MiVT: Cathy LaClair Jewelry Designs

SHELBURNE, Vt. (WCAX) For years she's been manipulating metal. The jewelry she creates is creating memories for the people that wear it, and it's Made in Vermont.

Cathy LaClair has been making jewelry full-time for the last seven years, but it really all started 18 years ago when she made strings of pearls for people that stood in her wedding. "That was it. I was hooked on stringing and tying pearls," LaClair said.

A former IBM employee, she took a metal jewelry class while on a trip with her sister. "And I was really, really in for learning how to manipulate metal, how to transform it, how to hammer it and forge it to be in the shape you want," she said.

You won't find power tools here. Cathy makes everything by hand, starting with a block of metal. "It's a blast, honestly," she said.

A blast from her torch melts down the gold, silver, brass or copper. When it comes to making these items, LaClair wanted to hammer home one very important point -- she chose jewelry for its sentimental value. "They remember where they got it from or who gave it to him or was passed down through their family. If I can add just a glimmer of light to their day when they put that on and they're getting ready to go out in the world for the day, then I've done my job," she said.

Cathy LaClair Jewelry Designs has pre-made stock that can be found at trade shows and galleries. Those items can range from $50 to $150 in silver, and four times that in gold. "I also strive to make custom pieces really affordable, as not everyone can afford to have that special unique piece," she said.

LaClair works is an old dairy barn converted into a studio. In fact, 12 artists work out of the building and their big weekend is on Memorial Day. It's an open studio -- 25 artists will display their projects including LaClair's jewelry.

"I'm very very grateful to have been given this opportunity to get off of the corporate track I was on -- which I loved honestly. I really loved and excelled at it -- to be able to do you something this fun all the time," LaClair said.

Making jewelry by hand, so others will have memories that stay close to the heart.