Firefly Handmade Fall Market Artisan Profile - Black Betty Jewelry Design
It’s fair to say that at Firefly we have some Colorado pride but it was fun to hear Gemma Heam, the owner of Black Betty Jewelry Design, talk about our state’s magnificent beauty. This South African native headed to the Rockies during her many travels for a ski season and fell in love. She never left and selfishly we’re so happy! Her jewelry, hand-crafted with love and care, represents a passionate, open and warm worldview. Each of her collections is built upon a story that celebrates her homeland, her world travels, mother nature and most importantly her customers. To hear how our beautiful Colorado backdrop inspired one of her latest collections made us gaze out our window fondly.
We wanted to learn more about Black Betty and what inspires her work. Read on!
How did you come up with the name Black Betty? Can you describe how this collection differs from her sister brand Black Gold?
We get this question a lot and it’s always fun to answer! Betty is a cute and fun name for a lady (mostly used in South Africa, where we are from) and Black is our favorite color. Black is the mystique, the unknown, the daring. We would love for every Betty to find her Black.
Who is Kristin Weixelbaumer?
Kristin is my dear friend since we were 13 years old and she began Black Betty in South Africa in 2012. I joined her in 2015 to start Black Betty USA. It is super cool, because we have known each other for so long, and love working with one another, feeding off of each other's energy and creative inspirations. It has been a truly amazing experience, and actually brought us closer, which I do not believe many people get to say in a partnership, especially close friendships. I am so grateful, as it has also tied me closer to my home, South Africa.
What inspires your designs?
We are constantly inspired by the beauty of the world around us, and each of our designs has a story behind it. The Onyx collection is inspired by the beautiful and strong geometric patterns of the landscape and fabrics of South Africa. The Shine On Collection is inspired by the power of the glorious sun, her rays and ever changing settings. The Cosmos Collection is where each handcrafted piece is as unknowably complex as the cosmos, yet as beautifully simple as gazing at the night sky. The Snowflower Collection is our homage to our precious Colorado, representing both the gorgeous summer and winter seasons.
How did you get involved in jewelry? Are you a classically trained artist? Why did you choose jewelry as your medium?
I have always been a creator of sorts. I always made my own clothes and my own jewelry and throughout my studies in Business, it was my creative outlet. I would shop around vintage thrift stores in South Africa, selecting interesting shapes and textures of random junk in the back of a store, and from that create my pieces. Jewelry and fashion have always been a passion of mine, I have always believed in the freedom of expressing yourself through your wardrobe. Growing up I always had a dress up bag, and many of my friends were subjected to dress up games when they came for play dates. In fact I still have a dress up box! Jewelry is the ultimate expression, because it also allows me to be able to select beautiful pieces of the earth (gemstones) and bring these ethereal mysteries into a form of expression for people. The most rewarding avenue I have found for my creative expression is tying the earth to pieces of adornment. I get to be a part of life's beautiful events, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and it has been more rewarding than I could ever have imagined.
I understand you originally hail from South Africa. What inspired the move to Colorado?
After my studies at the University of Cape Town in 2003, I had always planned on a year of travel as my 5th year of education. A ski season in Colorado offered the opportunity to travel and earn money, and to finally touch snow! My travels then took me to Europe and Indonesia. At the end of that year I thought I would do one more ski season. I honestly never thought I would live anywhere but beautiful Cape Town, and part of me will always remain there as the ocean in South Africa owns my soul, but the Colorado Rocky Mountains brought me a sense of calm and strength. Slowly the Rockies became my ocean, a place to play and connect with Mother Nature, and so my life became intrinsically enlaced with glorious Colorado, my new home.
What types of materials do you use in your work? Any favorite gemstones right now?
We work predominantly with precious metals such as gold and silver. We have also used gold plated brass when the design requires it for practical purposes. We always use only ethically sourced gemstones, seeking out the most beautiful faceted stones, or rough stones still carrying many of their flaws, as we believe the flaws are as beautiful as the design. I think my favorite gem right now, is London Topaz. I’m enthralled by this gemstone right as it’s extremely dynamic in a superbly simple way. It picks up facets of dark navy, light blues, and greens, all depending on the wearer, their clothes, skin and hair tones. It has been our summer stone inspiration for 2017 for sure!
What is your favorite piece/collection at the moment? Why?
Oh for sure the Colorado Snowflower Collection. It is my design in homage to Colorado, a piece to represent both the gorgeous summer and winter seasons of this magnificent state, similar to the feminine geometry of a snowflake, but very much a Colorado flower too. I finally have a piece to represent my love of my new home.
Could you talk to us more about your Lookbooks? We’re especially intrigued by the coal lookbook. What inspired you to put mud on the model's hands? What stories are important for you to tell?
For lookbooks, films & collabs where we select photographers, models, videographers that work with the story we are trying to tell. When researching models, we try to avoid the typical "pretty" girl to wear the jewels, we want the models we use to have a story, a reason why they work with the collection. For our Coal Collection, Gabi is a beautiful, upcoming South African Artist so we combined her beautiful art as a backdrop, painted her hands black (like coal) which tied in with her art and the idea behind Coal - diamonds first form. We will be revealing our Shine On Lookbook soon where we used 3 unique, bold individuals all 'Shining On’ in their own way. We are beyond excited to share this new work soon!
Why are you proud to be a Firefly Handmade Artisan?
The Firefly Handmade is one of the premier markets in Colorado, and all the artisans that I have seen in the Firefly family are so incredible, I have always aspired to become a part of the Firefly team, and to be given this opportunity to work with more of Colorado's amazing people, and learn more about all of our processes, I could not thank you enough, I am so grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to meet a new community of Colorado!
Black Betty Jewelry Designs joins us on Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17 at Firefly Handmade Fall Market at the Downtown Boulder Fall Fest! Be sure to mark it in your calendar! In the meantime you can connect here: