400 Winslow Way East, #120
Bainbridge Island
Washington 98110
206 780-9500
Hours: Tues-Sat 11-6, Sun Noon-5, Closed on Mondays


Earnest Thomas

Earnest Daniel Thomas was born in Texas and attended Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, Texas where he received the Electrical Engineering degree. Earnest worked for the Boeing Company, Seattle, Washington in various engineering assignments and had the distinction of being the principal engineer responsible for the first ever Boeing aircraft noise certification effort. His Boeing career also included leadership positions in Human Relations and Program Management.

Earnest has a strong interest in art and architecture and has satisfied this interest by collecting ethnic art from across the world. The vast majority of his collection, however, comes from the continent of Africa. His interest in old African trade beads and a challenge from his wife inspired him to start designing and making jewelry utilizing the old trade beads, an activity he continues to date. Earnest combines his engineering, industrial design and natural artistic sense, with the experience gained from designing jewelry, to create his 2D and 3D paintings. His works show passion and have both industrial and sculptural flair. He typically uses texture, color and shadow to play together in his images. His artwork ranges from organic to modern architectural in nature while utilizing a mixture of materials repurposed from our society of surplus.

Earnest is also president of Onyx Fine Arts Collective and manager of Gallery Onyx in the heart of downtown Seattle. Both are non-profit organizations whose mission, in part, is to challenge the perception of “black art” by showcasing visual artwork of artists of African ancestry created in a wide variety of mediums and featuring subjects which represent a wide spectra of the Afrocentric experience. Onyx seeks to add to the rich cultural diverse landscape of the Pacific Northwest by celebrating commonalities and differences through visual art.

Here are a few words from Earnest describing his jewelry-making:

My fascination with African trade beads started over twenty years ago after learning of the significance beads played in the transaction of business between Europe and Africa. In Africa, for example, beads were used to trade for valuable resources such as gold, ivory, animal hides, metal and even slaves. My objective is to incorporate the beads in a manner which renders them wearable art. Most designs are one of a kind. Some beads utilized in my designs have been dated to the 1500s, while typical beads utilized date from the 1800s to early 1900s. The beads have a texture (patina) which is only available through previous use. This texture tends to soften each necklace and give each a desired aged appearance.

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