"The time has come to elevate beans," says Xandra Uribe of Colombian-based jewelry byXan. Allured by the inherent beauty of beans and the contradiction that they have largely gone unnoticed throughout history, Xandra set out to honor these "little gems" through her exquisite collections. We are thrilled to have connected with Xandra and share her story.
Xandra produces bronze and gold cast jewelry inspired by beans, and also living art out of edible seeds. To do this, she collects unique varieties which she plants and nurtures. Once grown, she harvests and dries her beans to ultimately serve as both muse and material for her creative expression.
Meeting Xandra felt like one of those serendipitous encounters that left us with the impression that it was just a matter of time before our paths were meant to cross. While our mediums or ‘canvases’ differ, our intentions to honor the power and beauty of beans are wholly aligned. And hearing Xandra speak with such reverence towards this humble and remarkable crop, reinforced our own conviction in our work and vision.
Xandra’s bean story predates our own, starting in 2016. While traveling through Portugal, she visited a friend’s farm where she was shown a collection of beans that captivated her attention so completely that it would ultimately change the course of her personal and professional journey. Upon returning home to Medellin, she knew she would find a way to honor this experience and set out to unearth as much as she could about these mystical little seeds.
Quite fortuitously, she discovered that Colombia is home to one of two seed banks in the world working to preserve bean seeds (known as the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)). She also learned that Colombia is the third most prolific bean growing nation in the world, next to Mexico and Peru, producing thousands of heirloom varieties. And so this anointed “Bean Guardian” or “Bean Whisperer” seems to be just the right place to be exploring this path. From this home base, she’s encountered other seed custodians around the globe and has sprouted incredible connections through her exploration. “My circle of life has expanded. From artists, to seed guardians, to entrepreneurs (like you!), to young-spirited people aged 5 to 95 who love wearing and playing with their byXan bean gems. I’ve met all kinds of beautiful souls thanks to the magic of beans.”
To her amazement, however, Xandra also unearthed the contradictory side of the story of beans. “I started learning all these incredible things: how they nurture our soil, bodies and souls…the fact that they’re inexpensive, long-lasting, and need little water. And still, they’ve been unappreciated. Latinos in America are called ‘beaners’. Beans are known as the food of the poor. In Yiddish, ‘bubkes’ is the name for beans, which means horse shit. Literally. This equation didn’t make sense. Beans were the total underdog.” Xandra felt compelled to change this narrative. “I’m going to give them the dignity and the place that they deserve.”
Xandra started her line of jewelry to use beauty to help us better appreciate these humble seeds and the natural world. Her work also gives a nod to history. Through one of the contacts that she met at CIAT, Xandra learned that “Beans are the only food that were originally domesticated as an adornment.” We would argue that her pieces transcend decorative status. The fact that no two beans are ever alike, and therefore no two pieces of her living art ever alike, reflects the impermanence and transient nature of life itself.
Xandra’s story is filled with hope, promise, and connection. She is the ultimate bean believer. In parting, she offered us this advice. “Just trust. Let the bean magic continue.”
It certainly feels like something is at play here beyond what we can see.
See more of Xandra's gorgeous work and her collections by visiting byXan.