Updated: Oct 26, 2022
It all began in Egypt, where Tonya A. Dickenson growing up as a daughter of a Canadian diplomat, discovered her passion for antique beads and silver. What started as a simple interest expanded into a desire to understand the role beads played in culture and history. She lived around the world, and embarked on many journeys collecting treasures in the Middle East, South Asia, and West Africa. She shares them with you today. Seeing the impact of climate change firsthand, she realized the importance of preserving our past also and the urgent need to protect our planet for the future. With this in mind, she launched Asymmetric by Design, a sustainable jewelry line.
Each artist chooses a medium; for Tonya, it is beads. Why beads? Dating as far back as 100,000 years, beads tell the stories of ancient civilizations, ethnic groups, and customs. They trace migration and trade throughout the globe. In West Africa, for example, the beaded waist chains are symbols of femininity, fertility, sensuality, and spiritual well-being. Meanwhile, Native American beaded patterns became a symbol of wealth and were used in marriage ceremonies, trade agreements, and treaties. It is easy to fall in love with the beauty of beads. Their centuries-long stories make them irresistible.
In this collection, each piece is one-of-a-kind and predominantly composed of antique, vintage, or recycled elements, infused with a modern asymmetric twist and a powerful message. Supporting craftspeople in the developing world plays an integral role in Tonya’s artistic expression; recycled materials are sourced from Ghana and Mali artisans.
As global citizens and ethical consumers, we each have a responsibility toward the sustainability of our planet. Small steps, multiplied by many, can help ensure a better future for generations.
The environment is no one's property to destroy; it's everyone's responsibility to protect.
– Mohith Agadi
Inspiration and elements for this collection come from browsing through the mythical Khan El-Khalili bazaar in Cairo, where Tonya would spend countless Fridays in her youth sifting through bags of eclectic old silver.
The wearable art is predominantly made of:
Antique/vintage beads from Yemen, Afghanistan, Turkey, Oman, and other
Recycled glass and metal from Ghana and Mali, and
These vintage and antique beads are exquisite time capsules of cultural and historical information and a small path to a greener environment. Their workmanship is often very intricate, and most elements are traditionally crafted by hand. Today, these timeless gems shine again in a steadfastly unique ASYMMETRIC design awaiting to be a part of your own story.
"... time to teach that in diversity there is beauty, there is strength"
- Maya Angelou
Tonya believes that we are stronger together and that we have the responsibility to empower and lift others. She loves to mix beads from different cultures and eras - just as there is beauty and strength in the diversity of materials and textures, there is beauty and strength in the diversity of people, cultures, beliefs, histories, and experiences.
One of her favorite designs incorporates recycled glass disks from Ghana that enhance intricate pendants from the Middle East. She added a further dimension of inclusivity by creating artistic rainbows communicating a message of hope after difficult times and acceptance of all.
By wearing jewelry, women are making a statement about who they are, what they stand for, what they care about, and what they believe in. It's not only about looking good - it's also about feeling good and being uniquely YOU.
Each Asymmetric by Design piece is crafted with love and aimed at empowering women. Women turn to their bold designs to feel more empowered and confident as these showcase their strength, values, bold character, and unique identity. Indeed, Tonya's designs have graced the red carpet in Hollywood, been worn on Dragon's Den, in business profile portraits, and for special events.
Justice: Benefit Collections
Tonya is a proud Canadian woman who also shares a strong connection to her Ukrainian heritage. The brutal invasion of Ukraine and the erosion of women's rights worldwide- notably recently in the USA, Iran, and Afghanistan, have left her heartbroken and devastated. "Designing these benefit collections is a balm for my soul," she admits. "How to create statement necklaces that communicate the message of peace for Ukraine or equal rights for women using only the power of the bead: its color, shape, and juxtaposition?"
Inspired by the incredible courage of the Ukrainians, Tonya chose to work with blue and yellow/gold beads. These are the colors of the Ukrainian flag, recalling endless sunflower fields under a clear blue sky stretching over the land. She also uses white pearls to symbolize peace and freedom.
In support of women in Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, and worldwide that have felt the effects of war, 20% of sales will go to Women for Women, a non-profit that helps a woman lift herself out of poverty. (https://support.womenforwomen.org/). Adding purpose to art, Tonya hopes each purchase will bring about change when and where change is needed most.