Michigan silversmith Betsy Lehndorff loves to innovate when it comes to jewelry design. A former newspaper design reporter, she relies on her diverse background to create tried-and-true techniques never before offered. For example, as a frequent contributor to Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist, she found a way to torch fire diamonds in PMC. She shared ways to make large-hole beads out of Michigan copper-bearing rock. She soldered together ants out of thin silver wire and casting shot to make earrings.
All of the work is done in her home studio located in a remote part of the Michigan woods called Hubbard Lake. Because of her isolation, she has to rely on her imagination and the internet to come up with ideas and solutions. Then she picks up the phone and interviews experts all over the United States for more answers.
In November 2015, faced with a long Michigan winter, she began to wonder if she could teach herself how to carve pearls. But there was nothing in the internet about technique. So she asked her dentist 25 miles away if he had any ideas. His answers encouraged her. Contrary to conventional wisdom (and 150 years of marketing) cheap, freshwater pearls can be marked, wiped off with alcohol, carved, sanded, rinsed in an Ultrasonic and scrubbed with a tooth brush -- bringing out a new and valuable beauty. Their dust is non-toxic, they are soft, and they can be carved at a jeweler's bench. No need for expensive lapidary equipment.
The result was a popular step-by-step pearl carving article published in the April 2016 issue of Lapidary Journal. She also has been able to sell her pearls for $125 at galleries. Meanwhile, she is teaching students this simple and creative technique in three- to six-hour classes. They complete two to three projects and leave the classroom displaying their finished pieces around their necks.
Says the magazine's senior editor, Helen Driggs, Betsy "has fantastic ideas for follow up projects, has solid contacts throughout the jewelry trade, and is willing to share everything she knows -- one of the most important assets a teacher can have. Do not hesitate to work with Betsy, because she always delivers more than you ask for."