Adornments for All

The handmade-jewelry renaissance is on full display at Saluda gallery

Jewelry buyer Nancy Barnett manages about 50 contributing artists.
Portrait by Rachel Pressley

Saluda made a name for itself starting in the late 19th century, when trains conquered the daunting rail line — the steepest mainline grade in North America — to deliver visitors to the foothills. Today, the town still traffics in superlatives. Heartwood Contemporary Crafts Gallery is a Main Street emporium that carries work in many mediums, but is distinguished by the bounty of nearly 50 local and national jewelry artists.

Heather Haase’s one-of-a-kind pieces have an “earth mother” feel about them that immediately grabbed Heartwood’s jewelry manager/buyer, Nancy Barnett. “Heather uses beads and unusual gemstones from all over the world,” Barnett says, and her pieces have a corresponding warm, old-world feeling, achieved through Haase’s liberal use of brass instead of bright silver or gold, and beads made from wood, glass, and carved bone. The artist creates a hand-drawn image to accompany every item, where she “describes the provenance of each bead,” according to Barnett. “It’s like getting an additional piece of art, as well as insight into her process.” Haase’s son makes his own eye-catching work, also featuring modern and antique beads from around the globe (India, Tibet, Uzbekistan), under the name Pixie and Corelli.   

Bracelets by Pixie & Corelli are handcrafted in the U.S. with beads sourced from around the globe.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Elizabeth Costigan’s boldly asymmetrical designs require careful planning in order to execute, says Barnett. “She treats the copper in her work to get an incredibly lovely blue-green patina, and uses brass to create a striking contrast,” explains Barnett. 

Fun is the love language of the Found & Feral line, whose boldly energetic pieces are inspired by the brass jewelry the maker saw in Turkey. And this use of brass “ups the line’s affordability,” Barnett points out. “The shapes of the pieces are wonderfully elemental and oversized.”

Fun brass earrings from Found & Feral.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

She declares the work of Richmond-based Austin Titus — including inspired stone choices wrapped in wire — a consistent customer favorite. “These pieces are simultaneously rustic and modern,” says Barnett. “She uses vermeil [gold-plated fine silver] and chooses exquisite stones — labradorite, raw diamonds, and rainbow moonstones, whose opalescence produces a lot of pastel color that changes when the light hits them.”

This series of earrings by Austin Titus is an homage to leaves.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Two of Heartwood’s artists, Veronica Riley Martens and Erica Sturm, incorporate the versatile, sustainably harvested South American tagua nut into their work. “When dried, they’re white, take dye well, and make perfect canvases for jewelry artists,” says Barnett. Sturm mixes Czech glass and sterling to construct colorful circular, rectangular, and demilune-shaped pieces in hues that include flat black, spirited carnelian, and thunder blue. Martens’ bold statement earrings are ’60s-inspired, mod, and appropriately swingy, in hues like canary, gunmetal, and lime green. Another Erica, Erica Stankwytch Bailey of Asheville, uses her stones to make raw, exciting earrings and necklaces that manage to be at once delicate (in a medieval way) and industrial-chic. 

One could assert that handmade jewelry is experiencing a renaissance, and a stroll through Heartwood Contemporary Crafts Gallery would make the argument silver-clad. 

Heartwood Contemporary Crafts Gallery, 21 East Main St., Saluda. For more information, call 828-749-9365 or see 

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