In 1969 she married Don Owen, an Anglo trader and more recently coordinator of the annual Indian Market sponsored by the Southwestern Association on Indian Affairs. Encouraged by her husband and friends, Owen began researching the prehistoric styles of mosaic jewelry created by the Hohokam and Anasazi cultures of the Southwest. She traveled extensively throughout the region, studying early pieces in museum and private collections to learn the techniques of her ancestors
The mosaic style of jewelry—a pattern of small pieces of turquoise, coral, and other stones cut from the rough stone and set onto shell with epoxy, then ground and polished to a glossy and smooth finish—had been done in the 1940s and 1950s by Owen’s mother and a few others at Santo Domingo. It was called “depression” jewelry because the only surfaces available to the jewelers were 78 rpm records and old batteries. Few artists explored the format, however, because “heishi” necklaces of rolled beads were much more popular.
Among the many examples of prehistoric shell jewelry that particularly inspired Owen were the Glycymeris bracelets, which, when cut, became bangle bracelets in any number of shapes that could be etched or overlaid with mosaic. Overlaying a total circumference presented a technical and aesthetic challenge to Owen, as it had to her predecessors. In 1974 she made her first mosaic bangle bracelet on green snail, producing at least one a year following that. It was not until 1978 that she found, in a shell shop in Malibu, California, the same glycymeris shell used by the Hohokam. And in 1982, she made her first mosaic cuff bracelet out of a tiger cowrie shell.
Recognized early on by museums, traders, and other Indian artists for her single-handed revival of an ancient tradition of mosaic overlay, Owen did not achieve commercial success with her work until the late 1970s. Her work has been widely collected both privately and by museums in the United States and in Europe, including the Albuquerque Museum, the Heard Museum, and the Millicent Rogers Museum. In 1990 the Smithsonian invited her to participate in a special Native American artist’s series. Owen has received every major award for her work at the various competitions held throughout the Southwest, including Best of Division in Mosaic at the Heard Museum and the annual Indian Market in Santa Fe.
The shells and stones she most frequently uses are black lip and gold lip shell (mother-of-pearl), green snail, spiny oyster, pink mussel, glycymeris, tiger cowrie, olivella, coecten, conch, conus, clam, turquoise, jet, coral, lapis lazuli, pipestone, serpentine, and ivory.
Owen’s talent lies in the fact that her designs are organically determined by the shape of the shells. Though the forms are classic, the aesthetic is modern, and the jewelry she creates is truly timeless. Perhaps even more important, she has launched a jewelry-making revival at Santo Domingo that is providing numerous craftspeople with new opportunities for both artistic expression and economic success." written by Bischoff's Gallery