Rocks, relatives and regalia: Neighborhood jewelry maker finds inspiration in family past

By Victoria Petersen

Cleo Anderson has always been told she’s like her great-grandmother Jean. Granny Jean, as she knows her as, has been the key inspiration in Cleo’s new jewelry line Molly & Bella. The line made its trunk show debut last month at The Beauty Room, just down the street from Anderson’s home in Spenard.

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Anderson in front of her jewelry at the Molly & Bella trunk show. Photo courtesy of Cleo Anderson

Inspired by her great-grandmother’s jewelry collection, Cleo channels granny Jean’s style into the pieces she makes for Molly & Bella.

“Lately my inspiration for jewelry is my great-grandma. She had the most amazing jewelry collection ever. I remember as a kid I would go through all her jewelry and I thought it was like heaven,” Anderson said. “She was very glamorous. She liked all the really rich colors.”

After her great-grandmother’s passing in 2013, Anderson inherited granny Jean’s vast jewelry collection.

“I love heirlooms. My great-grandma’s jewelry is some of my most prized possessions,” Anderson said.

Anderson first started making jewelry when her mom taught her as kid. The passion for jewelry making came back to Anderson five years ago after she took a job at Beyond Beads, a local bead store and boutique. At Beyond Beads Cleo sold jewelry and taught jewelry making classes onsite.

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Rocks, stones, gems and precious metals have always been intriguing to Cleo. A fascination that stemmed from visits to granny Jean’s in Spokane, Washington.

“I’ve always really liked rocks. My great-grandma and grandma lived in Spokane, Washington and there was a rock shop down the street and I would beg them to take me,” Anderson said. “Because of her lapis is one of my favorite stones.”

For Cleo, learning about the stones and their historical and cultural background is half the fun in making unique pieces that hold deeper meanings and stories.

“I like using stones that I know have cool historical context. Like the Egyptians used lapis a lot, King Tut’s sarcophagus had a lot of lapis in it,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of fun mythology around rocks. I’ll find a really special stone and then I’ll never use it because it needs to be amazing and it needs to look so good. It needs to be special.”

Molly & Bella features necklaces, earrings, hair pieces, crowns and more. Majority of the pieces feature unique materials like turquoise, lapis, peridot and even coral.

Cleo describes her jewelry preferences as bold and big, but Molly & Bella’s jewelry can cater to the more delicate jewelry lover as well.

“I like really big jewelry, but I’ve been making simpler ones that [granny jean] would have worn, that can be used as heirlooms,” Anderson said.

“I think that jewelry is a very personal thing. Everyone’s style is very different when it comes to jewelry,” Anderson said.

Finding good quality stones and materials that are ethically sourced is a top priority for Anderson.

“I like to get a lot of my materials from the Bead Shack, just down the street. I know the owner is very conscious of ethics,” Anderson said.

Cleo is a receptionist at The Beauty Room where she manages the front desk, works retail and occasionally does makeup application. The Beauty Room, located on Northern Lights Blvd. and Spenard Road is part boutique, part salon. Anderson also runs a small photography business, Cleo Jane Photography.

“Everyone at The Beauty Room is really supportive and really encouraging,” Anderson said.

Molly & Bella jewelry can be found at The Beauty Room and online through Molly & Bella’s Instagram. Custom orders and inquires are welcome by email through mollyandbella.ak@gmail.com

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Cleo wearing one of her handmade crowns. Photo courtesy of Cleo Anderson.

 

 

Born and raised Spenard: Turnagain Mud Co.

By Victoria Petersen

Inspired by her neighborhood of Spenard, Taylor Thompson is using social media and a pair of needles to create fun and functional Alaskan knitwear.

What began as a tool for relaxation in law school, knitting has since grown into a profitable hobby for Taylor. _DSC2310

“I’ve knit for years, and I started doing this in law school to de-stress,” Thompson said.

Growing since 2014, Turnagain Mud Co. sells locally-made knitwear. Hats, gloves and ‘fishy headbands’ are among their most popular selling items. The ‘fishy headbands’ were the first item Taylor sold and was inspired by her love, and Alaskan’s love for fishing

“My future brother in law was on the deadliest catch. He’s a commercial fisherman all year round. When I was in law school I was really broke and I decided I was going to knit everyone something for Christmas because I had no money,” Thompson said.

“I didn’t know what he would like, except for something with fish. So I created a salmon headband. I made one and everyone liked them so I started selling them and it’s evolved from there.”

Since then Taylor has created merchandise for Blue and Gold board shop, dog mushing teams and other local groups and businesses.

Many of Turnagain Mud Co.’s hats come with a real fur “poof” on top, giving the hat Alaskan flair.

“I take scraps from furriers who would otherwise just throw it away. I’m trying to up-cycle,” Thompson said.

Growing up in the same Spenardian neighborhood her dad grew up in, West side is close to Taylor’s heart.

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“I loved growing up in Spenard. It’s so close to everything. If you can’t do it on the West Side then why do it?” Thompson said.

“I would go on runs over by the lagoon, and by runs I mean power walks. I would walk the coastal trail and those are the Turnagain mud flats so it really resonates because it’s here, in my neighborhood,” Thompson said.

Thompson jokes that she wants to become a knitting mogul, creating unique Alaskan designs and eventually producing her own yarn.

“If I could just knit all day it would be super fun. I want to make this my real job eventually,” Thompson said. “I want to get it to the point where I can hire local Alaskans to knit for me.”

Currently Taylor designs, knits and runs her entire business by herself. _DSC2322

Taylor, a recent graduate of law school is working for her dad in the family business. Taylor hopes to help young people, like herself, who want to start up new local businesses.

“I want to help young entrepreneurs start businesses, so get them set-up legally with all their contracts and paperwork and filing of LLC’s and stuff like that,” Thompson said.

Custom orders and inquires can be made through Turnagain Mud Co.’s Instagram, Etsy or website.