As manager of popular Haddon Avenue coffee shop Grooveground, jewelry designer Devon Winfree finds herself connected to a variety of art and music. She says the borough nurtures young artists, and provides many opportunities for her to grow her new custom jewelry business, Earthen Treasures.
Collingswood Patch: Tell me about your background in the arts. What was your first love? Drawing, painting, sculpting?
Devon Winfree: I started doing lots of arts classes in high school. I did fine art, sculpture, web design. Then when I went to college I started doing more fine arts like painting and getting into expressive drawing classes and abstract painting.
I went to Monclair State University for one year, and then I did a year at Rowan University, both for art education. But I ended up dropping out after my second year. It just wasn't making me happy. I was depressed there. It just wasn't what I wanted to do.
I dropped out and started painting on my own. I did pretty well with that. Then, last year, I just started making jewelry.
Patch: What's your process of making jewelry?
Winfree: I guess it depends whether I'm doing a commissioned piece or if I have a pendant that I like, sometimes I'll build from there. I'll start with a pendant and kind of see what I have to make to make that pendant look great and stand out.
The necklace I made for my friend Stella [Bonaparte, of Frugal Resale], she designed it herself and I just did what she wanted. She came over and picked through all my stuff and said, “I like this, I like this, I like this,” and so I started like that.
Patch: Tell me about what it's like working at Grooveground. What do you like about it?
Winfree: I love Grooveground. I love working here. It's really fun, especially since I've become manager, 'cause I can do the art on the wall, I book all the music, and I started the handmade section of all the local artists and their crafts. It's really cool to interact with different artists that way through Grooveground. It helps with networking too. So, also with my jewelry, that helps a lot.
Wearing it here, too. When people comment on it I can be like, “Oh, yeah, this is mine! Here's my card, look at my page see if you like anything.”
It's a really good networking place to work and I usually display a couple of my pieces [in the retail space].
Patch: Where do you find your materials for your creations?
Winfree: Outside, a lot. I just walk around! If I see pits, or things falling off of trees or plants I pick them up.
Or I'll make clay beads. I'll take lima beans, even, and drill holes in them to make beads. Acorns. I've taken twigs and drilled holes in sections to make little twig beads. Or bamboo, you just just cut it in sections and it's like a bead. I'll just find rocks sometimes and wrap them [in wire], sea glass...
Patch: I saw your mango pit necklace, tell me about that one!
Winfree: Oh, yeah, for that we just ate mangoes and I saved the pit. Dried it out, sanded it down, laquered it and all that. I'll do that with a lot of stuff.
Patch: Is it important to you use repurposed material, natural materials?
Winfree: Yeah, that's what I try to make my whole “feel.” Reusing things, finding things, or using industrial elements.
Patch: Tell me about how living and working in Collingswood helps you grow your business. Do you feel that this community is especially suited to you?
Winfree: Yes, especially over the last couple of years, the town has definitely exploded with art. Or maybe just working here I've gotten more into the art scene, meeting more artists and getting my work out there. I've been finding shows and festivals just through the town and through other artists.
Between the Second Saturdays and festivals that they have for the arts here, there are just so many options already. I'm able to display my jewelry and get the word out. A lot of local shops offer consignment too.
Since it's not my full-time position to be an artist it's a little hard for me to even keep up with the festivals and everything. So for me right now, everything's good.
Patch: What do you think brings artist to this town?
Winfree: I don't know, maybe because we're so close to Philly and we're a small, hip town right outside of the city. People looking to settle down, but still want the city feel, I guess, just kind of see Collingswood and say, “Ah, that's a nice hip town where I could raise a family.”
Patch: You grew up in Collingswood. How has the borough changed as you've grown up? Is it much different now than when you were a child?
Winfree: It is a lot different. Years ago it seemed like Collingswood was trying to be like Haddonfield, changing all the walkways to brick and getting fancy. But now it's sort of branching off on it's own, becoming more artsy than Haddonfield, it has a different feel.
The art scene is definitely growing. Especially because of Second Saturdays. They're great, when it's warm and you see all of the artists outside, all the bands, everybody set up to sell their stuff on the street. It's just great. And it seems to be getting better and better as time goes on.