Article by Shanyn Fiske
JSNecklaceFenceJewelry Designer: Betsy Hinsey, Photography: Shanyn Fiske, Model: Jessica Spackman

From the time she was a teenager, Betsy Hinsey knew she wanted to make jewelry.  Inspired by her practice in the design studios at the Baldwin School, she decided to pursue art in college, first attending the Program in Artisanry at Boston University and then returning to Philadelphia to finish her BFA in Jewelry Design / Metal-smithing at the University of the Arts.  After graduating in 1988, she set up a studio at her home in Chestnut Hill and her work was displayed in galleries throughout Philadelphia.

Her upwardly mobile career in jewelry design decelerated in 1994 with the birth of her daughter Gelsey and in 1996 by the arrival of daughter Louisa.  As many women can testify, the addition of children can be disruptive to the forward momentum of a career, but Betsy’s entry into motherhood was further complicated when she learned that both of her daughters were born with progressive hearing loss that resulted in deafness over a short period of time.

Days in the studio were traded for doctors’ offices as the girls went through a series of hearing aids and cochlear implants.  For three years, Betsy home-schooled her daughters, devoting herself full-time to their care and education. During this time, her older daughter Gelsey came to share Betsy’s own lifelong love for horses, and Louisa developed a passion for dance.  “I never stopped being creative,” Betsy reflects of this period in her life. “I just channeled that creativity into other things that involved my family.”

In 2010, the family moved to Delaware County and Gelsey and Louisa returned (“kicking and screaming”) to public school.  With a bit more time on her hands, Betsy found a job at the List Gallery at Swarthmore College. The job put her back in touch with the art world, but it wasn’t until two years ago that Betsy found her way back to making her own art.  Thinking she might pick up metal-smithing again as a hobby, she enrolled in a class at the Community Arts Center in Wallingford. From the first night of class, her passion was reignited. “I didn’t even know there was a class assignment or prompt,” she recalls.  “I just started making jewelry and I couldn’t stop. The teacher was kind enough to leave me alone and let me do my own thing.”

Within six months of the class, Betsy had set up a studio in her home and was actively making jewelry again, focusing on using recycled metals and turning vintage, found items into one-of-a-kind pieces, like her earrings made from re-purposed, vintage underwear buttons.  “I like to assemble things,” she explains, “And I’m not afraid of a big project.”

JSFieldWindJewelry Designer: Betsy Hinsey, Photography: Shanyn Fiske, Model: Jessica Spackman

Her love for horses has played a large role in the ethos of Happy Creek Farm Studio, named for her grandfather’s farm in Newtown Square, where she remembers playing in the fields and barns as a child.  Horses have been a part of her life since her childhood, and in the most stressful periods of her life, horses have offered her a source of “quiet, peaceful empowerment.” As the owner of an off-the-track Thoroughbred named Moose, Betsy always keeps that idea of peaceful empowerment in mind while making her jewelry and accessories.  “I want people to feel empowered and confident when they wear my creations,” she says. “I want people to feel they can ride horses and exercise and move around in the things I make without worrying about things breaking or causing damage or getting caught in things.” The toughness and resilience that are the hallmarks of Betsy’s brand reflect her own journey through life.

“Returning to this craft in my mid-50s now has given me a new perspective,” Betsy reflects.  “I always want to have fun with what I’m making, and there’s no pressure. That’s the blessing of coming back to this after two decades away.  I’ve forgotten the rules. I’m making up the rules as I go along.”

Readers can see more of Betsy’s creations on her website:  Betsy will also have her jewelry and accessories at the upcoming Swarthmore Makers Market on Sunday, November 3.

LSEarringLipsBrownWashJewelry Designer: Betsy Hinsey, Photography: Shanyn Fiske, Model: Lisa Adams
LSHatRedBandJewelry Designer: Betsy Hinsey, Photography: Shanyn Fiske, Model: Lisa Adams
GSHatRingJewelry Designer: Betsy Hinsey, Photography: Shanyn Fiske, Model: Gianna Byers
GSNecklackePillarJewelry Designer: Betsy Hinsey, Photography: Shanyn Fiske, Model: Gianna Byers

CrayonBox wants to give a special thank you to Shanyn Fiske who has captured Betsy Hinsey designs so beautifully with her photography. We also want to thank Shanyn Fiske for being the author of this very special article.

About the Author/ Photographer

Shanyn Fiske is a professor of English at Rutgers University (Camden) where she directs the graduate program in English and Media Studies.  She is also a fashion / editorial / portrait photographer who welcomes collaborations with designers.


The CrayonBox Team.


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