Winter Garden residents Jan and Keith Stephens use items such as spoons, forks and knives to create unique jewelry
WINTER GARDEN Rows of glittering bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings cover almost every inch of counter space in Jan Stephens’ studio. The art of creating jewelry is one she’s been deeply involved in for years.
Her specialty is working with wire, and it’s one she has perfected over the years. Every piece she creates requires no glue or additional materials to hold pieces together. Jan weaves wire so the pieces will never come apart - a process that can sometimes take hours or even days to complete.
Until three years ago, her husband, Keith, never expressed an interest in joining her jewelry-making venture. Then he discovered the art of forging metal.
“He was very good at it to start with,” Jan said. “After that, he just took off.”
He’s now mastered the art of folding copper - a process that requires carefully heating and hammering copper sheets to create small folds in the metal.
“It’s almost like metal origami,” Jan said.
For Keith, the process is more about manipulating the metal than creating jewelry.
“I enjoy seeing the metal move,” he said. “The jewelry is the benefit.”
One of Keith’s copper bracelets can take four to six hours to complete depending on how many folds he decides to include.
When making a new piece, Keith said he waits for inspiration to strike.
“You’re just sitting there and something will come to mind,” he said.
Jan’s process is similar as she relies on the gemstones for each piece to guide her inspiration.
“I create each design around the stone to determine the way I think it will look best,” Jan said.
In addition to creating all varieties of jewelry, the couple also teach classes out of their home.
“Once you learn how metal will move, you can use the techniques we teach for more complex projects,” Jan said.
One of the most popular classes involves transforming silverware into jewelry.
The couple delved into silverware jewelry a few years ago and discovered that the process often requires a combination of both of their skill sets.
While Keith hammers designs onto flattened spoons that are then turned into rings, Jan transforms forks into bracelets.
“It was just a natural thing for me to wrap fork tines around stone,” Jan said.
However, getting spoons and forks to bend perfectly into bracelets and rings was no easy task - typically requiring hours of hammering with imperfect results. To solve this problem and avoid hours of hammering, the couple invented a press that allows them to both flatten and bend silverware into the desired shape. Now, a project that would have taken hours only requires a few minutes.
Any pieces that are not used are placed in Jan’s treasure box.
“There’s nothing that goes to waste,” she said.
And she’s almost always on the hunt for more silverware to keep her supply boxes stocked. Flea markets and antique stores are usually the best places to look, she said.
“You have to search all over to find it,” she said. “I’m always searching for silverware.”
But whether its silverware jewelry, Jan’s signature wire work or Keith’s copper bracelets, there’s always one rule by which they abide.
“It’s all handmade,” Keith said.