Third Friday’s featured artist creates jewelry from vintage buttons, old metals
WILKES-BARRE — Helene Elko, has been making jewelry for over 20 years, but calls her newest career path “accidental.”
The 74-year-old Larksville native and Peace Corps alum recalls watching someone make a necklace with buttons on it while attending Pace University in 1988.
“I thought, ‘I could do that,’” Elko said.
This sparked Elko to start making necklaces and bracelets, and she’ll be selling them on Friday during June’s Third Friday event.
Elko’s unique pieces combine antique and vintage buttons with old metals to create one of a kind jewelry pieces. Elko said she gets a lot of inspiration from nature and uses natural color schemes and palettes in her pieces.
The process she uses to make her pieces is called a “two-warp weave,” and Elko first saw the pattern while she was serving with the Peace Corps in India in 1964.
Elko said she approaches her work musically and compared the process to a song.
“When you think about music, you look at balance, harmony and rhythm,” Elko said. She believes each of her pieces needs to have all of the above as well as “some excitement,” and a meaning to the customer.
She admits that even though sometimes she creates something she isn’t fond of, it still connects with a customer, and that’s the purpose of the piece.
The jewelry “has to have some sort of meaning that reaches out to the soul,” Elko said.
Despite not loving every single piece she makes, Elko said she doesn’t make jewelry with the intention of selling it.
“If I make it just because I think I’m going to sell it, it doesn’t work,” Elko said.
She said the greatest compliment she ever received about her work was being told she composes.
“It was a highlight in my life,” Elko said.
To date, Elko has sold more than 2,500 pieces and is appreciative of those who continue to support her work.
“I’m amazed people keep coming back,” she said.
She usually finds her antique materials at auctions, but has made pieces special for customers. Elko said one of her customers asked for a piece to be made with buttons from her father’s dress shirts.
“Her father was in the Army, loved horses, and worked for the post office,” Elko said. She was able to find military and USPS buttons to incorporate into the piece.
“It was a really good experience,” Elko said.
Elko said she will make custom pieces for customers with materials they bring to her.
The process is a meditative process, and she calls her jewelry “mandala jewelry.”
Making the pieces is a meditative process for her and each piece resonates with her audience, she said.
“I want the buyer to experience a certain joy or feeling,” Elko said.
She guarantees her work. If anything happens to a piece, bring it back to her and she will fix it. Out of 2,500 pieces made, she’s only had about 25 come back.
Reach Brigid Edmunds at 570-991-6119.