A jewel in the Valley teaches craft to children

Bobbie Blakely

Local jeweler Bobbi Blakely has been adding value to the Illinois Valley since 1989, both with her faith and her metalsmithing skills. She grew up in a suburb outside Chicago and after receiving a Bachelor of Art in central Illinois she worked as a jeweler and a designer in a retail jewelry store for over four years.
Next, Blakely attended the University of Washington in Seattle where she received her Master of Fine Arts degree. Seattle appealed to her and she stayed 10 years, becoming a blacksmithing apprentice, and teaching jewelry and metalsmithing in several places before moving on.
“I fell in love with the west coast but returned to the Chicago area after a summer of teaching at a fine arts school for girls in Massachusetts. In 1989 I had an opportunity to travel back to the northwest. One of the possible destinations was Cave Junction. It was a very good choice and I have been blessed with many friends here,” said Blakely.
In 2004 she started the jewelry and metalsmithing program at Rogue Community College. “I started with continuing education classes and expanded into fully accredited classes. I retired from teaching at RCC in 2011 to focus on my own jewelry business. ”
Wanting to share the deeper aspects of her craft, she began inviting young adults into her studio to create promise rings or “HonoRings.”
“Together we create a reminder in the form of a ring to honor God, parents, and self,” said Blakely, adding, “This is the type of one-on-one jewelry instruction that I have been doing. It really is more about relationships. I love young people and admire their creative hearts and minds. I have the privilege of sharing life with them, loving them, and receiving more than I can ever give. Recently I have been thinking a lot about sharing my jewelry and metalsmithing experiences and skills. I love problem solving and assisting others in expanding they’re creative skills and confidence.
“Two of my favorite parts about teaching are problem solving and assisting people in overcoming their fears. When people use a tool like a torch for the first time it seems scary and impossible to them. It brings me great joy to walk with them over that threshold and see them flourish. Being a natural problem solver leads me to explore new techniques and unusual ways of creating the ordinary, like hiding the clasp in the pendant; it appears one way at first glance but has a surprise once you look closer. Kind of like people—once we take the time to get to know each other we discover the beauty and value within. I like to create pieces that have significance to the wearer and that give them an opportunity to share the hope that is in them,” explained Blakely.
When speaking about what she loved the most about her work she said, “As a jewelry designer I create pieces of jewelry that represent specific events or experiences that change the course of our lives. I think of these defining moments as milestones. I consider myself a ‘metalsmith-wordsmith.’”
A smith is someone who skillfully crafts what they are passionate about into an object of beauty. “I am passionate about the Word of God, precious metal, and the tools I use to transform them into something beautiful. The tools I use give me the ability to permanently transform materials without damaging their integrity, ”said Blakely.
According to Blakely, precious metal is malleable, shiny and forgiving, and these are the same characteristics of the ones who follow Jesus.
“Metal is the perfect material to express words that move mountains, calm storms, wipe away tears and gird us up to face another day. Words encourage and remind us of deep truths and of who we are.
In conclusion, Blakely said, “I transform words into jewelry because jewelry is beautiful and compact. What better way to remain mindful of the things that God has revealed or demonstrated in our lives than to wear a beautiful piece of jewelry.”
You can view pieces of Blakely’s work at https://www.bobbieblakely.com.