Maker Stories

Inspirational Jewelry Artist Kathy Bransfield: Moved by Words Every Day of Her Life

October 6, 2015

Kathy Bransfield | UncommonGoods

When it comes to creating jewelry, Kathy Bransfield can’t stop, won’t stop. “My main drive is the fact that each piece has so many different meanings for its owner,” she says. “Whether it’s a piece with humor, a piece that can be a talisman of inner strength, a reminder of a precious friend or lover or a necklace that brings healing after a loss — this is what touches me the most and keeps my heart on fire.”

Bransfield, who works out of a studio three blocks from her home in Culver City, California — with her husband Eric and mother-in-law Rochelle — shared her off-the-chain story with us in a series of email exchanges.

When did you first know you wanted to be an artist?

As far back as I can remember! I loved to draw and do any type of craft project I could get my hands on. My dad told me I couldn’t refer to myself as an “artist” until I sold something. So when I was about 9 or 10, I would go door-to-door selling handmade Christmas tree ornaments. Later, I had the pleasure of painting alongside the ever so lovely Bob Ross (on his PBS show The Joy of Painting). I sold the oil paintings I did for $50 each — mainly to family, of course. I was 13 years old and felt I had proven dad wrong. Oddly, I still never refer to myself as an artist. Ha!

Nature is so integral to your work — and words, too. Why do you think that is?

As a kid I loved climbing trees so much that I would often sit on a specific high limb like a recliner and eat my lunch. I have always felt more connected to my own soul by being in nature. I’m also an avid scuba diver so a lot of my inspiration comes from under the sea as well as above. Seeing the shapes of the coral and the different types of grasses waving in the water is like being in a dream.

As for language, quotes have helped me through some of the most challenging times in my life. And they continue to aid me on a daily basis to keep things in perspective. They remind me about love, possibility and what’s important in life — how we should never give up on our dreams, never forget that dear loved one and, most importantly, never forget who we are.

KathySpace

What are your most essential tools?

By far, my vintage sets of letter stamps, my heart and my husband, Eric, who runs the business!

Is there a talisman you keep around you when you work?

Mostly, other artists’ work surrounds me in my studio — it reminds me of how much I want to strive to be more profound in my creative process. But I do display one thing I made in 1989 while living in Lake Tahoe. It hangs on the light of my bench and is made from an old pair of pants I had at the time, wooden and glass seed beads, vintage glass beads from the 1800s and amber teardrops. It’s filled with tiny treasures that have held meaning to me over my lifetime. The feather that sticks out represents my loving relationship with my husband.

Where do you typically draw inspiration for your pieces?

The obvious things make the list: hearing my children’s infectious laughter, traveling to beautiful places and engaging with great minds. I’m always trying to absorb the world around me with eyes wide open. I’ve found great quotes everywhere from a bathroom in a bar in Mexico to an inscription on a gravestone and everywhere in between. I love being moved by words every single day of my life.

Do you wear the pieces you make?

Never! I’ll be in conversation with someone that I’ve just met and they’ll ask me what I do. I tell them I make jewelry, and, immediately, they scan my empty neck and ears in confusion!

I'll Be There Necklace | UncommonGoods

Because sayings are so important in your jewelry, is there a quote or mantra that keeps you motivated?

There are probably too many, but I will try to restrain myself:
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” —Oscar Wilde
“Wherever you go… there you are.”  (That’s me running in circles!)
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” —Marianne Williamson

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten on one of your pieces?

Someone came to my booth at an arts and crafts show I did about 15 years ago. She showed me her necklace that she had bought from me years prior. It looked like it had been in a grease fire, and sat on by an elephant. A third of it consisted of her hair wound through it! I immediately offered to take it and clean it. She said absolutely not — she never ever took it off and never would. The story she told me of what it meant to her had me bowled over. She had only stopped by my booth to let me know and say thank you. It helped me to see my work and its meaning for others in a whole new light.

