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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Lisa Vetter, co-founder of The Art Farm in Spencerville, uses objects from nature, such as stones, to craft jewelry like the necklace and earrings she is wearing.

Making jewelry with nature’s beauty

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Vetter’s jewelry shows off stones just the way she finds them along the beach.
Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Vetter hammers a piece of jewelry on an anvil in her studio near Spencerville.
Artist Sue Davis collects things such as fossils for jewelry.
Sue Davis uses pieces of “nature’s art.”

Diamonds and rubies, sapphires and emeralds, aquamarines and tourmalines. They’re all stones pretty enough for jewelry.

But more ordinary stones can be, too – at least in the view of two area artists who use stones they’ve found in nature in their designs.

Also suitable for jewelry: any number of other natural items that have traveled from around the world to local shops aiding the needy abroad.

At the Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s gift shop, Lisa Vetter, a co-founder of The Art Farm in Spencerville, is now showing necklaces combining stones found in Michigan, while Fort Wayne artist Sue Davis has necklaces and earrings using smooth stones she has found along the shores of Lakes Michigan and Superior at The Orchard Gallery in Fort Wayne.

Davis says she thinks of stones as nature’s art. She collects geodes, fossils and other mineral specimens.

“I’m one of those kids who have always picked up rocks, even out of the driveway,” she says. “With the beach stones, I’m always thinking, ‘Where was it, and how did it get here?’

“You know, it’s millions of years old. I’m totally enchanted by these little pieces of nature that break off from somewhere and wash up at my feet.”

Vetter, who usually makes her art from assemblages of man-made found objects, has collected stones for her jewelry from beaches along the west shore of Lake Michigan in Leelanau County at the northwest tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

“It’s a gorgeous area,” she says. “It’s one of my favorite places in the world.”

She drills through the stones and sets them in a bail she makes of sterling silver or copper and suspends the stones on a sterling chain or black rubber cord. Sometimes she includes an etched design or text on the bail.

“My intention is to elevate the beauty and the simplicity of the stones,” she says. “They’re totally just the way I found them on the beach.”

Meanwhile, Creative Women of the World, a one-year-old nonprofit mission that trains women from around the world to operate small businesses and sells their products in a shop at 125 W. Main St., and the Friends of the Third World Shoppe at 611 W. Wayne St. stock jewelry from natural materials.

Marian Waltz, manager of the Third World Shoppe, says the shop offers sacred-themed jewelry carved out of olive wood from the West Bank by Palestinian Christians, and pendants from El Salvador made from split and painted copinal seeds.

Creative Women of the World has jewelry made by HIV-positive women in Kenya using cow bones, and jewelry crafted from water buffalo bones by women in Nepal who have been rescued from abuse.

From The Fortress in Uganda, a home for pregnant teens run by a Ugandan midwife, comes jewelry using seeds and grasses.

Lorelei VerLee of Fort Wayne, Creative Women of the World’s executive director, says the items show the resourcefulness of the women.

“They may not have many supplies, but they use what they have, that is indigenous to them,” she says.