Hester Sanford, of Baxter, began making jewelry almost a year ago as a project for herself but says that it has become the envy of everyone who sees her finished items.
"Anytime you make something from scratch and have such beautiful results, I call that a 'homegrown' material," Sanford said. "The pieces that I create, I just could not find in any store."
Sanford said she began making jewelry after she couldn't find anything to wear during the Christmas season last year.
"I could find earrings, but not any type of necklaces and bracelets that matched the season, so I decided I would try my hand at it myself," said Sanford. "I went out and bought all kinds of different colorful beads and pieces that I could string together."
Sanford said the result of her first project was such a success that she decided to make more pieces until she soon found herself creating her own designs and sets for all occasions.
Without any formal training in jewelry-making, Sanford has found several Web sites on the Internet that teach "how-to" segments on the project of creating designs.
"I began watching these little demonstrations, and then I would sit down and just create my own designs and go from there," said Sanford. "Using my own ideas and some ideas from my friends, I have been able to create some very unique pieces of jewelry."
She has termed one of her projects as "bead soup" because of the unique way the product is made.
"I just throw a bunch of different colored and shaped beads into a big bowl, and then I randomly pick up each bead and string it onto the wire or whatever I am using at the moment," Sanford said. "I have created some very interesting pieces using that method."
Another of Sanford's creations that she is proud of is what she has named the "African Net" necklace. The necklace is not only made with beads, but it also requires the use of her sewing techniques.
The necklace is made from pearls and is netted together by sewing the strands together. Sanford said she plans to expand on this project to create a wedding set that would include a larger version for the bride and matching smaller creations for the bridesmaids.
"I also plan to add matching earrings to the set as I go along," said Sanford.
Other projects that Sanford plans to incorporate into her merchandise include prom ensembles as well as bracelets that carry the emblem of the local high schools and the emblem of the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
"I am going to create designs that would carry the emblems of the high schools for basketball, football and cheerleading," Sanford said. I think these pieces would be cherished by the students as well as adults that were into sports at one time."
Sanford, who is also the owner of Hester's Upholstery Shop, said the hobby of jewelry making has been a "godsend" to her since she is no longer able to work with the heavy upholstery that she is famous for around the area.
"After I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, I knew that I could not tug and pull at the heavy stuff involved with upholstery," Sanford said. "I like to keep busy, and I just feel the Lord has replaced my hobby of that with jewelry making."
Sanford said although her husband, Robert, still dabbles in the upholstery business, she is investing all her free time into her jewelry products.
"I have found that out of all the endeavors that I have taken on over the years, jewelry-making is my favorite," said Sanford. "It is so easy for me to create these pieces, and I love watching them come together into such beautiful creations."
Sanford said she can be found carrying her jewelry-making bag and tools almost anywhere she goes these days.
"It is so relaxing. Besides working on my projects at home, I usually take my stuff with me to the doctor's office and when I go out of town." She said. "It gives me something to do while I am waiting in the doctor's office or traveling on the road with my husband. I just work on my pieces while he does the driving."
Sanford said she is hoping to have enough pieces of her creations ready to display at the upcoming Festival of the Mountain Masters craft show in November.
"I think this is something that people would love to see," Sanford said.