Debbie Croft: Historic Mariposa building offers homemade glass jewelry and more

October 12, 2012 

DEBBIE CROFT

At work in her studio, Becky Caraco fuses rods of glass into beads, buttons and cabinet knobs. Old typewriter keys get full makeovers as unique fashion accessories. Scrabble tiles and dominoes become one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Some folks like to call it wearable art.

Caraco began her artistic pursuits with pottery. When she melted glass in her pottery kiln, her creativity took a new direction. That was more than 10 years ago.

Attending a bead-making class introduced challenges she still enjoys today.

Her tiny glass creations come in a variety of shapes. Ladybugs and bumble bees are only 10-20 millimeters in size. Miniature woodland flowers and purple irises decorate pins or become pendants to dangle on earrings or neck chains.

Little cone shapes with layers of white, yellow and orange become "candy corn" earrings. Decorative buttons feature colored swirls, wavy ruffles, appliqued flowers and abstract designs in bold shades or earth tones. They're found in knitting shops across the country.

Not only does she do all her own flame work, she strings, wraps and crimps metal wire using sterling and fine silver. Sometimes she stamps the metal with words. Purchased charms or gemstones designed by a friend add visual interest.

She uses a propane-and-oxygen torch to get the right kind of flame.

"While constantly keeping the glass warm enough so it won't crack, but not so hot it turns into a blob and falls off," she explains. The glass is shaped on a mandrel, which is a thin piece of wire coated with clay.

Her favorite part of the process is actually using the pieces to create her jewelry. "I make the beads the way I like, and then design a piece of jewelry around them," Caraco says. "I make it up as I go."

People remark that she creates with such a variety of styles. Looking through her display proves she isn't limited by any particular genre.

Caraco has participated in the Sierra Art Trails for six years.

"It's a wonderful event that gets you off the beaten track," she says. "And it's inspiring to see how and where others do their creating."

She plans to participate in shows later this year in Mariposa and Yosemite National Park. Her Web site is: www.beckysglass.com.

Currently, Caraco's jewelry is displayed at Artifacts in Oakhurst and will soon be at the new Mariposa County Arts Council Gallery.

Her designs are at the Mariposa Marketplace, in downtown Mariposa. Housed in the historic Trabucco building, there are 30 shops under one roof covering 4,000 square feet of retail space.

Craftsmen, artisans and vendors take turns running the day-to-day operation-- one day a month. Not only does this keep costs down, it gives customers an opportunity to meet the personalities behind the products.

John Trabucco, the building's namesake, preferred ranching and farming over mining, selling produce to many of the small communities in the county. He and his wife, Catherine, had the building constructed in 1896. They lived in a house behind the store for over three decades.

Today, one step inside the shop feels like a thousand steps back in time. Ceiling tiles, the iron staircase, steel shutters and Mormon Bar granite walls (1-foot thick) are original to this treasured structure. The windows were salvaged from a nearby Chinese store. Interior stonework on walls was done by local masons using rock from the surrounding area.

The Marketplace has been referred to as a bounty of fascinations. Many items displayed on the two floors are handcrafted by local artisans who are known for their custom work. Hours of operation, location and contact information, and other details are available at: MariposaMarketplace.net.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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