It’s not uncommon to come across jewelry created by local designers when you’re browsing the jewelry counters around Wichita in boutiques, museum gift shops and farmers markets.
The number of jewelry designers selling their wares seems to be growing. Some take it up first as a hobby, then elevate their pastime to a business. Others decide jewelry design is their passion and take classes to refine their skills.
Retailers choose carefully when deciding whether to buy local work. Valerie Reimers, owner of Lucinda’s, 301 N. Mead, says she is approached often by local designers.
“We have several and do pretty well with their pieces, but it depends on the line, just like anything else,” she said. “But we do like the local designers and our customers like to buy local.”
Here’s a look at four jewelry designers who are selling their wares either locally or online.
Barbara Vogt has been designing jewelry for 35 years. When she took a class at Wichita State University in jewelry design, it was clear she had found her passion.
“I took that class and never quit,” she said.
She has lived in Wichita most of her life except when she lived in an artist’s community in Colorado. Now she teaches two silversmithing classes at City Arts.
“I love working with and texturing the metal. Right now I’m using more copper because silver is so expensive,” she said.
Copper, silver, stone and enamel are used for everything from her “Lolly Dollies” made of silver and stones to colorful enameled pieces.
She has a job at L.J. Pracht to pay the bills but spends evenings and weekends designing and making jewelry.
“I find inspiration everywhere, especially in nature,” she said.
Prices for her jewelry range from $20 to $200.
Her jewelry is sold at Lucinda’s, the Wichita Art Museum, CityArts, the Onion Tree and at the Old Town Farm and Art market.
Krystal Maples agrees with Vogt on the price of metals. “Silver is so expensive right now,” she said. She’s been designing for two years but also has a day job. She’s a patient coordinator at an optometry office.
“I had seen other people designing jewelry and wondered if I could do it,” she said. “I gave it a try and right away I was hooked.”
Henry and Stella Designs was born. Those are the names of her dogs.
Maples says her jewelry is special because it is customized.
Initials, school names, graduation years, birthdays, slogans and even lyrics to favorite songs are just some of what Maples can incorporate into a piece of jewelry.
She’s excited about presenting some of her customized work to a special recipient soon.
“I won tickets to the Josh Groban concert .æ.æ. I get to meet him so I made him these cufflinks with his initials,” she said.
Her prices range from $10 for pieces made from recycled scrabble tiles to silver pieces that sell for up to $80.
She enjoys making charm bracelets for mothers and grandmothers.
“The crystal is the color of the child’s birth stone. I just had a huge Mother’s Day business,” she said.
She adds one to two new pieces to her collection each month.
“I like to offer variety, but I want to keep my jewelry affordable,” she said.
She’s working on getting licensed to use logos from the state universities and will eventually approach some retailers.
To see her collection go to: www.etsy.com/shop/henrystelladesigns.
Dee Dee Alexander and Tameka Newton
Dee Dee Alexander and her daughter Tameka Newton decided to open their own store so they could show off their creations.
“We were selling things online, but Wichitans like to see and touch the merchandise they’re buying,” Alexander said.
Their store, The Queen’s Court, is in Green Elephant Village near Central and Hillside.
Alexander, who lives most of the time in Louisiana, is a jazz singer, but got interested in jewelry-making as a hobby. She had been designing elegant hatbands and expanded to jewelry when customers began asking for matching earrings.
She took some classes and passed on what she learned to her daughter.
“It came easily and we both really love it,” Newton said.
Since her mom is on the road with her singing career, Newton works in the store when she’s not designing or making new pieces for inventory.
Their new bridal line ranges in price from $20 to $229. They also design special pieces for holidays such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.
Newton says the business has grown rapidly and their five-year plan includes opening more stores.