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Jeweler helping Johnsonville use art as economic development tool

From the Hemingway Observer Article and photo by Dianne Owens

JOHNSONVILLE, S.C. – There’s rolling and patting and molding and texturing and firing. Somewhere in there is drying and polishing and adding findings. That’s all a part of making jewelry, wearable art pieces, that is, and Jackie Stasney of Johnsonville is working hard at getting it down to a fine science. As a child, Stasney picked up gemstones and rocks on family trips. Fast-forward 40 years, after marriage, raising of children, and the pursuing of other ventures, she and her husband, Tom, found themselves back in Johnsonville, helping to care for her aging parents, Norman and Jean Edgeworth.
Fast-forward 10 more years, and she has found out, finally, what she wants to be when she grows up: an artist who makes jewelry.
Her first foray into jewelry making was the wrapping of wire around her “rocks” and then adding the chains from which to wear them. And then creating the same for bracelets.
Stasney said those early pieces were crudely made, and she cringes to think about them. People would ask, however, where she got the jewelry she was wearing, and when they discovered she had made it, they were willing to pay her to make something unique for them.
After seeing she could make and sell those “wrapped rocks,” her most recent career was born.
“I love wearing signature pieces. Big items. And I love making them," she said recently, sitting at a table in the Artisan Outpost in Johnsonville.
Stasney credits Jane Madden with helping her have confidence in her work. Stasney says Madden dragged her “from under a tree,” where she sat at a table selling her wares.
“Working with Jackie has been interesting,” said Madden, a former director of the Art Trail Gallery. “Her passion about the beauty she sees in gemstones is what has driven her. ... In five to 10 years, her work will continue to evolve.”
Stasney wasn’t content with just making and selling her art. She looked around and saw other talented artists in the area, all of whom needed a venue. And there sat the empty former library building on a corner in Johnsonville. She contacted City Hall, and in 2013 the Artisan Outpost opened: a venue, one Saturday each month, that showcases local artists and their work, a place where painting classes are conducted and where this fall kindergarteners will come to explore their creativity.
“I think it’s been good,” Stasney said. “It brings folks into Johnsonville who wouldn’t otherwise come, and they buy other things while they are here.”
At first, she said, many locals came, and she said there are several repeat customers, but now, the majority of visitors to the Outpost are from Conway, Santee, the beach and beyond.
In 2014, Stasney opened her Etsy store, an online shop. From there, she sells her jewelry throughout the world.
“I am and always have been fascinated by the beauty of stones,” she said. “I love to find a vein of color and pick that color up in either my wire or crystals. I have recently discovered metal clay and enjoy making my own pieces. Love of nature and love of color are my passions.”
Since becoming an artist, Stasney has surrounded herself with other like-minded folks.
Her works are on display with the Art Trail in Florence, and she serves on that group’s board. Most recently she was juried as an emerging artist in mixed media with the South Carolina Cotton Trail, showing items in the Black Creek Arts Center in Hartsville.
She is a member of the Lake City Area Arts Guild and takes lessons to hone her skills. She is dabbling now in new media.
Stasney said if she has trouble, she turns to her husband, the engineer. With his ingenuity and help in getting her to think through steps, the designs she sees in her head come to life. She is amazed, really, she said.
A regular on Thursdays at the Lake City Farmers Market, she has been joined throughout this summer by granddaughter Madison, who might be a budding businesswoman.
Madison said she loves trying on the jewelry and setting up the tables for her grandmother. She likes the business side of the jewelry business.
“We (local artists) can’t compete with the mass-produced items,” Stasney said, “but we can offer something unique and wonderful. I’m amazed we (the artists at the Outpost) are still here.”
A piece of jewelry takes approximately three to four days to complete, she said, and she has many items going, all in various stages, all the time.
“I’m late to art,” she said, “But I finally found what I want to do when I grow up ... I’d tell people to find where their passion is and to follow it. Take a course, even if it’s online. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Push.” Image: Jackie Stasney of Johnsonville laughs as granddaughter Madison points at her new favorite piece of jewelry. She likes this one, she said, because it is an eagle wing. The two were manning Stasney's booth at the Lake City Farmers Market.