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Local jewelry artists demonstrate craft, exhibit work

Feb. 09, 2008 @ 11:29 PM

HUNTINGTON -- A shiny array of glass pendants, earrings and pins were on display inside the Downtown Depot on Saturday.

Local jewelry artists Mary Ellen Shank and Leona Mackey explained how they create their dichroic, or fused, glass during a special event at the depot on the 9th Street Plaza. The store is known for its West Virginia handcrafts.

Shank and Mackey shared their artistic process with visitors from noon to 3 p.m.

Shank began making jewelry about two-and-a-half years ago. While she previously focused on painting, she now enjoys making designs in glass. She said the pieces can be layered for a three-dimensional look or engraved, like one pendant of colorful cattails she displayed.

Shank also likes the suspense of pulling the glass from the kiln, as each batch turns out differently.

Mackey, who previously worked in ceramics and stained glass, said she also loves opening the kiln and seeing the product.

Mackey is the retired head of the art department at Huntington High School, and has also been making dichroic jewelry for a couple of years. She spent 35 years teaching and giving her full attention to students, many of whom have gone on to be quite successful.

"When I retired, I said 'It's my turn,' " she said.

Mackey strives for one-of-a-kind pieces that are ready to wear. She uses magnetic catches on many of her necklaces, making it easier for arthritis sufferers like herself to wear jewelry. She also incorporates beads and many sterling silver pieces into her work.

Both Shank and Mackey's jewelry can be purchased at the Downtown Depot and Tamarack. Mackey also has galleries in Hilton Head and Lake Tahoe, and Shank has pieces at Blenko and in a store at Nag's Head in North Carolina.

Saturday's event was part of a series in which West Virginia artisans educate the public and promote their work, according to Carter Seaton, marketing director for Goodwill, which owns the Downtown Depot.

"People are so used to buying a product in a store. They have no idea how it's created," Seaton said.

Marcy Frost came out on Saturday to visit the store for the first time. After just a few minutes inside, she said the place was beautiful and admired the jewelry.

"It's a place to be proud of in Huntington," she said.

Local authors Jim Casto and Bob Withers are scheduled to be present for the next event at the Downtown Depot on Feb. 23 from noon to 3 p.m.

More information about the art or artists is available by e-mailing Shank at Maybloom@aol.com or Mackey at leonaart@comcast.net.