In a remote part of Michigan, away from shopping malls, traffic lights and TV, silversmith Betsy Lehndorff has been creating innovative jewelry for nine years. Sterling ants and spiders clamber over necks and ears; they are frequent visitors around her house. Bracken ferns in her yard become patterns for sterling silver bracelets, pendants and earrings. Cedar leaves and cobwebs inspire etched designs set off with gemstones and pearls she carves by hand. And all of it is fresh. So fresh, in fact, it's been a big seller in regional art galleries.
Another reason for her innovations is because, in a remote area, a silversith has to be resourceful. Supplies and instruction are tough to come by. No surprise then that she has gotten help from auto body shops, welders, even her dentist in Alpena. Like one winter, when she wondered if she could teach herself how to carve pearls. He proved to be a valuable resource, because pearls are similar to teeth. Betsy's experiments resulted in a step-by-step article for a national magazine, and she is now teaching at top jewelry schools all over the country.
Innovation and resourcefulness are also family traits going way back and going forward. Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Betsy is one of the youngest granddaughters of Detroit architect Albert Kahn. She is also the daughter of University of Michigan neurosurgery pioneer Edgar Kahn. Her son, college football player Hans Lehndorff, is a 22-year-old energy analyst in Portland, OR.