RECAP: Making the Cuff—A Workshop with Jewelry Maker Betsy Cross

Hosting a jewelry workshop on Mother’s Day weekend was a great way to bring generations of makers together. A handful of crafty daughters and sons brought their mothers along for a morning of creative community-building with designer Betsy Cross of betsy & iya.

As soon as we opened Tillamook Station’s large yellow garage door, our workshop was buzzing with over 30 attendees, ready to create their own wearable piece of jewelry. After a round of introductions, it was clear the room was full of creatives of all kinds. We had metalsmiths, and also apparel designers. There were sculptors, as well as ceramicists. Everyone was there to make, and also to hear straight from the inspiring Betsy Cross, who started one of Portland’s most successful jewelry brands from the ground up.

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With no real training in jewelry, Betsy chose to devote herself to the artform in 2008. “I am a prime example of the ‘just do it’ mentality,” said Betsy. “I am always forcing myself to learn.” In the early days of betsy & iya, Betsy often worried about how to turn her artistic visions into actually pieces. Once she started meeting with industry experts, they told her to not to let fabrication details get in the way of her creativity. “Design is the hard part,” a caster once told Betsy. “Don’t be afraid of the manufacturing. Focus on the design.”

Today, Betsy is always open to inspiration. For example, one of her lines of cuffs is based on Portland-area bridges, and her latest Unu collection is simply inspired by classic, everyday pieces. As we began to explore ideas for our cuffs, she asked us to dream up a memory of when the world seemed easy. “Perhaps it was when you were out walking and saw flowers on a wall. Or maybe it was climbing Machu Picchu,” said Betsy. “Keep the cuff in mind, but let’s just see what shapes come up.”

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During the rest of the class, we hammered away, turning raw sheets of metal into unique cuffs. Some people stamped letters or Native American symbols into their cuff. Others pounded in texture with just a hammer. In the end, each participant created at least two bracelets and also the courage to indulge in creative adventures and seek out inspiration wherever it may be waiting.

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Check out more photos here. All images by Susie Morris.