Art always has been Sara Rappee’s passion, whether molding a lump of clay or working with metal. But jewelry making wasn’t exactly in her career plans.
“I decided art was my passion and what I was good at, so even if I was going to be a starving artist, I would make my way through,” says the Evansville native. “But it wasn’t until after I graduated, way after I graduated, that I actually found the path I’m on now.”
The path the University of Southern Indiana graduate has found involves the making of necklace pendants and earrings from polished stone and metal work that she does by hand. Her pieces are so popular, she can barely keep an inventory, even though she works full time on her jewelry.
“My style has developed over the last 10 years and it’s really come into my own,” says Rappee. “A lot of my love and energy is in the pieces. There’s a little part of me because of how special the process is.”
During the early months of the year, Rappee spends her time creating pieces for her limited hearts series, made specifically for Valentine’s Day. She cuts and polishes stones into heart shapes, which are then placed into what she calls basket settings custom-made by Rappee.
“I try to physically make as many as I can to keep up with the demand,” she says. “Every single piece is unique, and that is one of the reasons it’s a very fun series to do.”
The heart pendants are available in January and February and can be found on Rappee’s Facebook page, Handmade Stone and Silver Jewelry.
How did you come into jewelry making?
About five years after graduating from USI, I stumbled across the Lapidary Society here in Evansville, and I was just like anyone else — “What the heck is this?” Well, lapidary is the art of grinding and polishing stones.
They took me in and showed me around one time, and I fell in love with the equipment. I came in the next time they were open and never left. I’m really attached to the stone grinding. It’s fun taking something raw from the earth, getting to shape and manipulate, and bring those colors out.
The jewelry was a natural segue of getting those stones out into the world. The cool thing about it is I’m able to share those pieces and get to work on more. So I don’t have a hoard at home — I make them and then they go along their way and find a new home.
What type of jewelry do you craft the most?
I gravitate toward pendants the most. That’s one of the pieces I prefer wearing. With the pendant, you can switch out the necklaces on them and wear them long or short to go with your own style. They are a lot more versatile for everyone.
I do make bracelets, earrings, and rings, but they are bought so fast I know I need to make myself make more of them because the demand is there.
How long does it usually take you to create a piece?
I get asked that a lot, but I think my best answer is, if I were to sit down and go from start to finish, I could get one done in a day. But my process doesn’t work like that.
I could be grinding stones one day or drawing up the designs and cutting up materials. Or I’ll have a selection of stones and pick out about 10 and then make all the settings for those in one day. I work in stages.
Were you ever nervous about having a career making jewelry?
I was scared and didn’t think I was good enough. One of the reasons I almost did not pursue art was the whole negative “starving artist” perception. It’s such a cruel phrase. It’s very intimidating, and you grow up thinking it is not something you can pursue as a profession.
I’ve learned you just have to do it. People should be happy in life, and we should find those passions and pursue them, damn all the consequences. Put yourself out there and go for it.
Does your inspiration come from the stones?
Definitely. It sounds corny saying it, but it is kind of a “the stone speaks to me” sort of thing. It sounds weird, but there is a connection — the stones are what bring the inspiration.
My style also has developed over the years, and I’ve really come into my own. I’ve started overlapping some curls and swirls in the metal work, and I really like it. I think structurally about my pieces; it’s not all just aesthetics. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make sure it’s a design that works.
Is there a stone you prefer to work with over the others or one that is your favorite?
Personally, I gravitate toward cooler colors, the blues, purples, and greens. It’s evident in my jewelry as well — those colors blend well with the silver work. There are some beautiful earthy ones with good patterns as well.
But if I had to say I could only cut one stone, if I was limited to one stone, I would choose agate, because it is endless. There is every color you could ever imagine, every kind of pattern. There’s a translucency to it so the light can go through them. And it’s hard; agate is a nice hard stone and takes a really nice polish and does well in jewelry.
What process of making your jewelry excites you the most?
Every part of it is rewarding. And it starts off with the stones. I get so excited about the stones and I could talk about that all day long. But it’s the same way with the metal work, too.
That’s what is so unique about handmade artwork, that connection with the artist. There’s a lot of one-on-one talking with customers about the stones and the pieces; trying them on; deciding what works.
There’s an intimacy to buying handmade jewelry, and it’s fun to be part of that with people.
For more information on Sara Rappee, call 812-589-3079 or visit facebook.com/RappeeJewelry.