Mandy Bartell is a relative newcomer to the art of jewelry design, but from the looks of things she’s got a promising career ahead of her.
She is a student in the Professional Crafts Jewelry program at College of the Albemarle on Roanoke Island, and one of the handcrafted works she displayed in a recent show at the college was a real showstopper.
The brass and sterling silver, hollow-form pendant, which required about 24 hours of labor to create, is an abstracted deer head with antlers forming the necklace. It is hard to imagine that the creative and well-formed piece came from a beginner to the field.
Bartell currently is working as an assistant to Denise Turner, a longtime Outer Banks jewelry designer. You might say that Turner has taken Bartell under her wing and is showing her the ropes. This includes sharing tips on crafting as well as about the business of selling jewelry. Bartell sees a real kinship with Turner as they both are mothers of young children making their way in the same business. While Turner mentors Bartell, Bartell in turn collaborates with Turner as they show and sell their independent works and combine their knowledge to create collective pieces.
Bartell, who worked in marketing before coming to the Outer Banks, has a talent for drawing and decided to test the creative waters before accepting the assistant’s job by taking a jewelry class at COA.
“I really liked it,” she says and speaks volumes on the program’s merits.
“The COA jewelry program is such an important part of our community,” she says. “I have learned how to envision and then create handmade jewelry pieces that I am able to then share with locals and tourists visiting the area. The flexibility of the program has really opened up another career door for me, which I am so grateful for. The program offers the opportunity to be creative, learn a trade and, for many, go on to be a successful jewelry artist.”
Bartell is creating a wide variety of pendants, bracelets and rings. She incorporates enameling as well as piercing and sawing to handcraft visions of mermaids, feathers, geometric designs, hearts and waves; she also revisits her deer motif.
She works in copper when enameling, but she also handcrafts pieces in sterling silver. Works she’s created may end up coupled with some of Turner’s pieces to create a joint composition. “We do a lot of pieces together,” Bartell says.
Bartell cuts out a form in copper and adds texture with a hammer and enamels it, and Turner can couple it with a circular form and a stone to make a dangling necklace. “She knows so much about what people like,” Bartell says.
A Richmond transplant, Bartell, 38, is creating a niche for herself and is starting to sell her own work, too. Up next for the designer is a continuation of her education. She’s signed up for three more classes at COA: Jewelry Design I and II and a class in Forming.
“I’ve always felt like I was artistic,” she says, adding that the move to the Outer Banks offered her more downtime to explore those possibilities.
You can shop for Bartell’s and Turner’s works at Silver Bonsai Gallery in Manteo, Zen & Zip in Duck, Mystic Jewel in Duck and Corolla, and Made in the OBX in Kill Devil Hills and Duck. To learn more about the Professional Crafts: Jewelry program at COA, go to albemarle.edu/programs-classes/credit/programs-of-study/professional-crafts-jewelry.