Written and interviewed by Chelsea Tanis
Newago, Michigan Jeweler
From drawing to crafting, sewing, crochet, and now jewelry making, Grant, MI artist Barb Loe has been a handworker all her life. It’s in her blood: her mother was a sewist, selling thousands of aprons worldwide, and her grandfather a rockhound turned stonecutter and jewelry maker. It wasn’t until retirement, however, that Loe’s craft shifted to the forefront of her life.
“I’ve always been around sewing and crafting, but it wasn’t until I retired and had raised kids that I was able to really get into it,” says Loe, “Everything before that was just ‘survive.’ But then it was my time.”
Loe recalls that after retirement 9 years ago, her husband Joe (also a City Center artist), approached her and said, “You want a hobby? I can build you a workshop.”
“I’d worked two full time jobs for 20 years and he thought I might like to do something fun for a change,” says Loe.
She began to pursue jewelry making, and took a class at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts. Her mother then gave her a cabinet that had belonged to grandfather, filled with drawers upon drawers of gemstones, rocks, and minerals–slabs of tiger eye, crazy lace agate, and petoskey.
Because of my grandfather’s background, I found I like to use natural stones and gems as opposed to plastic beads,” says Loe, “I have thousands of rocks–piles in my greenhouse, jars of them on the floors in my hallway. Aquamarine, ruby, garnet are some of my favorites.”
Apart from the beads themselves, Loe takes inspiration from a variety of sources, occasionally pausing her television to capture a photo of a color scheme, shape, or design. She’s been inspired by people, the solar system, and even candy.
In the future, Loe hopes to return to her sewing roots and by creating quilted works of functional art.