Etched Argentium sterling silver, art glass, precious gems, chain maille, antique trade beads, worked semiprecious gems – they’re all used by Billings artist to create intricate, handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces of wearable art.
Prices range from earrings for $12 to a necklace of gemstones with matching earrings for $400 to $500. Antique bead pieces can go for even more.
They’re that special something for your special someone this Valentine’s Day. And even if your love should fade, you can be sure that the gift will always be treasured. The following artists were chosen for variety in both media and price. Browse through the following selections:
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Old Fishhawk Jewelry, a joint venture of Colleen and Barry Osgard, came into being when Colleen was going through chemotherapy. Colleen was at an all-time low spiritually and physically. “Barry ordered trade beads from Ebay as well as coin and bead shops on the Internet.
I got a package of beads every day I was on chemo. It became a form of prayer for me.”
“It was a creative thing,” added Barry Osgard. “Something to think about. A reason to get up.”
After Colleen Osgard recovered, they found they were hooked. They now have trade beads from all over the world: French crosses, Dutch Dogons, Hudson Bay beads, Blue Russians, Lewis and Clark, almost all at least 200 years old. They combine antique and ancient beads with the turquoise, carnelian, and lapis lazuli favored by the ancients, using sinew or wire.
When the Osgards began buying beads, a string often cost as little as $40. The same antique beads now sell for $160 or more. Investors are buying them as a hedge against the recession. The price of an Old Fishhawk necklace depends on the rarity of the beads. The Osgards can be reached at 256-7901.
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Cindy Lou Smith of Stillwater Spirits began to make jewelry as a teenager. Later, she learned bead weaving with seed beads and then moved on to crystals strung on leather.
“But now I use only gemstones of the highest quality in color, cut and uniqueness. I love searching for the beads,” she said. Her list of gemstones includes amethyst, peridot, ruby, garnet, and many more. Her own favorite is amethyst.
“I love purple,” she said. All of her pieces are made with sterling silver or 14 karat gold.
Ms. Smith just returned from the national gem show in Tucson. “I guarantee my work, but I’ve only had two necklaces come back in all these years.” She has a stock to choose from right now, or she will do special orders for birthdays and weddings. You can see her work at Billings Fine Art Gallery, Neecee’s, Gainan’s, and Greenleaf’s Jewelers. Or call her at 534-3731.
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For a more durable product, consider Todd Kintz at Silent Armoury. Mr. Kintz has been an artist all his life and has a degree in art from Montana State University Billings. His passion for steel began with his association with the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group that stages Renaissance fairs, jousts and even minor battles.
“After I learned to make the armor patterns, I moved them to jewelry,” he said. He mostly works with stainless steel, but also can do brass, bronze, copper and silver. Styles range from the ultra feminine to chunky and macho.
Prices? Earrings start at $12. Mr. Kintz will custom fit a full suit of armor for around $2,000. Call 696-4263 or log on to silentarmoury.com or Dawson County Arts Unlimited to see more.
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Julie Karnos is a glass blower. She learned her craft by studying with teachers all over the Northwest. “The hardest thing I ever did? Getting over the fear of lighting my torch for the first time,” she said.
Her pendants are lovely and intricately detailed, but she also has a very compassionate sideline: memorial jewelry, also called cremation jewelry — containers to hold a small portion of the ashes of a loved one.
People often have trouble asking her if she’ll make a memorial piece. “They’re always shy about it. I usually say, ‘Yes, I know what you’re talking about,’” she said. She meets with the clients, talks with them about their lost ones, and then designs a special piece, from a tiny vessel with a stopper to a pendant that they can keep close to their heart.
You can view her designs at Billings Fine Art Gallery or call her at (406) 664-3323. Her website is silversagecreations.com.
Gloria Mang also works in glass, but with an entirely different result. She uses clear, opaque and iridescent glass, fusing them together in endless combinations and shapes.
“I do the design and then it’s fired in a kiln,” she said. “Then you put on the findings” in the form of loops, chains and other items. The most expensive glass, called dichroic, shimmers and often has a metallic look.
Her designs are modern and textural, using vibrant, often contrasting colors, sometimes hung on cords rather than chains. Ms. Mang’s wearable art is for a person of sophistication, someone who favors the dramatic and who likes bold colors. Ms. Mang’s work is available at Sandstone Gallery, Second Avenue North.
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Jeanine Winters Deiling weaves and nets beads. “I actually started with love beads,” she said.
Then she married, and life happened. Finally, while living in Anchorage, Alaska, for 19 years, she purchased a pair of earrings from an Athabascan woman and was so enchanted with them that she studied them until she figured out how they had been made.
“After that, I took lessons at the Alaska Bead Co. They brought in internationally known experts.”
She now not only uses commercial beads, she makes her own lampwork beads, hot glass wound around a steel rod called a mandrill.
Her prices range from $5 to $400. Stop in at Sandstone Gallery to see her work.
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“I’m a fourth-generation jeweler,” said Jack Gohn (rhymes with John.) “I’m a watchmaker, gemologist, and I was a diamond sorter and did layout work for a company in Houston for many years.” By layout work, he means that he drew settings and selected the stones.
Mr. Gohn and his wife came to Billings in the late 1970s. “It was the mountains that brought us to Montana,” he said. They opened their own shop, Lee Joyce Designs, at 1901 Broadwater Ave. and were in business for almost two decades.
They’re now retired, but an artist is never really done. Mr. Gohn now works in a new metal, Argentium sterling silver, a patented silver alloy made with Germanium from England that contains a higher percentage of silver than traditional sterling. It’s soft and easy to carve until it’s heated in a kiln, when it becomes hard, durable, and also never needs polishing.
“Everything starts with a drawing,” said Mr. Gohn. His signature cuffs shine brighter than white gold or sterling and come in designs from delicate to heavy and powerful. See all Mr. Gohn’s pieces at Billings Fine Art Gallery at 118 N. Broadway.
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“I started (traditional artwork) at a young age with my aunties who taught me how,” said Susan Stewart, a Crow Indian artist who also studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, Cal. and has a degree in painting and prints from MSU-Bozeman.
Artist Stewart markets beaded jewelry with a modern flavor, as well as the traditional trade beads, all over the United States in partnership with her son-in-law, Dan Loudfoot Simons, a Pequot Indian from Conn.
Her jewelry prices go from $15 for earrings to $45 and up for necklace, with those that use trade beads even higher. In conjunction with the beading, Ms. Stewart makes dolls from brain-tanned buckskin sewn with sinew. The dolls even have real buffalo hair. Her dolls are by commission only and start at about $500. You may contact Ms. Stewart at 208-2410.