A Bigfork Jewelry Artist Creates Functional Fun

By Beacon Staff

As a little girl growing up in the Swan Valley Signe Ensign’s mother would make her crowns and broaches out of real flowers.

“I would always get so sad and cry when they would die,” recalls Ensign, so at 9-years-old, she made herself a promise that one day she would find a way to make flowered jewelry that wouldn’t fade. Today, a calling card of Icandi, Ensign’s jewelry line, is the flower and butterfly pieces preserved in a poly-resin coat and featured in her necklaces.

She found a way to reach her goal.

It’s Tuesday after work in Bigfork, and several cars are parked at the Swan View building on Jewel Basin Court off the intersection of Highways 83 and 35.

“I’m getting a lot more traffic here than I thought,” says Ensign. She’s hosting one of her workshops, an evening of jewelry making which she started doing in the fall of 2007. She keeps tools in hand as she hands out suggestions, encouragement, and finishes off necklaces with a twist of wire and a clasp.

A handful of women and one little girl are walking around a tall, cloth covered table with brightly colored trays in their hands. Along the center of the table lie plastic bead boxes filled with semi-precious natural gemstones and an assortment of stones. Music plays in the background and the ladies sift through the stones with their fingers and line out possible color combinations and patterns.

“Are you girls ready to do those ribbon necklaces?” Ensign asks.

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One patron picks out the pieces for a ribbon necklace at an Icandi workshop.

Icandi started as a hobby. Six years ago Ensign started piecing together the brightly colored stones that would become her trademark. She wore her pieces while working as a waitress, and she got comments; people were interested in buying.

“I started thinking ‘hey, maybe there’s more to this than just a hobby’.”

One patron at this evenings workshop, Scarlett Sherman, counts out a total of 4 Icandi bracelets, a ribbon necklace, a leather wrist cuff, and a rose necklace.

“I love the fact that I don’t have to store all this in my house!” Scarlett says indicating the heaps of stones Ensign has arranged in boxes on the table. “Just to be able to pick something out, and if I don’t know how to put it together, [Ensign’s] there, and the craftsmanship; you know it’s going to last.”

Khena Bullshields and Scarlett Sherman pick out stones at an Icandi workshop.

Ensign describes her jewelry as fun and functional.

“Kind of like me: a little bit rustic, a little bit hip,” Ensign says her necklaces, bracelets, watches, earring, and hair clips are all things that can get worn, pieces that keep up with an her active lifestyle.

“Any of the jewelry I really liked would get lost or broken along the way,” Ensign says, “I’d break a piece on the climbing wall, or loose one on the ski hill.”

Icandi shares shop space with Deliah Albee’s watercolor studio and gallery. In February they’ll celebrate two years in the new location.

This weekend, Ensign will set up her Icandi booth at Whitefish’s Huckleberry Days. Summertime keeps her out and about, hitting the art fair circuit. She and Albee keep shop hours of 10-4 Tuesday through Friday, but showings are by appointment, call (406) 250-2995. To see more of Ensign’s work, go to www.icandijewelry.com.

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