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Nature inspires unique jewelry creations

Rebecca Paquette, owner of BNOX Jewelry in Pepin, Wis., shapes a piece of metal that will become one of her unique jewelry pieces. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

PEPIN, Wis. — When Rebecca Paquette Johnson goes for a walk in her neighborhood, she's interested in more than just fresh air and exercise.

She's looking for a small branch, a tiny seed, a new blossom that might be the key to a unique piece of jewelry.

"I look at the fine, minute details in the flora," she said. "Sometimes it's very fleeting. I want to find the bud when it is just the right size."

When something catches her eye, she pauses "to figure it out. Why did that make me stop and look? I try to dissect the beauty."

To illustrate her careful selections, she held up a bracelet with a curved section cast from a twig. She pointed to the details along the sides.

"The veins in the branch would be hard to duplicate, but Mother Nature does it so well," she noted. "If this were just round wire, it would be boring."

Creating the jewelry is part of the process for Johnson, but she also enjoys the moment of showing it to an interested customer.

"With my art, I look closely at nature," she said. "I love bringing that to the attention of people. It's art in the smallest detail, and it is what many people walk right past."

As the owner of BNOX Jewelry for 23 years, Johnson, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, ran it as a consignment retail store near the Harbor View cafe close to the marina in Pepin. She worked with 75 to 150 artists.

She liked the location because "people came to Harbor View to eat an artistic meal, then they came to look at the jewelry. They were happy. They were the perfect customers."

However, it didn't leave much time for her own jewelry work or time with her family, so she recently moved her studio into the lower level of her home at 108 Cedar St. in Pepin.

Judy Knose, of Wabasha, has been a friend of Johnson for 27 years. Knose has traveled extensively to such places as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and elsewhere to sell "beautiful and majestic" stones to designer artists and jewelers.

"I especially like to work with stones that are unusual," she said, "not run-of-the-mill. When you take that stone and build something around it, it comes from the heart."

Knose said that buying jewelry allows people to take home a piece of a place they have visited.

"Jewelry is often about celebrating moments," Johnson added. "Who knew that jewelry was such a happy field of art to be in?"

Johnson and Knose are looking forward to the Fresh Art Tour June 1-3, featuring 13 locations in western Wisconsin. Visitors can stop by artists' studios and see them at work, talk with them, and buy their works. More information on the Fresh Art Tour is available at

Joining Johnson and Knose at BNOX Studio during the Fresh Art Tour will be Lori Braun, Margaret Dittrich, Mary Opatz Herges, and Monica Hansmeyer.

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

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