Travel to Another Dimension with Che Dobbins' Powerful Jewelry Inspired by Morocco's Mythical Iconography
The more I meet artisans and designers from around the world, the more I learn that an object of home decor or a fashion accessory is hardly ever just that. This could never ring more true than in the mesmerizing work of Cherise (Che) Dobbins, the beautiful nomadic soul hosted in the body of a bubbly, stylish American-born jeweler, who found her soulmate in the soft curves and the mesmerizing light of the Moroccan desert.
Since her early days as an aspiring jewelry maker in Portland, Che felt that her true place in the world might be elsewhere, quite far from the darkly beautiful but long and freezing days of Oregon winters.
“Ever since exploring my father’s African American heritage, I have felt a previous life connection to northern Africa and the desert as a natural environment in particular. The nomadic lifestyle still present in Tuareg tribes and their use of jewelry as a way of expressing themselves resonate with me a lot.”
Che remembers mischievously sneaking into her mother’s off-limit jewelry collection as a child, and trying on necklaces, bracelets, rings, that would dangle from her small wrists and fingers. She obsessively questioned her mother on the origins of each piece, wondering who had made it, where, how and what was the full story behind it. This childhood curiosity lies at the heart of what became a life-long personal journey into the history and significance of jewelry around the world.
Fast-forward a few years and Che’s wanderings took her to her sister’s garage in New Zealand, where she feverishly worked night and day to complete her first-ever ten-piece collection, commissioned only a few weeks earlier by a highly-regarded concept store in Auckland whose owner had fallen in love with her jewelry.
“That was the first time I realized this was more than a self-indulgent passion, that I had potential to succeed as a jewelry designer and that I should do everything in my power to pursue the feeling I got when I made jewelry: of being the highest, purest, most authentic version of myself.”
That feeling showed Che she was definitely on the right path, and she passionately pursued it until it took her to Morocco, where a six-month art residency at the Queens Collective in Marrakech opened many doors and encouraged her to start her own jewelry business, S|HE Archives. Moroccan Islamic architecture and landscapes, alongside Art Deco and Neo-Moorish styles, play a large influence in the collection of S| HE.
All of S|HE Archives’ work stems from Che’s deep connection to the Motherland and her belief in spreading positivity through her pieces, which, far from being just beautiful accessories, become real amulets Che designs for protection, strength, and energy enhancement.
“When I make a piece, I really try to connect with the future buyer. I do believe that we are drawn to a specific piece of jewelry based on a deeper connection than just aesthetic pleasure, and I infuse all my products with all the energy and passion for the craft that runs through my veins.”
Her latest collection, the North Africa Archives, comes from a long study of Morocco’s archetypal iconography and is inspired by various mythological or historical figures. One such is the Berber high priestess Al-Kahina, who lived during the Arab invasion of Morocco and rumored to be clairvoyant, and who inspired Che’s Eye of Kahena Necklace.
The Temple Earrings are instead inspired by North African architecture, and by Koutoubia Mosque in particular, a building full of symbology in Marrakech. In the earrings, the square sections represent the mosque’s windows, and almost function as a gateway to a mystical world, especially when hit by direct sunlight which casts a sparkling streak able to guide the wearer to another dimension.
The Eye of the Desert ring, on the other hand, is a homage to the mystical qualities of the desert. The arches in the ring symbolize the bountiful light which is everywhere in the desert, from sunrise to sunset, reflected on the sand and creating mirages on the horizon line. The two ends of the ring feature either masculine or feminine symbology, making this piece particularly representative of Che’s work.
As the name suggests, S|HE Archives is all about breaking down gender barriers, throwing away labels, and bringing the masculine and feminine together. While parts of Moroccan culture might still tend to traditionalism, there is a definite trend, especially among young people, to shed old lifestyles and embrace a more inclusive, more fluid way of life.
“At the same time, I have huge respect for Morocco’s rich heritage. I am absolutely not here to appropriate the culture or overturn centuries of history, and the fact that a local master artisan decided to work on my collections shows that people definitely perceive my pure intentions.”
In another form of recognition, Che was featured in March 2020 in the ‘Designer Profile’ of British Vogue magazine with Rihanna on the cover rockin’ a durag. This issue celebrated the rich beauty within the Moroccan culture.
Since ramping up production, Che has been working closely with Ahmed Elguerche, an amazing silver master of Berber lineage from the silver capital of Morocco, Tiznit. Originally a shepherd, Ahmed started working with silver at the age of 14, and after studying Silver Science and earning numerous awards for his work, he continues spending his time perfecting silversmithing and channeling centuries of masterful craftsmanship into his work.
Despite collaborating with him for several years now, Che continues to be impressed by his skillful work and his mastery of silversmithing techniques, which she quotes as having truly advanced her own practice as a jeweler. “If I hadn’t ended up in Morocco, I would never have progressed as much as I have as a jewelry designer. It’s been the most rewarding and empowering experience.”
If you’re ready to embrace Che’s work and enter into her magical world, head over to her collection on our shop… After all, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and what better treat to your special one than some beautiful jewelry.