By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
BLUFFTON — Jenny Frankart is putting a new shine on old silverware.
The Bluffton woman artistically bends and twists forks, spoons and knives into jewelry under the business name Rustic Bendz.
“It brings back memories for them,” said Frankart. “It’s fun to see the smiles, to hear people’s memories.”
In its latest reincarnation, her art harkens back to the 1960s and ’70s when spoon rings — rings made from the handles of spoons — were all the rage. Frankart, 48, became interested in silverware jewelry when her daughter found a spoon ring among her great-grandmother’s old costume jewelry.
“I remember, like in the ’70s, the spoon rings,” she said. “Grandma and Mom made them. I was like, ‘Those were kind of cool. I’d like to have that again’. Well, that’s what I wanted was a ring, and it just grew.”
Frankart said she found a vendor at a flea market in Tiffin.
“He’s got (silverware) pieces and he makes rings while you wait,” she said. “I had the piece. I had already bought something, and he made a ring for me.”
When she said she was interested in learning the process, the man showed Frankart how he uses a jig to help with the bending.
She started making her own pieces about five years ago. When friends saw her jewelry, they wanted to place orders of their own.
Her first public event was Ada’s Harvest and Herb Festival. She said people there were surprised to see this kind of jewelry again.
“It seemed to go well. And then when I went the next year, people came back and said, ‘Hey, you are here,'” she said.
These days, Frankart calls her jewelry an “obsessive hobby” when she’s not working at Blanchard Valley Hospital. She uses older vintage pieces as well as stainless steel in her designs.
“The older things that have the really pretty patterns are usually silver-plated. It’s a coppery junk metal in the middle and then there’s a really thin silver coat,” she explained. “But what I have most of and what I really like using more is the stainless steel, just what you take out of your dishwasher and eat with dinner every night.”
She prefers the stainless because it doesn’t cause allergic reactions, or scratch or tarnish.
“Plated silver, it tarnishes. They’ll get, like, a gold color to them. They’ll scratch then you get that patina. I like to call it ‘character,'” she said. “Sometimes if you polish them, it actually takes the design and you can’t see it as well. So it’s up to the person if they like to be shiny or if they like that character.”
Frankart finds silverware at garage sales and flea markets and turns it into rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, tie clips and key chains. Some pieces are embellished with beads and pieces of leather. Some have smaller designs further down the handle that Frankart turns into charms.
Power tools are used in the transformation process. Her workshop includes a drill press, bench grinder, smaller Dremel tool and polishing wheels.
“I like making all of it,” she said. “I just argue with some of it. It’s not always what I intended it to be when I start. If it’s done bending or it’s not going to move the way I want it to, I say it creates itself.”
Frankart also does custom work using pieces that may have been a family heirloom.
“If you have some silverware that’s family, people don’t know what to do with it. One person gets it and it goes into a drawer because nobody wants to use it. And you can’t just give a place setting to one person because what good is that? This way it’s more of a neat keepsake,” she said.
Frankart has sold her items at craft shows in Ada, Bluffton and Findlay. Recently she was one of the vendors at the Jones Mansion during ArtWalk, and she has a small display at Boutique 415 in Bluffton. Her jewelry has also been shipped to people across the country and in Canada.
“This has really been fun. I meet all kinds of people. And craft show versus art show, totally different people,” she said. “Crafters are just there to buy things that are unique. And then you have your art people when you go to an art show who discuss and see beyond what I see. It’s just neat.”
Most of all, Frankart wants people to wear her jewelry and enjoy it.
“Sometimes the more expensive pieces, you’re afraid to wear it. But that’s what it’s meant for. It’s meant to be enjoyed. That’s what I want, is for people to enjoy it and have fun,” she said.
Prices range from $7 to $35. For more information, contact Frankart at 419-721-3827 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF