism business called JTAS – jungle, trekking, adventures and safaris. We offer a diverse range of tours and experiences for visitors.
Some people would describe Giraudel as being country. There’s a lot of natural greenery and rainforests around, so I grew up climbing trees, catching crabs during the rainy season, and riding my bicycle. Just living the life!
Were you always a creative person?
Yes, because my family are creative. They were always involved in music whether that was music production, playing an instrument, involved in a choir or chorale groups. My exposure to being creative started with music.
I learned to play the recorder in primary school and then the piano. I played the piano until about fourth form in high school. I was in the Sixth Form Sisserou Singers for about four years, and that was a beautiful, fun, and remarkable experience. I still love music and singing.
After a while, I moved into more hands-on, visual arts and dabbled a bit in painting. I used to do summer classes at the Old Mill Cultural Centre. I think my visual arts creativity was inspired by and came from my mum.
I studied at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica. I majored in sculpture.
When / why did you start making jewellery?
I taught myself how to make jewellery in 2012, shortly after I finished high school.
It started when my mum brought home a packet of high-quality, good looking, beautiful beads. My mum used to make earrings when she was younger, and I think she said she wanted to start back dabbling in it.
I guess I took over because she doesn’t make as much now, and she actually asks me to make stuff for her now!
What was the first piece of jewellery you made?
A pair of earrings, but I was just getting started, so they were not the best.
But through constantly doing tutorials, watching videos, following jewellery pages, and joining Pinterest, I was able to learn a lot, improve, and get much better.
Tell us about your business Khreations Jewelry.
At first, jewellery making was a hobby and just something I liked to do in terms of creating new designs, experimenting, and learning. It was just a passing thing, but then I realised that I liked doing it, and it was one of my strong points.
At the time, I was going through a period of uncertainty around my future and the career path I would like to take, then I was encouraged by someone to turn jewellery making into something official and start a business.
Today, I incorporate jewellery and sculpture, and I’ve been told that my pieces are very unique.
What challenges did you face starting the business?
Any business starting up is faced with challenges. Some of the ones I faced were sourcing good quality materials, having a steady flow of clients, and proper marketing techniques.
What inspires you when designing jewellery?
My natural environment. I love unique and different patterns. I also love colour and experimenting with various colour palettes.
A lot of my designs, and personal style, pulls inspiration from African styles. I’ve been told I have an earthy African style, I’ve even been called Empress, and I really love that.
I also follow a few hashtags, sites and apps on social media, and good references come up a lot on some of those.
How would you describe your jewellery?
My jewellery has an earthy and rustic aesthetic. It is classy, chic, and just unique.
What materials do you like to work with?
I like to work with wire. Sheet metal is also proving to be a new favourite. I also like to use glass beads, wooden beads, gemstones, and pearls.
Basically, if I can make something with it, I will use it. I’ve even used paper before, and that was an interesting project to work on.
Describe your typical client.
My typical clients are people who share similar tastes in my style of dress and jewellery.
I get people from the diaspora who are visiting Dominica on holiday and want something unique and local. I also get male clients looking for something nice for their girlfriend or wife.
Are there any local, regional, or international designers who inspire you?
When I was studying in Jamaica, one of my lecturers was a past student, and I interacted a lot with him in my final year because he was a jewellery maker.
He and his sister (Duane and Teasea Bennett) have a business called Rêve Jewellery. I love his work, and his pieces always inspire me. His work has the same aesthetic that I love – earthy with an African Empress vibe and quality.
A local artist who inspires me is Crystel Hilton. She’s a young designer, like me, and she does a lot of African print jewellery, bags and shoes, and they are simply stunning, beautiful, and one-of-a-kind.
What are your career plans over the next five years?
I would really love to have my own studio and gallery space. Studio space for jewellery creation, sculpting and other kinds of art.
With my own jewellery space, I would be able to go wild; experiment and practice, and that would be my space solely for creating.
I also like the idea of trying my hand at interior décor and design.
What advice do you have for aspiring Caribbean entrepreneurs?
If you haven’t started, just start; what are you waiting for? Don’t wait. Your idea is not going to make itself, so you have to get up and make it happen. Who knows, it could be the best idea in the universe and a product that no one thought they needed to have.
If you’ve already started, big up yourself! Just remember to keep pushing, never give up, and keep fighting hard to sustain yourself and your business. It’s also important to be flexible enough to adapt to the world around you.
When you make your dream happen, and do what you love, whatever you do after that will never feel like work.
What do you love about Dominica?
Where do I begin?! She’s the nature isle of the Caribbean, and nature is my biggest inspiration. It’s just so vast, from the tiniest mushrooms and flowers down to the biggest mammals, and everything is so beautiful.
I love her waterfalls, beaches and lakes. Everything in my beautiful country.
Where do you go to relax on a day off?
I love hiking. I’m not an adventure junkie, but an occasional escape can do you so much good. Once a month, I go hiking with a group of nature enthusiasts, and it’s just good for the soul.
I also love going to the hot springs and the beach.
What’s your philosophy / motto in life?
To trust the process and take it one step at a time.
Trust the process, and it’ll happen. Things will fall in line that you may never have even anticipated, which might just be for the better.