Jewelry glows at Artisans Festival
Photo courtesy of Sarah K. Young
Quality, creativity, and variety are the watchwords of the Vineyard Artisans Festivals, and this is never more true than among the jewelry offerings. The upcoming Labor Day weekend show will feature work by more than a dozen local jewelry makers, each with a unique and personal style.
"I'm so drawn to the ocean, that's where I get a lot of my inspiration," muses Laura Artru of Vineyard Haven, who has made her distinctive jewelry for more than 20 years. Her displays capture the serenity and lightness of a Vineyard beach. Sea glass earrings rest in display bowls of sand as though just washed up by a wave; delicate necklaces and bracelets are interspersed with seashells.
Growing up in California, Ms. Artru settled on the Vineyard in 1980. She worked in Vineyard Haven at Silver and Gold, which later became Claudia. Jewelry-making chores at the store inspired her to fashion some on her own. She now has a home work space and a wampum grinding studio in a backyard shed. She also sells at Claudia and does custom orders.
While wampum and sea glass are mainstays, Ms. Artru also uses many semi-precious stones, crystals, and freshwater pearls. Favorites include Labradorite in a mystical blueish grey-green, and green Peruvian opals. She chooses stones in iridescent seaside colors – blue topaz, aquamarine, turquoise, seaweed green peridot, light amethyst – twines them in earrings, necklaces, and bracelets with sea glass, pearls, and rainbow moonstones. The shapes complement and the colors enliven each other. Much of the work is delicate and airy, but there are striking pieces like a multi-strand necklace of bright green turquoise beads.
"I like the beauty of simplicity," says Ms. Artru. "I like the colors, the substance and shape of the stones."
Ms. Artru says she is as comfortable wearing a breezy wampum bracelet as a classic pearl necklace. Though her work reflects a personal aesthetic, it appeals to a range of customers.
Her unique baby bracelet is adorned with Island-themed charms, wampum, and sea glass. Later, Ms. Artru will add more links and charms, making it a keepsake for many years.
Ms. Artru collects her sea glass and wampum during long beach walks, which she calls "the best part of my job. That's when I get ideas about what I'm going to make."
At just 33, Jamie Rogers of Oak Bluffs has mastered several crafts and is full of energy and innovative ideas. Attributing her artistic flair to creative parents and grandparents, Ms. Rogers began making jewelry soon after graduating from Martha's Vineyard Regional High School in 1997.
In Colorado, she started mining crystals and wrapping them with silver wire to create dramatic pendants. She still seeks off-beat centerpieces for her pendants, including fossils, crystals, agate, chunky turquoise, a dinosaur bone, a coal black meteorite – "anything I can find that's unusual!"
Self-taught, she yearned to learn more and attended an intensive silversmithing course at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina in 2005. Back home she built a silversmithing studio and began selling her jewelry at the Artisans Festivals. After a blacksmithing course at Penland, she began making iron drawer pulls, handles, and fireplace tools, as well as forged iron bracelets and armbands, delicate simple coils that encircle the wrist or upper arm.
A stained glass workshop at Featherstone led to her stained glass earrings, a hit since she began selling the work last year.
Ms. Rogers is always coming up with something new. Recent innovations are leather bracelets – wide, smooth cuffs fastened with magnetic clasps. Her unusual Hand Chains are bracelets connected by a slender chain to a loop around a finger, often mixing copper, brass, gunmetal, and silver.
After more than 20 years of working with beads, Sarah K. Young of Vineyard Sky Bead Design is still entranced by color and the vast variety of beads. Though she says it's practical to have a large inventory of beads to work with, she laughingly admits to being a hoarder.
A native of upstate New York, Ms. Young moved to Martha's Vineyard in 1997. She began stringing beads as a teenager, then studied jewelry-making and flame working — making beads using a torch to melt the glass. Her career was kick-started when she became manager at Beadworks in Harvard Square. She became more educated and experienced, taught classes, wrote for "Bead and Button" magazine, and took buying trips where she also purchased beads for her own collection.
Ms. Young maintains a studio in Vineyard Haven, selling online and at Rainy Day. She finds custom work rewarding and likes creating for a specific person, not an anonymous buyer.
She shows a scrumptious array of delicate earrings and necklaces, often combining beads of various sizes and shapes in several shades of the same color. Emphasizing glass beads, she also incorporates crystal, freshwater pearls, semi-precious stones, and more. She is intrigued with wrapping fine gold-filled or sterling wire into ornate, lacy designs.
Ms. Young says she loves her craft because of its endless possibilities for new designs, thanks to countless materials, colors, shapes, and techniques.
"That fuels me; I know I'm not going to run out of ideas," she says. "Your designs evolve and grow and change. That keeps me interested, and keeps customers interested too."
17th Annual Labor Day Artisans Festival, Friday, Aug. 31, 5:30–8:30 pm; Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, 10 am–5 pm, Grange Hall, West Tisbury. For information, go to vineyardartisans.com.