Best yet, Eric and I were up in the wine country in Northern California once. While standing in line to buy champagne, I noticed the couple behind us were wearing the matching Missing Piece Puzzle Necklaces. I awkwardly chatted them up asking where they had bought them. Their answer? UncommonGoods!

kathy1

See the Collection | UncommonGoods

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13 Comments

  • Reply Kathy October 8, 2015 at 12:54 am

    THANK YOU, KELLY!!!
    LOVE IT…
    YOU ROCK!

    MUCH LOVE,
    KATHY

  • Reply Cindi October 11, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Kathy as a person and her work are both inspiration. I have the pleasure of meeting her diving and became long time friends. I proudly wear her Jewerly! She is a artist and amazing human!!!! Love uncommon goods.

  • Reply Lynnie December 8, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    I bought a necklace several years back that has a chain very similar to one of yours. It has been broken and repaired numerous times. Was wondering if I could just order a chain.
    Thanks!

    • Reply Cassie December 10, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      Hi Lynnie, we’re not entirely sure whether Kathy would be able to meet the request, but we’ll certainly get in touch with her to see if it’s a possibility. We’ll need a few more details about which kind of chain you’re looking for. (An image would help too, if you happen to have one handy.) Please send the information to our jewelry buyer, Sharon, at sharon@uncommongoods.com and she will do her best to make it happen.

  • Reply Sarahann December 10, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Is there any way possible to have a longer chain placed on an item?

    • Reply Cassie December 10, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks for your interest in this jewelry, Sarahann! We’d be happy to reach out to Kathy to see if she can accommodate your request. We do sell several of her pieces, so we’ll need a little more information on what exactly you’re looking for before we get in touch. Please email our jewelry buyer, Sharon, at sharon@uncommongoods.com and she’ll do her best to meet your special request.

  • Reply Marcia Hunter February 22, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Dear Kathy,

    I love the “I’ll be there necklace” is there a masculine version that could be worn like a medal or a dog tag? It would be perfect for my husband as a reminder as he fights through a recent cancer diagnosis.

    Idea:This also could be worn with a soldier’s dog tag’s.

    Thank you,

    Marcia

    • Reply Marisa February 24, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      Hello Marcia!
      Thanks for your question. We don’t think of Kathy’s “I’ll Be There” necklace as being masculine or feminine. It could be worn by either a man or a woman. If your husband likes it, great! Thanks for your idea about dog tag necklaces. We’re going to think about that!

  • Reply Nancy Hersman July 2, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Hi Kathy,

    I would like to purchase your “Leave a Trail” Necklace but I have a tight timeline. Would I be able to get it by Wednesday, July 6.

    Thank you!

    • Reply Cassie July 5, 2016 at 10:25 am

      Hi Nancy,

      Sorry about the delayed response, our blog team was off for the 4th of July holiday weekend. For a speedier response to questions like yours, please don’t hesitate to give our customer service team a call at 1.888.365.0056 or email help@uncommongoods.com in the future. They’re available 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends and until midnight on weekdays. (And they’re always excited to hear you’re looking for handmade designs like Kathy’s!)

      To answer your question, yes, we can get this to you by tomorrow. When you place the order, please select the “Express” shipping method. You can learn more about shipping options here:
      https://ugoods.zendesk.com/entries/21418432-Shipping-options-and-costs

      Thanks for your interest in this post and Kathy’s beautiful inspirational jewelry. We hope you love the “Leave a Trail” necklace!

  • Reply Arona Downs January 17, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Might I ask, do you need permission for those that you quote on your beautiful jewelry?

  • Reply Nanette March 5, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Hi Kathy, my husband who is never romantic enough to buy me jewelry, or wear jewelry himself, bought matching puzzle piece necklaces for our 19th wedding anniversary. We will be married 24 yrs in August. I lost my side of the puzzle piece necklace this last December, and feel like I lost something very significant to us. Do you take personal request orders, that I might get my piece of the puzzle replaced? The wording on the pieces of the puzzle was on first piece My miss – Bryon and the second piece was ing Link – Nanette. I lost the My Miss – Bryon

    • Reply Emily G. March 6, 2017 at 10:23 am

      Hi Nanette,

      What a sweet story about your original puzzle piece necklace! So sorry to hear half of it got lost. Unfortunately, Kathy’s necklace isn’t customizable – but you can still shop the un-personalized version here.

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