The Meet Your Maker series started with a simple goal: to inform our customers, fans, blog readers, and social media followers about the people who make our jewelry. This element of human connection adds value to our pieces that cannot be quantified in terms of dollars. For me, even as a lifelong supporter of indie makers, this didn't really hit home until shortly after I worked here. I decided, as I often do when it comes to jewelry, that I could no longer live without an Arkadiko necklace of my own. A few days later, I watched Alyssa make it and hand it off to me to purchase. That necklace was made for me and I know the hands that did the intricate work to bring it to life. We want you to always feel that connection to us. When your order arrives, how cool is it to be able to know the names and faces of the team who made it? Pretty dang cool, if you ask me and I hope that you've enjoyed getting to know our production team. Who more appropriate to wrap up this series than the head maker herself? If you've read anything about Betsy, met her, or are lucky enough to consider her a friend, you know that she's refreshingly approachable, genuine, and isn't afraid to bring her patented sassy brand of humor to nearly any situation around here. Aside from her glowing personality traits, I wanted to ask her questions that shed light on her maker life, the part of her that started this whole business six years ago and continues to be a huge part of her role as Boss Lady.
Hometown: Roanoke, VA
Star Sign: Virgo
I've been making jewelry for: 9 years
Before I was a Maker at b&i I was: Teaching theatre, performing, and working for another jewelry maker, unsure of what my next move would be. I had a serious sit down with myself in 2008 and after considering a few options, decided that I was going to throw myself into jewelry making. I had a crazy month holed up in a tiny studio, making a ton of jewelry. When I showed those first collections to my retail friends in town and got such positive feedback, I knew there was no turning back. And since then, it's been full speed ahead!!
Betsy talking with a customer at her workbench after moving in our building, circa 2011.
Describe your path to becoming a maker in an ice cream flavor & why: Coffee & Bourbon from Salt & Straw. It's taken healthy amounts of both of those things to keep this maker train a' chugging! But really, it's made in Portland (like my jewelry), depends on quality ingredients just like I do and takes a team to assemble.
Favorite b&i piece to make: I could make the Catenary Ring necklace all day and never get bored. It was a joy to dream up, exhilarating to struggle through the first prototype, and like hanging out with an old friend when I go to make it now. It's simple, made up of so many different materials old and new. It's one of those full well-rounded designs, challenging and beautiful all at once.
L to R: Betsy helps QC // painting Voyage collection pieces in the new space before moving in // Making Jalisco necklaces while Gingham kept watch.
You've shifted from making all of the betsy & iya jewelry to primarily designing. Was that transition difficult for you at first? Yes! It still is, to be honest. But we have such an incredible maker team who've made giving up some of the control much easier. The best part is that I still have my hands in all parts of the process. Literally.
What inspires your designs? Life!! Broad answer, I know, but I'm inspired by so much in the day-to-day. Texture, color, music. Definitely travel. Culture. Learning about other people's creative processes. Portland.
L to R: Betsy puts the finishing touches on a Gotland necklace // Her new workbench! // Sketching for a custom project
Favorite b&i Piece to Wear: I've been so into the Voyage Collection earrings lately! Alameda Hoops, Bahusia hoops, Dalarna hoops. And rarely a day goes by without my Puebla & Sonora rings on my right hand. I would also still have the first Dalia bangle (in the Mexico color way) and Uppland bracelet on my left wrist if I hadn't sold them right off of it!)
L to R: Darlana Hoops, Alameda Hoops, Bahusia Hoops, all from Betsy's Voyage Collection
What are some of your favorite tools to work with: It can shift on a weekly basis, but I am currently 100% obsessed with turning my flex shaft (a tool used for virtually everything in jewelry making--filing, carving, polishing, etc) into a wax lathe for spinning out rings. I go nuts for a worn in raw hide mallet and I'm a sucker for "Thor," a nylon head hammer--both used for a variety of reasons like work hardening, forming, shaping, etc. *Watch Betsy use several tools and most importantly, her hands, bending ear wires in this Maker Monday Instagram video*
Do you listen to music while you make? If so, what are some of your fave jams? I am almost always working with music, unless my brain is too tired. Slow Club, Sly and the Family Stone, Dirty Projectors, Led Zeppelin (always), Yellow Ostrich, Prince, Beach House, Janelle Monae, Tune-yards, Little Dragon, Beyonce, Dr. Dog, Tribe Called Quest, Y La Bamba, Beirut, The Generationals... want me to keep going?
Being a maker has taught me: Extreme patience. The belief that anything is possible. No work is too precious. I'm not perfect (I mean, I already knew that). Every time I go to create, I learn I can do something I didn't think I could do the time before. Team work is king. I'm not dumb if I can't figure it out right away (see number 1). Let go of that ego! The work will show me what it wants to be. Love what we do. Ask me again tomorrow and there will be a whole new list.
Are you even more in love with our fearless lady leader? Thought so. My work here is done!
***Song of the Moment: Q.U.E.E.N. by Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu***