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For at least three thousand years, people have been adorning their bodies with decorative articles made from rare and beautiful metals, stones, and other riches. Today, perhaps more than ever, jewelry can be an expression of one’s sense of self, in visual, tactile, three-dimensional form.
The Wood River Valley is home to a number of artists involved in the process of making jewelry available for others to wear and enjoy. Several of these locals have chosen to stay actively involved on every level—designing, crafting, and finding buyers—some, through their own retail store. All of these talented jewelry artists bring a unique story, and a particular talent, to their trade.
Christina Healy’s jewelry reflects a blend of the two worlds of her childhood: the cosmopolitan sophistication of time spent in Los Angeles, and the strong work ethic she learned in her grandfather’s Greek restaurant in Pocatello. Evocative of the determination and independence she saw in the immigrant women who mentored her, Healy’s designs feel like solid, sturdy “comfort jewelry”; yet, in a nod to L.A., each piece is imbued with a beauty that makes its wearer feel like a celebrity.
Healy is involved in every step of the crafting of her one-of-a-kind and limited-edition pieces, but turns to other jewelers to fabricate designs for her more affordable collections. A self-denoted “part artist and part mad scientist,” she has just patented and trademarked Etruscan Vermeil, a gold-plating process perfected over the past six years.
Healy says that turning her hobby into a business was the hardest thing she has ever done, and attributes at least part of her success to a group of influential women who taught her how to be a good businesswoman. As a way of “paying forward” the kindness and support shown her by these women, some of whom are still clients thirty-one years later, Healy mentors other women jewelry makers in the area.
Michele Black spent last winter designing jewelry in the Arizona desert north of Sonora, Mexico, camped miles away from another person. Using a gasoline-powered generator to run her tools, and working in a tiny camper that had been gutted and converted into a studio and living area, Black found that her jewelry making thrived in an isolated environment devoid of external influences. Extensive solitary time allowed for experimentation with new processes and ideas: the invention of a magnetic clasp that effectively withstands the weight of larger pieces, for instance. She also moved into uncharted areas in her work with high-karat gold, unusual beads, and fine gems.
However, when she discovered her love for metal work, there was no wanderlust. As she says, “It was like coming home: I absolutely love it!”
Kary Kjesbo is another artisan involved in every step of the jewelry-making process. For her, the most rewarding aspect of the jewelry making process is having the chance to create a unique piece, one that perfectly suits a particular person. Before beginning a design, Kjesbo meets with her client and gets to know, and be inspired by, the individual’s personality.
For a client seeking the perfect accessory for a favorite turquoise silk dress, Kjesbo crafted a necklace of crystal and two-tone blue apatite in shades ideally complementing the garment. For another, who wanted to give a loved one a particularly special wedding gift, antique jade was transformed into a unique and stunning necklace. Clients often ask Kjesbo to design and craft new jewelry using favorite family heirlooms such as antique lockets or pendants. Pearls are a constant in her work, and solid 18-karat gold from India is another material this artist loves to use.
Linda Bushell’s beautiful jewelry grew out of a grief only a mother can know. Soon after a car accident claimed the life of her only child, Bushell turned back to the hobby she had loved her entire life. Her need to stay busy and creative—and simply keep going—gradually led her to realize that if you’re passionate about something, you can make a living from it. Her jewelry business had begun.
Working from a studio in her home, Bushell designs and crafts her pieces, keeping her hands on every creation from start to finish. A love of versatility within her jewelry often inspires her to mix favorite materials: handcrafted sterling silver, turquoise, handmade beads from Bali, fine gold, gemstones, and pearls. Bushell marvels that years are required to form a pearl, yet its qualities are a complete surprise until the oyster is finally opened. >>>