Chilean Horsehair Weaving

The whimsy of Chantal Bernsau’s Jewelry

Chilean-born designer Chantal Bernsau has been designing jewelry for over 20 years, mixing organic materials and experimenting with earth elements. Her work is whimsical and vibrant, inspired by the “symbolism of talismans or lucky charms from traditional Chilean tribes.”  Her crin collection is particularly intriguing as she works with master artisans from Rari, a rural village in the Maule region of Southern Chile. This remote village is known for their "horsehair weaving" or crin craft that is an extremely fine and delicate weaving technique practiced primarily by women. Chantal works directly with these skilled artisans, designing jewelry that embodies small universes and playful spaces.

With a background in jewelry design, reiki and floral therapy, Chantal has immersed herself into the world of alternative healing therapies. She has found a way to integrate a sense of harmony and healing character that flows seamlessly throughout her work. She loves layering, playing, experimenting and creating pieces on a whim. “I like superimposing and creating unique ranges of forms, design, and colors.”
 
This unique collection developed years ago when she attended a handicraft fair in Chile and discovered this traditional art form. After a trip to the Rari, she started working with a master artist named Susana Cabrera and her family who have been doing this sort of work for generations. She believes she has a marriage between herself as a designer and the artisans. There is a mutual exchange of participation where each person plays his or her part. Together, they gain a sense of empowerment, financial gain, motivation and feel an openness to endless possibilities.
 
Chantal’s work is an internal process of the here and now. “My style is very personal.” She strays from trends, but looks at symbolism and Chilean folklore.  She loves to combine different forms and shapes such as discs, spheres, cylinders, cones and strips that give her work a playful and joyful spirit. She starts by designing the basic forms out of horsehair and then works in metals such as silver, copper or bronze.
 
When asked about the origins of crin, Chantal mentions that little documentation has been found because it is a folk craft that was never taken very seriously.  It mysteriously appeared about 200 years ago in this Chilean community, where you roam the markets and find delicate forms of butterflies, birds, bees, burros, witches, angels, flowers and rosaries. The designs are pulled from folklore and nature, often used as decorative pieces and made entirely by hand. It is a compelling art form with a number of legends referring to its origin. One legend says that a nun and her niece went swimming in a stream that crossed through a town. They noticed the roots of a poplar tree floating in the water and began playing, weaving, and making little baskets from the stringy roots. The reason why the artisans replaced this plant fiber with horsehair is still unknown. This is a tradition that has been passed down from mother to daughter, portraying a sense of identity and pride for the Rari. For Chantal, these ancient folkloric stories represent "the wisdom of the people,” a feeling which she captures effortlessly within her work.
 
For more information about Chantal’s work please email her at info@chantalbernsau.ci or visit www.chantalbernsau.cl

 

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