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Photo contributed by Randi Vasquez PhotographyLouisa Hurst's designer bracelets can be worn individually or stacked.

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Local jewelry designers getting national recognition

Jonesy Wood was thrilled to see her necklace on a celebrity.

An Instagram photo showed Countess Luann de Lesseps, who stars on "The Real Housewives of New York," talking to actress Helen Mirren while wearing a waist-length leather tassel designed by Wood. Seeing it was "pretty surreal," Wood says.

"She (de Lesseps) saw an acquaintance of mine wearing one and loved it so she contacted me and I sent her one. Now she just loves my stuff. Reba McEntire purchased a few of my necklaces at a store in Nashville and Kelly Ripa was given one by a friend and apparently wore it on her show."

When a celebrity is seen wearing your designs, whether it's jewelry or fashions, it pretty much seals the deal that you're good at what you do, says Wood, who first showed interest in making jewelry when in junior high school at the now-closed Senter School on Holtzclaw Avenue.

"My science teacher wore this beaded necklace to school and I loved it," says Wood, 32. "That weekend I went to the mall and bought a bunch of beads and got to work. I made them for my friends, friends of friends and more."

Wood isn't the only local jewelry designer getting national attention for her designs. Actress Sara Ellis, who starred on USA Network's "White Collar" series, wore pieces from Louisa Hurst's jewelry line, called Louisa Guild Jewelry. Additionally, Hurst's pieces have been sold on One King's Lane, a popular flash-sale home decor website.

Where to buy

* Louisa Hurst’s jewelry is available at Sophie’s on the North Shore, Center Med Spa on the Southside and online at www.louisaguild.com.

* Jonesy Wood’s jewelry is sold locally at Frankie & Julian’s on Frazier Avenue and at www.jonesywood.com.

Her interest in making jewelry was sparked about 18 years ago, says Hurst, 44, who grew up on Lookout Mountain.

"I have always leaned towards design," she says. "I designed and made a Christmas stocking when I was in second grade and I think that is when I fell in love with making things. Jewelry came much later. I redesigned my wedding ring 18 years ago so, if I had to pinpoint a time, it started there."

While celebrities can help expose your talent, marketing it to buyers is a lengthy process, says Wood, who started selling her creations about a decade ago in her now-closed boutique, Jonesy's Upstairs, in East Brainerd. The next step, she says, was taking her jewelry to the biannual local Boutique Warehouse Sale, which has been held in various locations in Chattanooga, where more than 20 local boutiques bring items to sell at substantial markdowns.

"I sold $1,000 worth of earrings, so I knew I was onto something," she says.

Hurst took the social media route to expose her jewelry to the public.

"I first started marketing Louisa Guild Jewelry on my Facebook page and then Instagram," she says. "It's so amazing to have that platform to get my stuff out there. I can put together something and take a picture and get instant feedback. It's great."

While Hurst's degree in interior design has proven worthwhile when making her jewelry, both designers say they are self-taught.

"(My degree) definitely helps in understanding the basics of good design," Hurst says. "I have taken jewelry-intensive workshops where I have learned a lot. But, for the most part, I am self- taught."

"I'm 100 percent self-taught," Wood admits. "I have watched a few YouTube videos, but I'd rather make stuff, screw up, make it again. Trial and error, learn from my own mistakes."

Hurst describes her jewelry as mini-sculptures.

"They have a handmade, elegant look that brings a soulful vibe. I like to think of my jewelry as 'bridge' jewelry. It bridges a simple inexpensive costume piece with pricey gold jewelry," she says.

"My ideas mainly come from nature," Hurst says. "I live on a piece of property and have no neighbors but the frogs, snakes and birds. Nature is an endless source of inspiration.

"Some of my bestselling pieces are my porcupine quill pieces — sounds crazy, I know — and my antler pieces. There are also others that are more classic like the dogwood cross. Recently, one of my bestsellers is the crystal arrowhead necklace. It's pretty awesome."

Wood says she gets inspiration through her many travels, "whether it's seeing something on a girl riding the train, traveling all over the world or being inspired by my three little girls running around in tutus.

"I'm always looking for new art and designs. Even the architecture on a building can make my mind start to spin with ideas," Wood says. "I live for flea markets and antique shops when overseas and that's usually the only time I buy stuff to incorporate in my jewelry designs. Now people know and request for me to buy them things and make them 'one of a kind' pieces when I return from traveling."

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396.

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