More than a String of Pearls

 

Written by Mari Farthing in the August 2013 Issue

Amy Foster

When Amy Foster talks about jewelry, her eyes get as sparkly as the rhinestones that she adores. She’ll show you the pieces she’s made, pointing out the details: a silver heart from a broken clasp, a single earring, a bit of ancient Roman glass. Primarily self-taught, she recently fulfilled a life ambition and learned the art of silver-smithing.

Foster works with many antique items, reclaiming vintage pieces and giving them new life. Where does her inspiration come from? “It kind of talks to me,” Foster admits with a smile, referring to the jewelry she creates. And when she listens, the results are beautiful. Foster doesn’t sweat the perfection. “If the flower wants to be tilted, it can be tilted,” she says with a shrug.

Following a Sparkling Path

NecklaceFoster’s love for jewelry is a long and cultivated affair. “I’ve always been fascinated by rocks. My dad gave me a book of gemstones, a little leather bound volume, given to him by his dad,” explains Foster. Her parents also bought her a Craftsman tool kit. “I still use some of the original tools!” Around the same time, she received a jewelry kit from her grandmother. “I started going to Red Earth, thrift stores and bead stores, developing my style at a young age,” remembers Foster. “I started bead looming jewelry, taking apart vintage necklaces and creating new pieces of jewelry for myself, family and friends.”

Summers spent with her grandmothers gave her an opportunity to cultivate her love for vintage jewelry. “My grandmothers would let me go through their jewelry boxes. I’ve always been fascinated by things that sparkle—I love rhinestones!” Her grandmother also gave her a mustard seed pendant, popular in the 1940s and 50s, based on the Bible verse Matthew 17:20. “Since then, I have been obsessed with the mustard seeds,” Foster sheepishly admits, and indeed, the seeds are featured in many of her finished pieces.

Eventually, curiosity and creativity led Foster to explore many materials, including polymer clay, leather, wire, crystal, bone, feathers and seed beads. “I’ve always made things with my hands, and I started selling jewelry in high school, in the mid-90s,” recalls Foster. It began with handmade clay beads, strung on leather. “I’d make jewelry for my friends.” Then in college, Foster began selling pieces at craft shows.

While in nursing school, Foster’s materials expanded to include precious metals and stones and her local sales expanded through word of mouth among co-workers and friends. She started to place items at boutiques, the home-based craft sales at the hospital where she worked, and took part in festivals. Recently she also began selling items at the Downtown Edmond Arts Festival.

Repurposed Treasures

Foster has that unique ability to see what an item can become, where others miss it. “With a creative mind, you see something and you can see its potential,” she explains. “So where someone might see a ‘onesie’ earring and discard it, I look at the piece and repurpose it into whatever I feel it should be.”

Foster tries not to cut up vintage items that aren’t already broken; rather, she’ll integrate the pieces into other projects—such as collage pieces (necklaces that feature a variety of repurposed chains, beads, findings and charms) or hair jewelry (combs and clips featuring rhinestones and single earrings). The results are stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces.

A Tilted Sort of Balance

BraceletFoster began working on her jewelry full-time after having children. A nurse since 2001, she knew that she would be a stay-at-home mom when she and her husband had children. While pregnant with her first son in 2009, she took her first class in jewelry making. “I have truly found my passion in jewelry making and have now taken six classes,” says Foster. “I am incorporating my own style into the pieces I make.”

A Play-at-Home Mom

Being at home made it easy for her to spend more time working on her jewelry. “If I hadn’t had kids I would probably still be working full-time and wouldn’t have been pushed to work on jewelry full-time,” she muses. “I asked my three-year-old son, ‘What does mommy do?’ and he says ‘You play with jewelry!’” Foster laughs. “I don’t feel like making jewelry is work; it’s just fun and I’ve always done it. So, I’m a play-at-home mom.”

Foster is passionate about what she does, and it shows in her jewelry, which is currently for sale at the Firehouse Arts Center in Norman and through her Etsy shops (ahunterrn.etsy.com and amyfosterjewelry.etsy.com), where she currently has about 500 items up for sale, including reworked vintage pieces, original silver pieces and original vintage items. “My style is not so perfect,” says Foster, referring to a collage piece with a flower that’s set not quite on center.

But as with most things in life, it’s that little imperfection that makes it so beautiful.

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