Finding herself: Artist Beth McElhiney

Enamel over old silver plate. — Photo courtesy of Beth McElhiney

To where from here?

For most of us, change is good. For me, it is essential. Change pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to think creatively and act intuitively. The past five months have brought change in every part of my life.

Many people might see all this as negative. I prefer to look at it as an opportunity to clear the way for the next great adventure.

For the past 30 years I have been a silversmith. But with the high cost of metals and the jewelry industry struggling, I am taking a sabbatical from my craft. (I will only be showing my jewelry once this summer at my booth at the Agricultural Fair in West Tisbury).

Closing my shop, Beth McElhiney Gallery, after having to move to five locations from Edgartown to Vineyard Haven, and then having my rental house of 10 years taken off the rental market, has made it clear how difficult it has become to live on the Island. So, with my brand new titanium knee, I am moving forward to America.

Everyone has been asking me where I am going. My answer is, “I don’t know where I am going, but I will know when I get there.” (I washed ashore on the Vineyard 15 years ago, and knew as soon as I got here that I was not going back to New York City.)

Serendipity and intuition has always played a part in my life.

When I closed my gallery this past March, I found myself left with a showcase of Victorian silver-plated serving pieces. Being a master silversmith, I always admired the detail work and forms of old silver. One night I had a dream — which is how most of my designs emerge — and all of the ornate pieces appeared in wonderful bright colors.

Using my 30-year background working with metals, and my artist intuition, I embarked on a research and development project that resulted in my being able to enamel the old silver-plate in colors: French blue, Chinese red, mint green, black and white. It is a non-toxic process, safe for the environment, that makes these antiques contemporary and useable. The jeweler in me has taken a number of special pieces and adorned them with pearls and stones. The objects are all food-safe, anti-bacterial, and never need polishing. They are displayed at the Friday Antique Show and Sales in The Grange Hall in West Tisbury.

But the end of summer is approaching. My plan is to sell most of my things, including all of the antiques inventory left from the gallery, pack up my Honda Element, get on the ferry, and begin looking for new creative adventures.

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