One of a Kind

Metalsmith Mitzy Jonkheer finds inspiration in nature’s uniquities

Mitzy Jonkheer, this year’s designer for the Women to Watch Awards bracelet, makes original, hand-crafted pieces that are often inspired by nature. Jonkheer, who makes her jewelry as well as teaches out of her gallery and studio on Wrightsville Avenue, shares some of the thought behind her work.

From haute couture to vintage retro, women everywhere look for and follow fashion design and jewelry trends. How would you describe your one-of a- kind pieces and where do they fall on the spectrum between trending and authentic?

MITZY JONKHEER: “While I am always aware of current trends, my work is definitely authentic. I think as artists we are always inspired by what is going on around us. Socially, culturally, politically, and environmentally, everything we see and feel is reflected in the work we create. My work is inspired by nature and also by art. A lyric from a song, a line from a book, and the feeling invoked by viewing a painting all inspire the pieces I create. Sometimes, I create a special piece for a client, maybe it has a birthstone or a pebble they found on the beach. It could have the impression of their child’s fingerprint or diamonds from their grandmother’s ring. All of these things are symbolic of a past, a present, and a future – a piece to wear and to treasure. I feel very honored to be the maker.”

Your followers recognize your work on first sight, saying “That’s a Mitzy!” They understand you’re inspired by nature, wherein ephemeral butterfly and dragonfly wings, dried leaves, and feathers drift into your subconscious. How do you translate these iconic imprints into more permanent elements like metals and stones?

JONKHEER: “Magic and pixie dust.”

When did you, where were you, and how did your creativity begin to manifest?

JONKHEER: “It’s in my genes. While my family boasts no famous artists or even people that considered themselves artists, they were rich in art.

I grew up in rural Pender County where quilting and making one’s own clothes was sometimes a necessity as well as an art. My mother and maternal grandmother were masters with a sewing machine. Both women would take a clothing pattern and alter it to make it even more beautiful. I remember my mother making my prom dress from an old Vogue pattern – I still have it!

My mother’s father grew up during the Great Depression so gardening and canning was a way of life for him. He taught me to appreciate nature and all of its gifts. There is definitely an art to gardening.

My father was a machinist by trade, and my childhood is filled with memories of the smell of milled steel and the beautiful yet utilitarian things he made for my mother. He made their wedding bands and as an anniversary gift, a belt buckle out of slices of bullet shells.

When I went away to school, I was on a path to become an English teacher, and after my first semester came home and told my mother I had switched majors and was going to become a metalsmith.

She gave me a photo that I had drawn when I was four and said, ‘I’ve known since you were a child that you were an artist.’ Then, she encouraged me to take some business classes. Wish I had taken her advice!”

What do you do to refill the well if, when it runs dry?

JONKHEER: “It never runs dry. I often wake in the middle of the night with ideas. Often when driving, I have had to pull over on the side of the road to sketch out an idea that has popped into my head. I wish there were more hours in a day. It’s the focusing that I have issues with. My studio is overflowing with pieces in progress.”

At this point in your career, how does WILMA’s invitation to design the 2019 Women to Watch award resonate for you this year?

JONKHEER: “I endeavor to support women in our society and culture and more importantly those in my hometown. I am all about supporting our local community, and I feel honored to have been chosen.”

What sage advice do you have for this year’s nominees and the winners as they advance their careers?

JONKHEER: “Keep being beacons of light for our community! Remember where you began and reach out to those in need and become mentors. Shine bright and remember to follow your dreams.”

The Award:

Each year, WILMA selects a local jewelry artist to design a bracelet that serves as the award for the seven Women to Watch Awards winners. The custom pieces, this year crafted by Mitzy Jonkheer, will be unveiled and presented to the winners at the October 11 awards event.

To view more of photographer Erin Costa’s work, go to

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Categories: Features