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I stumbled upon Bethany Cooper’s artwork while I was searching Etsy’s local galleries. Bethany’s work is extremely affordable and also very darling. I received so many compliments on my bee earrings and pendant, I had to spread the word about these little gems. Two pieces I’d like to buy next: the red bird and the bunny cameo pendants. Or perhaps the peeking snail. It’s so hard to choose because I truly admire all her work.

When going to purchase gifts this holiday season — or really anytime of the year — remember to think and buy local. Artists, like Bethany, need your support! This weekend, other local artists’ work (including Mrs. Cooper’s) are for sale during the Local Matters event.

Now without further ado, Smile Politely presents Bethany Cooper:

Consumed by: color and texture!

Occupation: I teach Rhetoric part time at UIUC and metal clay classes at GlassFX in Champaign, and I sell pendants and jewelry online, in boutiques and at craft shows.

Age: 37

Hometown: Buena Vista, Va. originally, but I consider Urbana my hometown now.

How did you get into jewelry making/design? I finished up a doctorate in music composition here at the university a while back, and felt pretty disillusioned with that field by the time I was done. I wanted to return to some of the visual arts work I had done before music school sucked up my whole life. (My interests have always been pretty equally divided between music and visual art.) But all my art and craft supplies were in our cold, dark basement studio! My husband suggested that I work on something small so I could bring it upstairs instead, and so I went down and retrieved my little bead collection; within days I was hooked. Playing with the beads naturally led to the desire to make my own beads and jewelry components, and so I quickly moved on to working in polymer clay, metal clay and fused glass.

What would you like to see happen to the art scene in C-U?: Though I don’t have the time or skills to organize it, I would love to see craft shows featuring the recycled, upcycled and altered art crafts of the DIY movement. There are plenty of people in town doing this sort of work, breathing new life into the detritus of consumer culture.

One item in your studio you simply can’t live without: I love my Paragon SC-2 Kiln!

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The most favorite piece you’ve made: These glass and silver pieces are called Eyes of the Forest (see picture to the right).

Is it difficult to see your work go? Obviously, it’s great when it sells. But because they are one-of-a-kind … ?: In some cases it’s quite hard to see it go. When I really love a piece, I’m always torn between keeping it for myself and selling it (so sometimes I have to make two).

Why is Local Matters important for the community?: Buying locally produced goods is increasingly important in all areas of the economy. Mass-produced goods tend to have a higher environmental impact because of the energy used in the industrial and shipping processes. There is also a tremendous added value when the production process isn’t invisible. Whenever I use or wear a handmade item, I can’t help but think of the person who made it, and it means so much more to me.

Another place in town where you like to shop: Butterfly Beads has the highest quality beads in the area, and the owner, Wesley Waters, is very kind and helpful!

Now for a few fill-in the blanks:

Would some great Ethiopian food please come to Champaign-Urbana?

Enough of the sweatpants tucked into Ugg boots in Champaign-Urbana!

Bethany Cooper’s jewelry can be found on Etsy or her website. You can also see her artwork in person at Circles (107 N. Walnut St. in Champaign) this Saturday, Dec. 6, during the Local Matters event.

Photos provided by the artist.