BB Necklace

All the beautiful blues are on this necklace, made to match the ever-changing Vineyard skies

Martha’s Vineyard is a place you return to. Just ask Brenda Benware. Brenda came to the island in the 1980s from her native Vermont and stayed for several years. She left for a decade but returned in 1999 to raise her four children and has been a permanent resident on the island ever since. While her brood calls her mom, people who know her beautiful, vibrant, and intricate jewelry call her an artist. Brenda’s jewelry making started as something to do while her young children dabbled in arts-crafts. But it was not long before Brenda’s jewelry-making hobby blossomed into a flourishing career. Drawing people to this self-taught jewelry designer’s creations are bespoke pieces featuring vivid stones sourced from across the globe that are set with minimal metal. As Brenda explains, the stones are the focal point.

When asked about her favorite piece of jewelry, Brenda recalls she recently gushed over and complimented a friend on her earrings. Brenda’s friend laughed and reminded Brenda that she had made them. Brenda took time out of her busy schedule to talk with Dressed MV.

” When is the best time to wear jewelry? All the time. Every time you get up, you should wear jewelry.”

Creative Sundays

Sorting through gemstones while making notes and gathering ideas

DMV: What inspires you?
Brenda: Life inspires me and I get ideas from many places. I love color and unique combinations. Sometimes ideas spring up from something I see in nature. Sometimes, I am inspired by a dress someone is wearing. Inspiration comes in many forms and in many places. That is what is so great about inspiration—it surprises and excites you.

DMV: Please describe your design process.
Brenda: I work mainly with wire (14k gold filled wire), pliers, and a vast variety of colored gemstones. I also do a bit of beading, but I prefer wire wrapping. I have what I call my go-to pieces and I can always rely on those pieces when I am searching for creativity. Often, when I am not feeling very creative, that’s when creativity strikes. It might come from a color combination that I just love, and then I am off on a tangent. When I am in that mode, I cannot seem to make the design fast enough. While in the middle of a finishing one design I am already planning the next design in my head and anxious to move on with it.

Wrapped wire jewelry

Gold wire wrapping with pliers is all part of the process


DMV: What sparked your interest in jewelry and design?
Brenda: I have always been a bit crafty. Years ago, someone showed me some basic strings and stones and from there I just expanded. Years ago, someone showed me some basic stringing of beads and for years afterward, I made beaded jewelry that I sold at Claudia in Edgartown. When I had my store in Vermont, I needed to keep busy in between customers and I started making earrings out of gems and sterling silver wire. I have taken some soldering classes, so in the future, you will see some of that added to my work.

DMV: What are the important facets of jewelry design?
Brenda: The most important thing, I believe, is to know your audience. I sell different items in Vermont than I do on the Vineyard.

DMV: Do you rely on social media to help spread the word of your works and how successful is that?
Brenda: I am not very good at promoting myself and my work. That is something I am working on because I am somewhat of a shy person. I have just started telling people that I make the jewelry they buy from me when I am working on the retail floor. So, as I said, I am a work in progress.


Setting up the framework for what will soon become a pair earrings

DMV: Do you consider fashion trends when designing your pieces?
Brenda: I do keep an eye on fashion by watching what people are wearing and try to stay up-to-date on what is trending. For example, large earrings or small, long or wide, etc.

DMV: What fascinates you at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
Brenda: Lately I have been on a knitting binge. That has made me want to try some weaving in my jewelry pieces. I am hoping to explore more with the wire and add more detail.

DMV: What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your jewelry line?
Brenda: If you don’t like it, take it apart and start over.


Seed Bead Earrings

Feeding and wrapping the gold wire through the tiny blue seed beads


DMV: Are you superstitious?
Brenda: Yes, I am superstitious. Maybe that somewhat explains why I love colorful stones. Many stones are said to promote good luck, good health and protect you from bad things. Superstitions promote reassurance.

DMV: Do you have any rules that you live by?
Brenda: Try to be a good person. And if today is a bad day, tomorrow will hopefully be better.

DMV: Where can people find your jewelry?
Brenda: On the Vineyard, my designs can be found at Claudia Jewelry in Vineyard Haven and Edgartown, as well as Driftwood Jewelry in Oak Bluffs. In Vermont, my work is sold at Halladay’s Flowers and Gifts in Bellows Falls.