Today we feature one of our favorite jewelry artisans, Wenche Brennbakk. Wenche is from Norway, but amazingly, our paths recently crossed (without my even knowing!) in my home town of Santa Fe. She has a friend named Shannon Schmid (of course I love Shannon's name!!) -- from Orlando. Shannon encouraged Wenche to submit articles to be featured in American magazines; that eventually resulted in published pieces in Bead Style, Stringing Magazine, and Bead Trends. The friends agreed to meet in person -- of all places -- in Santa Fe, New Mexico! Wenche and Shannon had a great time bead shopping, taking classes, and discussing designs and techniques. Which brings me to why we love Wenche's creations --
Wenche's love of beautiful jewelry is apparent! She remembers the very first ring she had as a young girl -- a silver ring with a small purple Amethyst cabochon. Amethyst remains one of her very favorite gemstones, but she loves many other gemstones, as well as freshwater pearls and sterling silver. Her work in this arena began in earnest about six years ago, when she visited a bead shop and bought her first beads. "From that day, I was hooked," she says. She thinks of her design work as 'play', and you can really see the joy apparent in each creation.
In Norway, there is only a limited selection of gemstone beads and sterling silver components. She has to troll the internet for many of the items she needs for her projects. The American web site Limabeads provided a lot of what she was looking for -- and also connected her to Shannon (her beading friend discussed above) as well as Arja Aalto from Finland. Wenche says that being able to discuss work with other artists gives her inspiration, and tells us she is also inspired by good quality natural gemstones -- and most of all -- nice feedback from her customers!
All her designs are one-of-a-kind, and she never duplicates. She enjoys this approach and feels her customers find delight in having the 'only one ever made'. One of her specialties is bold bracelets (the folks at Limabeads have dubbed her 'the bracelet Queen!') and necklaces made of chunky gemstone beads. Another is multistrand bracelets using large sterling silver box clasps with gemstone or vintage glass cabochons. She normally uses stringing as her technique, as well as wire wrapping. Lately, she has made some silver components using silver clay, and she's developing her soldering skills.
Wenche is mostly self-taught, but she also credits Lexi Erickson's class on soldering in Santa Fe (again, at the Bead Fest) with further development of her skills. She had read about Lexi through the Beading Daily newsletter, and saw her beautiful handmade pieces. After learning basic soldering skills in the class, Wenche has continued her practice; her dream is to eventually make rings and bracelets with bezel set gemstones.
She lives in a small town called Mo i Rana in northern Norway, together with her husband and youngest daughter Ida. Her oldest daughter Christine is now a student and has moved away. I was amazed to hear that Wenche's first career choice was Chemical Engineering -- and more amazed to learn that when she's not making jewelry, she works on marketing in a laboratory company -- totally different work!
This international friend is definitely on our most-admired artists list! We hope this snippet about her life and work, as well as a small sampling of her beautiful art -- will inspire you to check out her Etsy shop:
-- and her gorgeous web site: www.wenche-design.com
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy Beads of Passion.