Welcome to the World of Burning Man Jewelry

When we think about the art of Burning Man, we think BIG, as in large-scale installations, which we enjoy for a week, then remember with the help of photographs and videos. There is another art form on the playa which doesn’t disappear post-event, but lives on, carried around the world by Burners who received gifts of jewelry. Twenty one years of playa jewelry is documented in a new book:

The Jewelry of Burning Man


Karen Christians, Author
Christine Kristen aka LadyBee, Editor, Curator, Historian
George Post, Photographer
Printed by Global Interprint, Santa Rosa

Facebook page, Jewelry of Burning Man


IMG_4084This glossy 9 X 12 hard cover volume, 192 pages, features 300 full color photographs exploring a collection of over 1000 works of Burning Man jewelry. Our book includes an introduction by Thomas Mann, well-known jeweler from New Orleans; a chapter on Karen’s camp, Oasis 47 and the jewelry classes she teaches there;  a chapter on materials and process; photos of LadyBee’s 20 year collection of playa jewelry; and a Maker section in which 52 makers tell us why they make and gift jewelry on the playa and show us their work. We knew our book would be an extensive document of this phenomenon, but it’s also a very good exploration of Gifting. After reading the makers’ stories one has a really good sense of our gift economy and why it’s so powerful.


I met Karen, the founder of the jewelry school Metalwerx in Boston, in 2009, when I saw the listing for her jewelry workshop at Oasis 47 in the What Where When guide. As a jeweler I was very interested in her offering, and I attended a class. Participants were given one of Sumner Silverman’s theme-based cast bronze pendants, and taught how to fill their sectioned backs with colored resin. After buffing them, we each left with a beautiful pendant. Karen’s friend Sumner, a self-taught wax carver and goldsmith, has been designing and carving these pendants since 2006, the first year these classes were offered. They are a lovely chronology of Burning Man themes; all are featured in our book. As of 2015, Karen and Sumner have taught hundreds of students and have gifted over 3000 pendants on the playa.   IMG_4073 (1)

A few years later, when Karen became aware of my extensive collection of playa jewelry, she approached me about creating a book, and our project began. George Post had published his own book of Burning Man photographs, Dancing with the Playa Messiah; as a professional craft photographer, he was Karen’s first choice to photograph the jewelry, and joined us in what would become a two-year adventure online and on both coasts. IMG_4092

We worked with many jewelers already known to us, and also put out a call for jewelry on Karen’s website, discovering other makers that way. We spent many hours in George’s East Bay studio, photographing 20 years of playa jewelry. Karen flew in from Boston several times to work with us, and she created a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for printing. George and I went to Boston for the public launch of the campaign, and we were treated to a weekend at Sumner Silverman’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. We’ve met many wonderful makers, whose stories are told in our book. I asked each maker why they make and gift jewelry on the playa and how this experience has affected them; their stories are moving and sometimes surprising.

IMG_4088At Burning Man 2014, we organized a Maker Reception at my camp, the Mansonian Institute, which proved to be a very popular gathering for many of the makers in our book. Everyone got to show off their jewelry, much gifting took place, and many friendships were born. You can view Debbie Wolff’s photos of the event here. By popular demand, we held a second reception at Karen and Sumners’ camp, Oasis 47, in 2015. At the second reception we were able to present the makers with copies of our book, published in the spring. George Post’s photos: (on Facebook, on Dropbox)


Working on the book has been a rich experience, and we’re extremely pleased with the result. There’s a world of playa jewelry out there, and each year this world gets bigger. I collected more jewelry than ever this year, and we’re hoping to produce a second volume of our book in a few years.


We are grateful to all of the makers in our community; thanks ever so much for your creativity and generosity. Please enjoy our book.

