PEPIN - BNOX Jewelry Studio in Pepin is Site number 9 on this spring’s Fresh Art Tour, a self-guided tour to thirteen studios and galleries of Lake Pepin and the Chippewa River Valley of Western Wisconsin. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 1,2,3,
For many who make Lake Pepin a summer destination, the little art gallery on the waterfront had always been a fixture. The comfortable space known as BNOX Gold & Iron welcomed visitors for over 22 years.
Part of the appeal of BNOX Gold & Iron was the personal nature of a small gallery in an intimate setting. Nearly as soon as it opened in 1993 representing 12 artists, patrons learned not to be surprised when a stray kitten strolled through the open front door, or when an employee found it necessary to bring a struggling baby lamb to work with her. That human touch combined with a beautifully curated space let people know that they had indeed found a special place to experience captivating art and to meet a new friend.
“Designing and collaborating with other artists was a great deal of fun”, said jewelry designer and gallery owner, Rebecca Paquette. “It was a joy and an inspiration to have that amazing variety of artworks pass through my hands at the gallery, but the best part was getting to know the artists and clients personally.”
With a knowing smile she continued, “I originally had my workbench in the front of that store,” only to realize that the complicated work stages of jewelry design called for a more isolated workspace. I eventually had to move my workbench to the back.” Her busy studio was growing. At one point in the store’s history, Rebecca’s gallery represented nearly 150 artists.
That need for a quiet workspace became a recurring theme for Paquette, but it came as a surprise to many of its patrons, when in 2015, BNOX Gold & Iron closed its doors and seemingly vanished.
Actually, BNOX never left Pepin. Rebecca had a vision, and made plans to transition to a home studio and showroom. Construction took two years, and produced small mountains of old foundation stone that Rebecca tirelessly turned into beautiful terraced gardens. The new space blends perfectly into its surroundings and appears as though it has always been a part of the 19th century home that Rebecca shares with her family.
“This home studio has been a gift for my family and for me. I do miss my customers, but I find myself feeling quite sure that my hands were made to create. The lapsing hours of inventing, and processing concepts from beginning to end with the final product in hand is satisfying. Proudly showing that same piece to a visitor gives me a feeling of true gratification. There is nothing else I am more certain of.”
An intense appreciation of place has inspired Paquette’s most recent jewelry designs. From strolls through her gardens and down the village streets of Pepin, Rebecca has gathered spring’s tiny delicate branch tips and autumn’s textured seed pods, and has cast them into sterling silver. Her hope is that you will notice their intricate textures in her work and understand the significance of changing seasons and new beginnings.
BNOX Jewelry Studio, a private studio featuring the work of Rebecca Paquette and other designers, is open by appointment, with occasional open house hours announced via Facebook. Describing her first open house in the fall of 2017 and surprise visits by loyal customers, Rebecca said, “I met their children in the shop, and now I am meeting their grandchildren! It feels so good to be a part of those family traditions.” Ah, there it is again, that human touch. Welcome back, BNOX!
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Rebecca offered this little teaser about the name of her business: “BNOX was a term of endearment that my husband’s grandparents, Burton and Erma (Newcomb) Smith, used to sign off with in love letters to each other. They even painted it on their canoe when they eloped in Menomonie and paddled down the Red Cedar River. The meaning behind the term, however, remains a mystery to this day.”
BNOX is open 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. daily. You can find more artist information and an interactive map at freshart.org.