Jeweler Jose Balli of southern Louisiana worked in a metal fabrication shop just out of high school, shaping and welding custom equipment for the oil industry. One day, while waiting for a machine to cut through an enormous pipe, he passed time by carving a tiny alligator from a scrap of soapstone. Coworkers encouraged him to take up art seriously and, thus, began Jose's 27-year career creating Bayou State designs with a naturalistic appeal.
Using an ancient method, Jose carves his intricate pieces with wax that is then converted into metal at his local studio, using sterling silver, bronze and gold. Since the wax mold pattern is destroyed by the transfer, it is known as the "lost wax" method. Many of his much-sought pieces carry Louisiana motifs, such as seafood, alligators and fleurs-de-lis, producing award-winning designs with a southern twist.