A master of accessories

Diana Garland enjoys telling the story of her first basket-making class.

“I was the dumbest one in the class,” Garland said, laughing at the memory. “I couldn’t do anything.”

Finally her daughter Gay Garland-Reed convinced her to sit down and work at it.

“She said, ‘Between the two of us, we can figure this out,’” Garland said.

Not only did the Sequim artist figure it out but she went on to create intricate baskets that people scrambled to purchase. She gave up basket-making only when it became too hard on her hands.

According to Garland, she was never a model student growing up in the Hollywood Hills of California because all she wanted to focus on was her art. After high school, she attended the Fashion Academy in New York City, living far from home in an all-female dormitory near Rockefeller Center. After marrying Buzz Garland, her childhood sweetheart, she moved with him back to California. Even while raising her children, Garland sold her paintings and designs.

The couple bought the Carlsbad Journal when the California city’s population was a mere 3,000, far less than the 97,000 it is now. During their 15 years running the paper, the Garlands hired Mangalore Ranga Pai, an immigrant from India who had graduated from the University of California-Los Angeles journalism school. As she and Buzz became close to the young reporter, Garland became inspired by Asian art that she learned about from Pai.

She was visiting her daughter in Virginia and came across a display of beautiful jewelry. Her granddaughter took one look and said, “Granny, you could make that.” Garland bought beads that day and began creating jewelry.

She threw herself into jewelry-making, using semi-precious stones, sterling silver and, still inspired by Pai, carved pieces from Asia.

“This one is a fossilized woolly mammoth tusk that’s been carved,” Garland said, holding up a short beaded necklace. “They were beautiful creatures.”

Garland said she selects her beads from all over the world, mostly in Asia. She’s purchased beads from Japan, Tibet, China, India, Thailand and also the United States. Her goal, she said, is to “incorporate a lot of interesting things” into her pieces. To emphasize her point, Garland picked up one of her necklaces made of Japanese Ojime beads. The beads are made of ivory and take a skilled crafter four to six hours to carve.

“It is intricate, beautiful work,” she said. “I love getting them and making them into jewelry.”

Garland, who sells her wares at the Sequim Open Aire Market, said she will continue to create the pieces until she absolutely cannot.

“I love my artwork, I always have,” she said. “I plan on doing it forever.”

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