Local jewelers stay true to the Made in Central Oregon theme with handcrafted, wearable works of art.
Here’s just a sampling:
John Voelzow & Rod Kuehnast
Pave Fine Jewelry has created a niche in Bend’s jewelry market by tuning in to local trends, focusing on community involvement and offering a unique “happiness guarantee.” Owner John Voelzow first dabbled in the trade as a teenager. He began drilling and polishing Mexican coins for his neighbor’s beaded jewelry and then began making his own fashion belts made of brass and agates in his 20s. A few years later he started an informal apprenticeship in Tuscon, Arizona.
“Shortly after opening I got the feel that downtown was a very custom oriented jewelry mecca,” Voelzow said. “I have great ideas for design, but my forte is not creating the initial model,” he explained. He reached out to Rod Kuehnast, one of the owners where he worked in Tuscon, and soon Kuehnast joined the Pavé.
Pavé Fine Jewelry’s creative custom designs and repair services are very popular, but so are the lines they carry from other jewelers. Local artist Gabrielle Taylor’s work can be found in the shop along with several other Oregon artists.
Suzy Williamson’s jewelry career began after moving to Alaska in the mid-90s. She had metal experience as a dental technician for seven years and learned the fundamentals of working with metal while creating dental pieces. She specifically became captivated with metalworking and jewelry design after attending a silversmith workshop at the local community college. While hand-crafting each piece Williamson works primarily with silver, but uses gold, copper, brass and has recently began to employ 22kt gold bi-metal to add rich gold accents. She also includes freshwater pearls, garnets, citrine and sapphire.
Bend artist Jennifer Aylward of Just A Little Charm creates shining collections of inspirational copper zipper pulls, necklaces, charms and earrings with an intriguing bit of history behind them.
It’s up-cycled copper cool stuff she hopes to inspire the world by… one zipper at a time. But it was the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that allowed her art to reach out to those affected by the shootings far beyond her imagination, with the simplicity of a bird on a branch, creating a special charm to soothe.
“My sister, Catherine Galda, lives in Sandy Hook and has two little girls, Hannah, 8, and Meghan, 4,” Aylward said. “One of them, Hannah, was just a few classrooms down from where the horrible incident occurred. ”
Aylward’s thought was to create the charms for Hannah’s class so she designed the program after the TOMS Shoes “One For One” movement, which donates a pair of new shoes for every pair bought, effectively doubling every order for free.
“For every charm bought I’ll make two and mail them to Sandy Hook or wherever, that way others could also share in celebration of carrying a token with a positive note to it.”
This tragedy inspired her to start the “From Me to You Project,” recognizing the powerful sentiment of large groups of people carrying the same token as a positive tribute.
Elyse & Steve Douglas
Elyse Douglas has always been a jeweler. From building her rock collection at a young age to watching her father experiment with metals in his workshop, her life has closely followed her passion. The “epiphany” came during a non-credit intro to jewelry making class in college, and her excitement for gems has only grown over the years.Through a number of positions in rock shops, jewelry stores and classes at the Gemological Institute of America, Douglas honed her skills. She attributes most of her learning to on-the-job training: learning wax carving at a shop in Sacramento, sautering work in Petaluma, and “bench” work in Sonoma. Steve Douglas has been a life-long jeweler like Elyse. He developed his expertise starting with a high school class in jewelry metals, a jewelry/arts and crafts education in college and various jobs in jewelry manufacturing. “We opened our business just after 9-11 and were biting our nails constantly wondering if we could make it work.” After two years, the couple decided to transition to St. Clair Place on Minnesota Street in Downtown Bend.
Tiina McDermott of Indiekulture makes jewelry out of recycled bike tires and inner tubes – her feather earrings becoming a recognizable item in the collection. McDermott and a number of other jewelry designers in the Bend area have been getting creative with old or discarded items to give them new life with fun and fashionable results. McDermott started creating her bike-tube jewelry after a friend dropped off a pile of inner tubes, thinking her crafty nature would be able to put them to good use. Using snaps, stamps and old rhinestones, McDermott creates bracelets, cuffs, belts, earrings, necklaces, chokers, rings and more. The old tread from bike and motorcycle tires create burly belts, and she has found ways of fashioning the inner tubes into leaves, feathers, owls and even flowers.
In search of natural beauty to complement her artistic sense, and a place to grow artistically and in the business world, Karen Bandy moved to Bend in 1987 and launched her custom jewelry design business.
Starting in rented space in one corner of a local art gallery, Bandy introduced “wearable” designs, as she describes them, using design and manufacturing techniques that were seldom seen in Central Oregon prior to her arrival: bezels hold and protect gems, squared-off ring shanks last longer and are more comfortable on the hand. “Perfect for Bend’s active lifestyle,” she believed, and customers apparently agreed. Exclusive worldwide sources provided colored gems also new to the region. Bandy introduced tourmaline, brought drusy, chalcedonies, champagne diamonds, boulder opals and fossilized walrus ivory to the region’s attention in stunning, architectural or sculptural designs.
“Bendites were very receptive” to her forward-thinking style, Bandy said, and of her vision and a uniquely collaborative design process. She spends hours with a client, looking at hand shape or body type, asking about lifestyle, tastes and preferences. Preliminary drawings are shared, three-dimensional wax models are carved by Karen. Gemstone and metal choices are explored. The right goldsmith for each project is selected from a roster of the West’s finest craftsmen.
“No one metal worker is right for every project. Each has specialized skills that must be utilized only when the project is right,” she explained.
See November 20, 2013 Cascade Business News for a complete list of these and other local jewelers.