Art of the Unique 

It’s the little things that pull an outfit together. And these three local artists are doing it with attention to the handcrafted details.

click to enlarge Andrea Gleason, creator of Helena Noelle, works with brides to create custom pieces for those who might want to be “a little different” on their wedding day.

Scott Elmquist

Andrea Gleason, creator of Helena Noelle, works with brides to create custom pieces for those who might want to be “a little different” on their wedding day.

Keeper Leather Co. by Steven Yates
Etsy.com/shop/keeperleatherco

Steven Yates’ line of leather goods began with the desire to have a long-lasting belt, he says: “I got tired of going to Macy’s and getting a belt every year.”

Yates bought a strip of leather and buckle, and soon was crafting a wallet for himself as well. His continuing interest led to leather gifts for friends and family, and before Yates knew it, he’d created a line of wallets, key lanyards, belts, car fobs and business-card holders.

“What I want to do is create affordable, high-quality wallets,” Yates says. “I want them to last, maybe longer than the owners themselves.”

From a space behind Studio Two Three, Yates creates simple products with few embellishments, sold for approximately $100.

“Everything is handmade, no machines used,” Yates says. “Everything is sewn by hand, cut by hand, dyed by hand — everything.”

For the most part, Yates sells his works at local markets, including Curio, which he helped create.

His work is evident if you look at his hands, because all this leatherwork has yielded a curious side effect, he says: “My fingers are calloused at this point where I could probably stick my finger with a needle and it wouldn’t bleed.”

Helena Noelle by Andrea Gleason
Helenanoelle.com

Andrea Gleason’s start in making fashion accessories was personal — her wedding.

Born into an artistic family, Gleason had only dabbled in art before crafting bespoke wedding accessories. While she made occasional pieces at the request of friends and family, word of her work quickly spread, and she started Helena Noelle.

Gleason works closely with each bride to create custom pieces, and usually gives sneak peeks of the accessory while it’s being constructed at her small shop in Manchester. Her focus is “brides that want to be a little different, or stay true to who they are on their wedding day and don’t always wear all white.”
Gleason uses Swarovski crystals to fashion her unique and glamorous pieces, which sell in an approximate range of $55-$625.

“All the pieces are one of a kind,” Gleason says. “We customize headpieces and belts and wedding dresses to make it unique to them.”

Though Gleason’s accessories are sold in two stores in the United Kingdom, most of her work is available through Etsy or commissioned by email.

Native Nest by Samantha Heyl
Available at Yesterday’s Heroes Vintage and Nativenest.com.

It was at Virginia Beach last summer that Samantha Heyl hit the jackpot. Walking along the sand, she came across a collection of dead horseshoe crabs.

She incorporates such found objects into her jewelry, and her current line focuses on nature. These objects — often bones — undergo a lost-wax casting to create pieces in sterling silver and bronze. Heyl works from her home studio on Strawberry Street in the Fan, with the casting performed by a company in New York.

“I’ve been obsessed with bones since I was a kid,” says Heyl, who’s an interior designer by trade. “These are all found objects, so nothing is harmed in the making of these.”

Walking through the woods, it’s often her dog who finds the bones she uses in her jewelry, and a recent piece had her cutting off the front of a baby possum skull to make rings out of the nose and teeth. Her jewelry, which sells for $65 to $135, includes necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings, and she also specializes in vintage reproduction work.

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