Chayse-ing the dream
Chayse Romero (Sociology & Human Services, ’17) remembers the power of making art during her earliest days at FLC.
Surrounded by fellow artists and outdoor enthusiasts, Chayse Romero (Sociology & Human Services, ’17) remembers the power of making art during her earliest days at Fort Lewis College in the fall of 2013.
“Living in Bader-Snyder [residence halls] was transformative for me,” Romero said. “It was full of free spirits who had a huge impact on my spirit at the time. It’s where I learned to try new things and fail and have fun doing it.”
Romero enrolled in Spanish courses and took the semester off to travel solo in Central Mexico. She found herself reflecting on her loneliness in a San Miguel de Allende artisan market. Gravitating toward the jewelry stalls, Romero asked if she could borrow some wire and pliers to try to make her own rings, necklaces, earrings, and other treasures.
“One of the jewelers smiled and said, ‘It’s not like that. If you need silver, follow me,’” Romero recalled. “So I got in the car with these silver purveyors and learned how to take raw silver, melt it into an ingot, and roll it into wire. The guy who showed me this process said he learned it from a crazy Canadian guy. I asked him to introduce me.”
The first day Romero met “the crazy Canadian guy” at his studio, Santana blared on the radio while women melted metal and sipped mezcal.
“I signed up for his class then and there,” Romero laughed.
For the next three weeks, Romero practiced metalsmithing and Spanish and daydreamed of the views from FLC. The La Platas, Twin Buttes, Hogsback, and Perins Peak found their way into her whimsical creations.
“I made a ring with the mountains of Durango and wore it throughout my time in Mexico,” Romero said.
When she returned to Durango to finish school, Romero continued to replicate mountain ranges; since 2016, she’s produced more than 60 different craggy silhouettes for people from around the globe. She named her business Frontera Silver.
“Frontera means borders in Spanish,” Romero explained. “This name represents my love for replicating natural scapes and is a promise to myself to always cross physical borders through traveling and creative borders in my work and life.”
From wedding rings to bolo ties, her work incorporates responsibly sourced stones and recycled sterling silver. Romero buys fire opals from a family who mine and cut the stones in Jalisco, Mexico, and sources her turquoise directly from miners, while her husband cuts them to fit her pieces. And Romero believes in ethical diamond sourcing, working with Canadian diamonds only.
“There are so many problems in the world, and here I am making a luxury item," Romero said. "So I try to make things that empower others and make them feel a deeper connection to Mother Earth.”
In 2016, Romero joined the Four Corners Gem & Mineral Club, where she started teaching metalsmithing classes. Five years later, Romero left her job as a Spanish teacher and committed full-time to crafting her wearable works of art. She sells these treasures at Frontera’s downtown Durango storefront or on her website, fronterasilver.com.
“The community I formed at the Fort made me fall in love with this place,” Romero said. “It’s allowed me to grow a really beautiful business. Without that foundation of community and understanding of these sacred lands, I don't even know where I would be.”