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Spokane artist enjoys creating empowering jewelry for women

Mary Tafuri works on a leather mask in her studio on Oct. 16 at her home in Spokane Valley. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Mary Tafuri works on a leather mask in her studio on Oct. 16 at her home in Spokane Valley. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Mary Tafuri works furiously in what she calls a “creative frenzy.”

With women in mind, she creates jewelry and accessories that not only adorn but empower.

“I relate today’s accessories to the armor of the modern woman. Each of my pieces are created to evoke strength without denying femininity,” she said.

Tafuri, 42, knows all about wearing armor. Figuratively, she put on a tough exterior as a young girl growing up in difficult neighborhoods.

“My dad was a rolling stone,” she said. She had lived in 50 different places between Portland and Spokane by the time she was a high school senior, and she learned to be feared if only to stay out of trouble.

Her senior year was spent at North Central High School, which offered beginning and advanced jewelry classes. She took to it quickly, perhaps, because it was familiar to her.

“I started creating jewelry as a very young girl, still on the hip of my mother, a Native American craftswoman who, as my Camp Fire leader, taught my troop how to make traditional mourning chokers and Native American jewelry,” she said.

In 1993, Tafuri earned a degree in photography and art from Spokane Falls Community College. She then moved to Reno, Nev., with her twin daughters where she worked in a photography studio for a few years and sat in on classes at a local college.

She returned to Spokane and made the decision to create something every day. “Maybe I have a legacy complex,” she said. “I want to leave something behind that will last.”

While raising her children, she took classes in art, music and business, and did freelance photography. Needing an outlet for her “creative frenzy,” she found work in the marketing department of Rings and Things and decided that it was the industry for her. She stayed there for five years, learning a lot about the business, working as a jewelry designer and product photographer, and teaching others.

She began her line of TaFurious jewelry and, with her husband, created Tafuri Tough Brand Jewelry supplies, which quickly became a best-seller, enabling her to quit her day job and dedicate herself to building her own leather, jewelry and photography studio, piece by piece.

Her work has been published in magazines and has hit the runway in Spokane and New York. During New York Fashion Week 2012 at the Bryant Park Hotel, she spent six hours in a warehouse in the Garment District, picking up pounds of gently used metals, stones and leftovers to incorporate into her one-of-a-kind accessories.

Now, she is gearing up for her next move. This time to an area she hopes might become Spokane’s very own fashion district – the Garland District. She’s opening a studio at 913 W. Garland Ave., next door to Glamarita’s new location. There, Tafuri Studios will adorn and empower women.

“With the opening of our new studio, I hope to take my jewelry and handmade passions, and share all I know with others in our growing handmade community.”