In an era of mass-produced goods, jewelry making is evidence to the enduring value of craftsmanship and individuality. More than an accessory, each piece reflects the artist’s dedication, passion, and skill. Within the 068, we have many talented craftspeople masterfully creating wearable works of art.
Beads, tools, and more
Andie Schoellkopf began her journey in jewelry making as a customer at the original Sugarbeads when it was located in Copps Hill Plaza. She began working there part-time, moved up to manager and eventually bought the store and moved it to Main Street, renaming it Zoe & Co Sugarbeads. The store is literally a treasure trove of anything you would need to create the jewelry piece of your dreams.
“I curated and edited our beads and selected the best of the best. We now offer the finest selection of gemstone beads, precious metals, handmade glass, and everything in between,” says Schoellkopf, who runs Sugarbeads with her son Jason. They also sell tools and any findings you might need – clasps, wires, jump rings, and chains. “We supply beads and materials for serious jewelry makers as well as beginners,” she says.
For those interested in learning jewelry making, Sugarbeads offers parties and private lessons for a variety of skill sets such as basic beading and wire wrapping. “Some people come in and are completely overwhelmed, so we are here to guide you with a one-on-one lesson,” says Schoellkopf.
They also offer table time which allows customers to reserve a table for themselves or a small group to make their own jewelry with assistance.
If you’re looking to purchase a special gift, Sugarbeads carries jewelry made by local artisans as well as clothing and gifts. “If you can’t find the jewelry piece that you’re looking for in our store, we can make it for you,” says Jason.
Laura Verses is a familiar face in the 068, having worked at Craig’s Fine Jewelry in Ridgefield for more than two decades. After graduating with a degree in apparel marketing, she went to her first jewelry show. “I fell in love with the global, diverse history and culture of jewelry making,” Verses says. “I knew it was my calling.”
Verses started her own business, fiveandninedesigns.com, which specializes in redesign and helps people re-purpose heirlooms long forgotten in drawers. She tells the story of a woman who came to her with a few of her great grandmother’s pieces. “They were heavy and gaudy, not things that would get a lot of wear,” Verses says. “I helped her design something modern and fresh for her daughter’s 16th birthday. I think it’s so special that this young woman has a part of her history she can wear every day in a contemporary new piece.”
Another client came to Verses with round diamond studs, wanting to create an engagement ring. The problem: his girlfriend had her heart set on an oval ring. Verses sketched a solution using his heirloom diamond in an oval silhouette, and then her manufacturing team took over. They put Verses’ sketch into computer-aided design, created a 3D mock-up and wax replica for the client to review, poured the metal, set the stones, polished the ring, and delivered it to the happy client. (By the way, the girlfriend said yes!)
Creating art … and community
When it comes to jewelry making, there are those who stumble on the craft and those for whom it is a lifelong passion. Lessley Burke, Founder of Guilded Lynx in Ridgefield, falls into the latter category. Though she had not done metalwork since childhood, her love for jewelry making was reignited during Wilton High School’s continuing education classes. As Burke immersed herself in the craft, she quickly realized she had not forgotten her childhood skills – or passion.
In opening Guilded Lynx, Burke wanted a space not only for jewelry making, but also for community. Her studio is a place where individuals can learn about themselves, explore their creativity, and find support in jewelry making. “I’ve never had anyone not succeed – everyone walks away learning something about the craft and themselves,” she says.
From metal sawing to enameling, Burke’s expertise covers a wide spectrum. She specializes in working with high carat gold and enamel, setting her apart from many other artisans who primarily work with silver. But what truly excites her is problem-solving. “I am never happy if I know what I am doing,” says Burke. “There are so many ways to engineer a solution. It starts with an idea – a design concept, doodles on the back of an envelope – and then we move it into something three-dimensional, ensuring each piece is not only aesthetically pleasing but also durable enough to withstand everyday wear.”
Seven years ago, Burke needed open heart surgery. While she came through with flying colors, it left a shake in her hand. She didn’t know if she could still produce jewelry and decided to enter the prestigious Saul Bell Design competition. The focus of creating the piece overrode the shake – and it never came back!
The art of jewelry making is more than just precious gemstones and mixed metals. It’s about crafting a work of art that has an emotional significance for both the artist and the wearer.