Heather Beck got the bug for working with her hands from her father. After falling in love with the alchemical magic that is metal smithing, Beck launched her own fine jewelry business, Heather Beck Designs.
Along with creating custom pieces of jewelry for her clients, Beck also teaches beginner and advanced metal classes at her studio in Easthampton, Massachusetts.
Producer Dave Fraser shares her story.
Read the full transcript:
Heather Beck, Metalsmith/Educator: The amount of trust that my clients have with me is — it’s incredible.
Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: Working primarily in copper, silver, and gold, metalsmith Heather Beck, spends her days creating high-end custom jewelry, from hand textured collections inspired by the natural world that she loves to explore.
Heather Beck: You can’t even see all of the detail in nature unless you’re like right up on it and I think walking has that magic effect of just being able to take everything in — like having a higher perspective.
Dave Fraser: She says she’s always been good working with her hands, but it was a metal class that she took in college that changed her life.
Heather Beck: My roommate actually had taken a Metals I class her first semester and came home with this, like, oak leaf lamp that shone with like orange light under it. And I’m like, ‘What class was that?’
And so, I was hooked immediately; I took metals the next semester, fell madly in love with it, and then it’s cool that I get to keep doing that for a living because a lot of people go to college for something and then that’s not what they end up doing, but I still really love it a lot.
Dave Fraser: She creates her custom pieces in her workshop, studio number 47 in the Eastworks building in Easthampton.
It’s physical work using pliers, cutters, torches, and hammers — lots of hammers.
Heather Beck: I have more hammers than I know what to do with, but really, I’ve got a hammer problem.
Dave Fraser: The process starts with a lump of jeweler’s wax that she files down into the desired shape, like a sculptor working with stone.
Heather Beck: So, I carve it like an exact replica of what the metal is going to be, and then I’ll mark out what the design is and the size, and then I continue to mark it with my calipers, and also my dividers, and make sure that it’s getting thin in an even way so that I can make sure that the ring is not too heavy when it is in metal — because it might not weigh anything in wax, but once this turns into metal, that would like weigh your whole hand down.
So, I’m melting all of the 14-karat yellow gold in this crucible.
Dave Fraser: A highlight of Beck’s business is something she calls legacy jewelry, made from family heirlooms that are repurposed into new pieces, allowing her clients to carry the memory of their loved ones with them, while also helping to positively contribute to the environment through ethically sourced recycled jewelry.
Heather Beck: To be able to transform jewelry that has already been mined, it’s already up here, it’s on this level of the planet.
We’re not impacting the Earth in a negative way. We’re reusing what is already up here.
So, impact-wise, with like my carbon footprint, it feels really good to be able to do this work.
Dave Fraser: Beck is also an educator and has been teaching metalsmithing and jewelry making since 2006 at various craft schools around the East Coast.
Heather Beck: To watch my students, either at library workshops or even in here when I do the wedding band classes, just, like, watching people’s growth edge really blossom is just such a joy.
Dave Fraser: Whatever story brings someone to Heather Beck’s studio, she feels honored to listen to it, and be part of manifesting the next chapter of their lives.
Heather Beck: It’s pretty cool to watch my work be in the world.
On most days if I go out into Easthampton and I bump into a friend — I’ve made a lot of friends’ wedding bands, and I just get to see the jewelry around, and they’re wearing it every day, and, like, for someone to wear something I made them every day is like, it’s incredible.
I can’t even describe the feeling. It’s — it’s otherworldly.