About the author: Christine "LadyBee" Kristen


Christine Kristen (a.k.a LadyBee) is Burning Man’s Archivist, Art Collection Manager and Photo Gallery editor. She was Burning Man's art curator from 1999 to 2008, where she dealt with all things visual and aesthetic, including managing the art and the art grant program, photo-editing the Image Gallery, writing art content for the Burning Man website, working with the ARTery, managing the archives, and lecturing and writing about the art of Burning Man. She is the co-author of "The Jewelry of Burning Man", with Karen Christians and George Post, and the curator of the exhibition "PlayaMade: Jewelry of Burning Man", which debuted at the Fuller Craft Museum near Boston in 2017. It opens at the Bellevue Arts Museum in Seattle in January 2020. She has an MFA in sculpture from the Art Institute of Chicago.

18 Comments on “Welcome to the World of Burning Man Jewelry

  • LEMUR says:


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    • Christine "Ladybee" Kristen says:

      Lemur: This wasn’t written to sell our book as much as to show the world another form of the bountiful creativity and generosity that our community embodies, as well as the diversity and skilled craftsmanship of the jewelry. This self-published book was a two-year labor of love, and our Maker receptions on playa connected many of the makers in the book, all of whom are very pleased to have their work documented and sent out beyond our immediate community.

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  • Thank you so much for making this book. It was absolutely amazing to be included in the experience! It’s so fun to be able to give someone something you made and see the look on their faces.

    This experience was a huge inspiration for Sextant, and it helped us to feel like we really had nothing to fear in taking the next steps for our own visions out in the dust.

    See you all in a few months!!!

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  • Glenda says:

    very nicely written Bee…..

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  • This book was a joy to research and write. I couldn’t have asked for two more capable and thoughtful collaborators. The gifting ethos is beautifully celebrated with inspiring stories from generous makers. LadyBee’s collection is outstanding.

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  • Bonnie Nees says:

    I would love to purchase this book.

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  • JetFuel says:

    Let’s not forget Tobasco!

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  • roissy says:

    I have received jewelry on Playa before, but nothing compared to what is featured in the book… I guess I am hanging out in the wrong areas…
    When my late wife use to work in the Cafe, she would receive some nice stuff, I am going to have to look through her collection…

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  • It is lovely! I ordered it for my university’s library collection (I regularly purchase Burning Man titles and DVD’s) and this one just arrived today. Very excited. I’ll need to update my libguide -website to include this now.

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  • Tracy Thomas says:

    I am too disabled to attend Burning Man, and my internal thermostat can’t take the heat, so I experience it thru these wonderful posts on The Jackrabbit Speaks. I own perhaps the largest collection in the world of jewelry by Tzipora Hoynik, who I met once when she ventured to Kansas City for the Brookside Art Fair. I also love the photography of her husband, Joe Hoynik. So it was thrilling to see all her BM talismans, and see these book excerpts. To the man who tinkled on this, claiming it’s all commercialism, I’d remind him that unlike Amazon, this story excerpted SO MANY PAGES that it enables the world to really sample the contents without purchasing. I for one “get” the generosity of the author. Producing a quality four color coffee table book is a labor of love, and hugely costly. Thanks for sharing so much of it here.

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  • Tisch says:

    I have been looking to BUY a Burning Man medallion and would wear it proudly. When I look at these incredibly creative pieces and how they are represented in this book I am inspired. In a weakened state I would still Buy a Burning Man representation but I would be more honored to be the recipient of one. That means I will have to be more deserving of these types of gift and be a far greater person then I have ever been before. Thank you so much for your efforts and a story teller of these great and creative artists

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  • Josie Bisping says:

    Like Tracy above, I too am physically unable to camp for a week on the playa (although I do go to the local burn every year). This is the first I’ve heard of a burning man jewelry book and I’m eager to see it. Where can I get it? I make jewelry as a hobby and my daughter frequently gifts my creations at burning man. To see others’ work in a book would be incredible!

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  • Christine "Ladybee" Kristen says:

    Josie – you can order it at http://www.karenchristians.com

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