There’s not much you can do with a used bullet casing. Many keep them as mementos, toss them in drawers to be forgotten, or discard them on the ground at the gun range. Shanna Rodenberg and Fred Bassett, however, turn spent shells into works of art.
Rodenberg and Bassett are the owners of Bang Bang Ballistic Jewelry and create rings, pendants, bracelets, and other jewelry from ammunition. The business concept originated with Henderson, Kentucky, resident Bassett, who was asked by a friend to craft a memento with a few memorial bullet shells remaining from a 21-gun salute.
“I made her a pair of earrings,” says Bassett. “I made another pair for my wife. People kept asking if I could make them a pair and it just kind of exploded after that.”
He and Rodenberg had known each other for several years before becoming business partners; Bassett played in a band with Rodenberg’s father Carl Rodenberg. When Shanna Rodenberg, an Army National Guard veteran and Evansville native, returned from a tour in Afghanistan in 2005, she began working with Bassett in the armed security industry.
“(After my last deployment) I didn’t really know what to do with myself,” she says. “Fred said, ‘You know we’re kind of creative people, let’s start something. Let’s figure out what we can do.’ It was really his brainchild, but we got things rolling together.”
It has been three years since that conversation and the two never have looked back. Rodenberg says she and Bassett work very well together and the idea of having a creative business just clicked for the two of them. In their studio, they sit across from one another and continually bounce around ideas for new jewelry pieces as they work.
“We’re flying by the seat of our pants trying to do stuff. It’s part of the challenge of it,” says Bassett.
When the duo are not working on new and custom pieces, they are at shows in the Tri-State and nationwide. Their pieces also can be found at Camelot Jewelers, 2178 E. Morgan Ave., and Sweet Bettys Bakery, 5600 E. Virginia St.
Their favorite aspect of their business is working with memorial shells. Rodenberg says she feels Bang Bang is one of the few small businesses that does personalization. Bassett adds it’s a niche of their business they would like to expand more on as they both enjoy giving back.
“It’s a way to honor them continually,” says Rodenberg. “Being a former soldier, I know it’s just precious to all the men or women who are soldiers, firefighters, police officers, or others.”
For Rodenberg, crafting the jewelry also goes beyond being creative. “It’s become my therapy,” she says.
“Every time we give that client something that we have made out of the memorial shells, and we see the look on their face or the tears in their eyes, we both look at each other and say, ‘This is why we do what we do,’” says Bassett.
For more information about Bang Bang Ballistic Jewelry, call 812-431-6647 or 270-957-0054, or visit bangbangballisticjewelry.com.