Janet Wilkinson never dreamed that she’d have her very own design featured in the fall 2008 edition of a popular beading publication, Stringing Magazine, but then again, she never realized that she was so good at making jewelry until a few years ago. The Salem resident, whose handcrafted gemstone work is on sale at local boutiques like Millie’s and at Art on a Mission in Tanglewood Mall, discovered her knack for making beautiful things at a party at Beads Indeed downtown.”I just knew how to do it,” Wilkinson said. “I just knew how to make jewelry – maybe I was just good at it because I hung out in the garage with my dad.” It seems contradictory at first, but many of the tools used in the crafting of jewelry are the very same tools used for household and vehicle projects. She grew up in Craig County, and her father was a former marine and a firefighter there.
While her friends were struggling and flustered with the steps from the instructor, Wilkinson had nearly completed her necklace with a silver bali bead as its centerpiece. And her skills have only blossomed since then. She started picking up magazines from craft and beading stores and trying the designs in them. It wasn’t long before her talent produced elegant pieces worth selling.
“For the price of something that is not made of semiprecious metals and gems at the mall, I can make it with quality material,” said Wilkinson. She picks up a great deal of her raw material at the Salem Gem and Mineral show when it comes to the Salem Civic Center.
“I make everything out of quality materials so that people who are very sensitive to it don’t have the issue,” because Wilkinson is sensitive to certain metals in earrings, too.
While most of the jewelry that she makes is one-of-a-kind (especially everything that’s on sale at Millie’s), she has two “lines” of jewelry that she makes now: “Too cool for school” and a breast cancer research themed line. The first of the two features gemstone jewelry that come in various school colors: Roanoke College, Salem High, Glenvar High, Virginia Tech, UVA, and others.
Wilkinson also repairs and revamps jewelry for folks – “Most people will just cram it to the back of their drawer because it’s broken and it ends up being a waste of money,” she said. Her idea for revamping people’s existing jewelry came to her when a friend brought her some inherited items that had sentimental value.
“I ended up making these vintage coral buttons into earrings,” she said of the seemingly unusable items that had once belonged to her friend’s grandmother. “I ended up going through her whole collection, and she gave me the liberty to redesign it.”
Her aspirations are, once her three- and six-year-old sons are grown, to fully develop her jewelry creations as a full-time business. But for right now, she’s “a mom, first and foremost,” with a keen ability to create beautiful jewelry. You can see more photos of her jewelry at www.beedesignjewelry.com.