Handmade: Jewelry artist turns heads with her designs
“Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself” — Coco Chanel (the late French fashion designer and businesswoman who died in 1971).
Jewelry artist Beth North of Birmingham is a strong believer of those thought-provoking words because she feels, “A lot of people follow trends too much, and should pick and choose what works for them and express their individuality.”
North, 49, is successful at using her jewelry-making skills to create wearable art that allows her customers to think outside the (jewelry) box when selecting body ornamentation. Her pieces — rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and more — are very fashion forward and designed for confident individuals who aren’t afraid to try on a unique and head-turning look. She sells her work under the name Beth North Designs.
“I usually work in sterling silver. I oxidize it to make it darker, and I usually sand it so it has a satin or matte finish in the grooves to give it depth,” explained the metalsmith artist. “I make every piece by hand, so every piece is different. I think that makes it edgy. I (also) use pearls and stones, and I put a lot of words on pieces because I like to inspire people.”
North, who’s been making jewelry for roughly 22 years, developed her skills after taking a pottery class during her senior year at Albion College. “I went to school for business, and then my senior year, I took a pottery class for fun and developed my love for art. I started out in pottery and printmaking and kind of found jewelry making at the end, and realized working with metal was kind of my favorite thing.” She later sharpened her skills with classes at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center (BBAC), and was then able to teach others at a store in Birmingham — the Norman A. Thomas Co.
She works out of a studio in the basement of her home, and gets inspiration and design ideas from practically “everything.” She said, “I like nature and clothes, and I think I bring my creativity to everything I do — I hope.”
North creates pieces for models promoting different makes of vehicles at the North American International Auto Show. Shari Barnett of Productions Plus-The Talent Shop said, “We’re always looking for something unique and individual, and because Beth’s pieces are handcrafted, they bring character and authenticity to each automotive brand.”
However, North considers her greatest achievement as a jewelry maker to be the feeling she gets whenever she gives away pieces as random acts of kindness. “I’ve done a lot of pieces that I’ve given to people — maybe someone who’s fighting cancer, and it’s the gift of them telling me it gave them strength to fight!”
North’s work is available at both Voila Boutique locations (18226 Mack, Grosse Pointe Farms, and 395 Hamilton Row, Birmingham) and Artisan Bench (307 W. Main, Brighton). She also does the Birmingham Art Fair in the spring, and sells pieces at BBAC. She said, “Soon, I’m going to be opening an online store (bethnorth.com). The website is open, I just don’t have the online store. I’m working on it right now.”
She has many return customers who have become like “family,” ranging in age from 20 to 80-something. Some are a little less daring when purchasing their first piece(s), but once they start getting compliments, they’re willing to take the look a step further. North said, comments from customers have included things like, “Oh, I wore this to an event and I felt so confident,” or “I paired this with that, and I felt so alive!”
Her pieces start at less than $50 each. “I have a really big range — $48 for earrings and necklaces all the way up to thousands, but my main range is probably $100-$300. I like that anybody can buy a piece,” she remarked.
North often receives offers from companies wanting to mass-produce her pieces, but she’s turned them down because she considers herself both a full-time mom (of two daughters, ages 14 and 11) and jewelry artist. She prefers to continue making each item by hand so that her “fingerprint is on every piece.”
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Beth North Designs at bethnorth.com. Email: email@example.com.