|The Jewel of Art Central
By Helen K. Beacham
Q: How long have you lived in Summerville, Judy?
JJ: We moved here from Miami, Florida (Homestead AFB) in 1984.
Q: Why'd you choose Summerville?
JJ: We needed to retire from the USAF near a large medical university, as research was continuing on
the origins of our daughter’s disabilities. Dorchester Two schools had wonderful recommendations for
our other child who would be transferring from gifted and advanced programs in Miami. MUSC and the
Tri-County area seemed the perfect choice
Q: I understand you lived in the Far East? How did that happen and how long did you live
JJ: After completing my undergraduate degree in history and sociology, I was eager to see the world. I
was accepted into the American Red Cross overseas program that provided many safe opportunities for
travel (during the Viet Nam era). I accepted a 12-month assignment in Korea which is where I met my
husband Neil, who was on temporary duty with his F-4 Phantom fighter squadron.
At this point, I wanted to extend my Far East assignment since Neil was promptly sent to Viet Nam as an
F-4 pilot. We had this all planned out! I was able to transfer to Clark AFB in the Philippines, as Neil was
in and out of Clark AFB for various training schools, such as Jungle Survival. I continued to hop flights
into Saigon and, once, into the heart of Viet Nam in a C-130 that had to fly in “circles” to dodge ground
Q: What eventually made you start working with stones & jewelry?
JJ: While living in the Far East, which offered many trips to Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, Hong Kong, JJ:
While living in the Far East, which offered many trips to Japan, Okinawa, Taiwan, Hong Kong, exquisite
hand beading, and delicate inlays of Mother of Pearl! I began to wander among, and work with, local
village women who used natural elements to design breathtaking ethnic jewelry. This was the with, local
village women who used natural elements to design breathtaking ethnic jewelry. This was the
After a few years back in the States, I took our two preschool children to live in Ankara, Turkey. Neil was
on an “unaccompanied” NATO assignment, but I felt certain that we could all move there. I had lived
overseas before, but of course on USAF bases. So maybe this tour of duty to Turkey was my real and
final WOW: exposure to more hand-created works of art. All four of us lived in a small Turkish
apartment house, and while Neil was at work for NATO, the Muslim Turkish women with covered heads
and orange palms for Ramadan, took us into their homes, sharing tea (cay) and bread (ekmec) while
performing their exquisite skills....cloth weaving on looms, rugs being hand knotted (some taking up to
five years to hand weave with intricate patterns), stones being hand ground and hand polished for luster
before the gold wiring. (I had seen and studied about "silver" in Thailand while living in the Philippines.)
From Turkey, it was easy travel to Israel, Jordon (Petra), and even Lebanon. Here again, more
BEADING! I was well into my buying of stones, and always prayed that I would not have suitcases “over
weight.” A trip to Russia (then USSR) threw me into an amber-buying frenzy, and I have made two more
additional trips. Amber there is worked with gold.
Q: How long does it take to make the typical necklace?
JJ: The least amount of time has been two days. The longest? Hahaha. Months because I am hard to
please. Sometimes I must walk away from a project for several weeks, and let my eyes “rest.” It is like
putting away a written draft, and seeing it all anew in a week’s time. It's exciting for me to get the “Aha!
This is what it needs!” feeling.
Q: Is there one color that is flattering on every woman?
JJ: Darker skin tones usually look better with jewel tones, and pure white. I think fairer skinned women
can wear almost any color. A tip is to take your necklace with you to your closet, and put it against
various outfits. You will know when it is “off.” Better yet, bring a favorite outfit, shirt, or sweater to the
gallery, and let me show you some options if you feel overwhelmed. Actually, I do this frequently: Bring
home the client's blouse, play with various colors ON it, and then return some color options to the
gallery. The client chooses her favorite stone, and the design is suddenly underway. I do a great deal
of commission work. Often the work involves incorporating an inherited special pin, or medallion.
Jewelry can and should be the perfect finishing touch to any outfit!