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Local jewelry artists reveal unique talents, perspectives

By Donna Freckmann Gulf Breeze News

The sky will flash and light up with colors for Fourth of July, but long after that is over, the shine and brightness, bling-bling will continue with the works of three jewelers who live along our Gulf Coast.

Two of the jewelers, Diane Rennie and Meredith Hartsfield are established and learned a lot from their special journey while one of the others, Nancilee Woodyard is young in her career. Yet, they have one shared denominatorthey all love what they do and when they create, it truly is their passion and joy.

Choice of Genre
Diane Rennie considers herself to be a studio jewelry artist. "Basically, I design and fabricate my own line of jewelry using primarily silver and gold."

On occasion she works with other non-ferrous metals, like copper and brass. She says she doesn't have the patience to create more than one of the same thing, she likes the idea that only one person in the world will have that particular piece of jewelry.

Meredith Hartsfield has a different specialty, lampwork beads-glass beads individually hand made, then used as the focal point of her jewelry.

silver and gold wire and components, crystal beads, pearls and glass beads all find their way into her jewelry. Nancilee Woodyard has her own line, Nankaii Jewelry Design. The name is a nickname that was originally derived from the Hawaiian phrase, "nani-kai," which means beautiful ocean. Her focus is on a line of fashion jewelry she calls Nankaii SpiltBeads. This jewelry is made of drilled natural semi-precious stones as well as Swarovski crystals. In each piece the gems are bound with soft, nylon-coated steel, giving the jewelry flexibility and movement. What Was the Attraction? "Jewelry was a natural extension of my fascination with rocks as a young girl. I fell in love with rocks when I found some Lake Superior agates on a trip with my family," explains Rennie. "I was crazy about the warm bands of colors in intricate patterns in these rocks." Not surprisingly, Hartsfield says she was a bead addict since childhood. "I grew up in the Southwest where I fell in love with Navajo and Hopi silver and turquoise jewelry. From that time on I realized that art and jewelry are not exclusive." Joining that same addiction is Woodyard. "I've been an addict since I strung my first bead. The process of creating jewelry is therapeutic for me. Whether I am choosing color combinations for SpiltBeads or rendering an idea for a tightly designed engagement ring, I tend to become unaware of other surroundings." How Goes TheirWork Day? Hartsfield's day is a catch-as-can. "Working a regular job, having a family, home and occasional social life means I work at my beads whenever it's possible. Sometimes inspiration sneaks in when I least expect it, other times I struggle along as best I can. My muse does sometimes appear if nothing scares her off first. Though I do keep a schedule to make sure my deadlines are met, I otherwise invite any pleasantly random turn in my day," says Woodyard. "I try to revolve my day around being creative. I never w o r k when f r u s t r a t e d a n d b r e a k s are more f r e q u e n t than not. Since my studio is in my home, I have to keep a balance between work and life so as to make the best of both. "I embrace the importance of spending time with inspiration," says Woodyard. "I consider it my most important responsibility to 'live life.' My work depends on it." For Diane Rennie, her studio is also in her home. "I love that it's in my home because I can go in there any time of day or night. However, things that need to be done around the house can easily distract me. But even if I don't get much done everyday, I sit in there anyway..., it's my space, it gives me permission to be me and to think creatively." What is the Fun Part for Them? Nancilee Woodyard says the whole creative process is fun. "I love problem solving and it is a big part of jewelry making. The best part is when one idea leads to the next, "snowball effect." She also loves the fact that she doesn't have to be at her drafting table or workbench to start an idea. Diane Rennie enjoys working with her hands and small hand tools. "It is so satisfying to see what I've designed on paper come to life through the work of my hands. And then to see that piece of jewelry find a happy home-now that is the ultimate compliment." Meredith Hartsfield watches the endless variety of effects that glass can produce and finds it entertaining. "After 10 years of beading, I still am amazed and fascinated," she says. "That's where the fun is. Also, the reaction of others to my work, it sounds corny, but that interaction is what makes what I do fun." How do They Market TheirWork? Woodyard is moving toward having a site up and running by the end of August. Until then she enjoys the experience of traveling from show to show exhibiting and selling her work. She sells to gallery and boutique owners and directly to the consumers. She also tries to enter a few professional competitions a year. In 2002 she won the Swarovski Special Award Winner 2002 Saul Bell Design Award. Hartsfield markets her work at shows and is working on a web site. "Marketing my work is probably the hardest thing for me," says Rennie. She has trouble tooting her own horn. But people who know her work have done a great job of passing the word around. "Presently I have some of my jewelry in Blue Morning Gallery on Palafox St." TheirWork in this Article Woodyard is featuring a necklace titled, "Grass." It is from her Spilt-Beads line and made of dyed mother of pearl, Swarovski crystal, peridot sterling and flex steel. It's a pretty bold statement worn close around the neck with the flex steel extending to right above mid-waist. Rennie's husband gave her a triangular shaped diamond this past Christmas and told her to make something for herself. Her piece is a slider with a tiny hinge in the back to clip onto a neckwire or chain. The outer frame is made of 14 kt. white gold. The part that looks like wood grain is an ancient Japanese sword making technique called mokume gane and is made of 14 kt. Palladium white gold and sterling. The diamond bezel is made of 18 kt. Palladium white gold. Hartsfield's photos show an assortment of beads she made using silver foil burned onto the glass, which produces interesting effects and colors. The necklace in the other photo she calls a "Morph." The large center bead is very tactilebig cones stick out of it. The beads on each side show a progression of the original shape. "As I heat the cone bead it changes shape to become round and smooth. Each bead running up from the center shows its progress from one shape to another, the metamorphosis." Advice to Other Beginning Jewelers "Do what you love and other people will love it too," muses Hartsfield. "If you don't feel it's good enough, keep on. You will only get better. The best artists I know never quite feel that their work is good enough, it keeps us honest and forces us to push a little harder, be a little more creative." Rennie advises, "Try to stay focused on what you love doing the most, and if you can, get others to do the things you hate to do." Woodyard concludes, "I say never give up and never let anyone bring you down. Always be humble but never lose confidence. There will always be someone who is better, but remember, there is only one of you."


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