The Oklahoman

OKC jeweler Larry Tallent brings handcrafte­d work to Paseo Arts Festival

- Brandy McDonnell

Larry Tallent found inspiratio­n at Mount Rushmore half a century ago. h But it wasn’t the carved granite monument that intrigued the Oklahoma native as much as the stones that were scattered on a little card table at the foot of the famous mountain sculpture.

“I met a guy that ... he’d made little pieces of jewelry, and he’d sell it on the street there. I kind of got an interest in that. Then, I started studying the Hopi Indians, studied a lot about their jewelry and became more interested — and just started trying it,” Tallent said.

From that initial inspiratio­n, Tallent has handcrafte­d an art career over the past five decades.

For about 30 years, the Oklahoma City jeweler has showcased his works of silver and moonstone, and onyx and opals at the long-running Paseo Arts Festival, which is slated this year for Sept. 4-6 in OKC’s historic Paseo Arts District.

“I think it’s great that you can see Larry’s longevity,” said fellow OKC artist Collin Rosebrook, the longtime Paseo Arts Festival chairman. “He has honed his skills where he has quality craftsmans­hip.”

Delayed to Labor Day

Traditiona­lly a Memorial Day weekend highlight, the Paseo Arts Festival is planned this year on Labor Day weekend after the 2020 event was scrapped and the 2021 fest was delayed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Going back to Memorial Day (next year), it fits better with the city’s community events. It fits better with our Paseo Arts Associatio­n events and programmin­g. ... And in September, we’re competing with other art shows across the country,” said Paseo Arts Associatio­n Executive Director Amanda Bleakley. “But our volunteers are up ... and fortunatel­y, because this is mostly outside, I feel confident that what we’re doing is the best we can do to protect everyone.”

Attendees are encouraged to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, including wearing masks, frequent sanitizing or washing their hands and social distancing.

The 44th Annual Paseo Arts Festival will feature about 90 visiting artists, plus dozens of neighborho­od artists, along with 50-plus Oklahoma entertaine­rs, 20 food vendors, free parking and shuttle service and more. Although some of the children’s activities will be suspended due to the pandemic, youngsters will get hands-on opportunit­ies with spin art and foil sculpting.

“We recommend that the kids wear their masks, especially in a situation when they’re close to other people,” Bleakley said. “We’re adding handwashin­g sinks ... and we’re going to spread things out a little bit.”

Although admission is free, the festival is the largest annual fundraiser for the Paseo Arts Associatio­n, with beverage and merchandis­e sales supporting the nonprofit organizati­on’s year-round programs.

Inspired by natural beauty

Although Tallent works out of his home studio, his jewelry is a familiar sight in the Paseo Arts District, since he sells it at the Paseo Arts and Creativity Center gift shop.

“It’s a credit to the Paseo associatio­n that they’ve always supported Oklahoma artists and emerging artists,” said Tallent, who also sells his work online via Etsy and Instagram.

“I do quite a few other art festivals. But the Paseo is one of my favorites ... and I’m especially looking forward to this year, because for the past 18 months, pretty much all shows shut down.”

After he graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1973, the Medford native opted to travel, which led him to Mount Rushmore and the initial inspiratio­n for his career as a jeweler.

“I started trying it and moved to Austin, Texas. They have a permanent market across the street from UT (the University of Texas), and I set my little table up there for a couple of years. And it just kind of grew from that,” Tallent said.

“I like working for myself, and I like going to the festivals and talking to people, meeting people. I like the artists ... and working with all the stones, the natural beauty of the stones, is inspiring.”

Made to last

The self-taught artist, who has a particular penchant for working with sterling silver, said he creates each of his jewelry pieces individual­ly.

“No two pieces are exactly alike, and I find that to be more creative and not boring,” Tallent said. “I have a 4-yearold grandson, Jude, and I’m going to teach him how to make jewelry. He can already sit on my lap a little bit.”

The former Norman resident said an encounter with another little boy is one of his most treasured memories of his long years selling his work at the Paseo Arts Festival.

“He was maybe 9, 10 years old — just big enough to see over the counter — and he just looks and looks and looks for a long time. He said, ‘Who made all this stuff?’ I said, ‘I made all this stuff.’ And he says, ‘Hmm. It almost looks like it was made by profession­al.’ I thought, ‘Was that a compliment or an insult?’” Tallent recalled with a chuckle.

“I had a customer more recently come to my booth — she’d been a customer for years — and she’d brought a little box of everything that she’d bought from me. I was like, ‘That’s 25 years old; I remember that piece.’ ... But then, the things that I make are made to last a lifetime.”

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 ?? PHOTO PROVIDED ?? Self-taught Oklahoma City artist Larry Tallent has been handcrafti­ng jewelry for 50 years.
PHOTO PROVIDED Self-taught Oklahoma City artist Larry Tallent has been handcrafti­ng jewelry for 50 years.
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