Interview with Artist Jennilee Rose Benda

I spoke with my good friend Jennilee Benda, who has created some lovely pieces of jewelry, as well as a ceremonial flower crown for me in the past, with incredible spiritual symbolism.

Interviwer CJ Blackwood
Interviwer CJ Blackwood

–How did you discover you enjoy making jewelry?

It was several years ago, (I think roughly 2005 or 2006) where I was trying to find a set of jewelry for a specific outfit and the only thing I found remotely worked was very expensive. I found myself looking at the construction of the necklace and bracelet and thought I could make this myself for less money and in the way I want it to look. After that, well, I ended up doing a lot of crafting to make gifts for female friends and relatives. My first several years of work were…clumsy and mediocre at best, but as I’ve learned more about construction and materials, I’ve been able to make better pieces.

Necklace by Jennilee Rose Benda
Necklace by Jennilee Rose Benda
Back side of the black rose necklace by Jennielee Rose Benda.
Back side of the black rose necklace by Jennielee Rose Benda.

–Your store contains both Pagan and secular pieces. Can you tell me a little bit about the pagan spiritual pieces you have?

I have a few types of Pagan works that I create on a regular basis. The biggest and most popular items I have (with pagans and non-pagans alike) are the pendulum necklaces. (pictured below) These were developed at first out of a sort of necessity. When I first started on my path as a pagan, the only divination method I really could use was dowsing, so I had (and still have) many different pendulums. I had a day when I was away from home and wished I’d had a pendulum to ask a question. I made a makeshift one at the time, but I had the thought that I should be able to have one I could wear that looked like a pretty crystal necklace but could be used as a pendulum when necessary. I had a few tumbled drilled crystals and I experimented with those and from there, I’ve refined my design.

One of the ones I currently have in the store is made with a citrine crystal point and another is a athame/dagger shaped pendant. They are a bit unique from other pendulum necklaces in that they are very simplistic. They clasp in the front, near the pendulum pendant so they are easy to put on and take off. You can either hold it from the small bead end and do your dowsing or you can gather the chain in your hand to make it shorter.
The other main type of item I have was also created out of necessity for my own life. One of the major symbols I use in my path is the pentacle, and I have often suffered the stigma that comes with the pentacle being mistaken for an evil symbol, or have been in a situation where display of a religious symbol of any kind wasn’t permitted. In this need, I created my hidden pentacle necklaces. Mine are unique in that they can be dressed up or down, and are fairly inexpensive where many are rather pricey. They are constructed with resin roses and a pentacle charm adhered on the back. They come with a silk cord, but can be removed from that and placed on a chain if desired. I have considered ordering different resin carvings to do these with, but right now all I have are the roses.
Beyond those, I have some pentacle earrings (created but not in the store yet) and other works that have pagan symbolism. (The tree of life earrings for example)
I also have created as commissions for friends, custom silk flower crowns for specific pagan festival costuming. I can do those for people as custom orders. They are perfect for handfasting ceremonies or other festivals.

–What emotions does this kind of creative work inspire within you?

I have two parts in creating a particular piece or set, the design phase and the crafting phase. In the design phase, I’m often either going on what my client wants (in the case of a custom order) or things I see in my current stock or when I’m out shopping for materials that inspire me and give me an idea of what I want to create. My works are very much unique and inspired by a specific part (such as a pendant or a particular type of bead) or a specific need. So the emotions here are more excitement and inspiration, things that make me happy and hopeful that I can create something pretty.
In the creation phase, well there are a few different emotions that occur. One thing I struggle with is ADHD and my life is sometimes in a state of either I can’t focus or I’m hyper-focused. When I sit down to craft, I often put on an audio book or audio drama podcast (Such as Decoder Ring Theater or Genesis Avalon) and get to work. I find the work is very meditative and I often end up hyper focused on the craft. This can be a problem in that I often work so long that eventually my hands sort of give up on me and I develop a tendency to drop things and lose beads or parts which makes me crabby, but of course I’m too stubborn to stop until the piece I’m working on is done, so I keep going. Sometimes I overdo it.

–Does your patron goddess play a role in the creative process?

Not directly in the work I create to put in my store. That is more influenced by my love of symbolism and the aesthetic of creating work that either has a specific purpose or looks nice (or both). Freya has more influence on work I make for myself personally.

***–Is the creative process different when you are doing work for yourself?

That process is a bit less satisfying than seeing people enjoying my work. Often I will make pieces for myself as an experiment for trying a new technique, and it doesn’t always work. But it’s always kind of fun when I have a new outfit, like the dress my mother-in-law made me for graduation, and I design the perfect set to go with it.

–Do you ever create pieces with a specific magical intent, such as protection charms?

I have done so for work that I’ve made for myself. I made a bracelet that doubles as a calming charm both in the stones I used and the design of the bracelet itself. (I can run the beads through my hand and use the tactile motion to calm myself) I haven’t done anything like that for work in my shop mostly because I don’t want to pre-suppose what my customers need. Now if a customer comes to me and says “I’d like a protective charm necklace/bracelet/etc” I would try to find out more details and work on something and bless it accordingly with my own energies and ritual. I do take custom orders, (both secular and pagan) so I would have no problem doing so if requested.

–Are there ever any ethical conflict you have based on types of material, where that material came from, or, in the case of a hypothetical customer who wants a piece of jewelry for specific magical purposes, in the use of the item you’re making?

I haven’t had many custom orders that were for magical purposes, but I haven’t encountered that yet. I think the only ethical conflict I could foresee would be a charm that they would give to a person to influence that person without their consent. I think that if I felt that were the purpose, I would decline the job. As far as materials, I have problems working cheap materials that are prone to break. I try to give my customers the best quality possible. I haven’t had any problems with the sources of my materials. I either purchase them myself, were given them by other crafters who had no use for them, or use old bits of jewelry that I’ve owned myself to create something new.

–What ethical responsibilities do Pagan vendors, and those who sell handmade items, have to their customers, to the environment, etc.?

Environmentally, I think crafters have a responsibility to recycle parts wherever possible. They also have a responsibility to reduce waste as much as possible. I only throw away parts or materials when it is so beyond use (broken or chipped) that I cannot conceive of something that can be done with it. If I can’t do anything with it, I will often offer it to other crafters as something for them to use as many other crafters have done with me.
To customers, I think it’s important to be as honest about the materials used. I will not purchase handmade soaps or other toiletries from vendors who will not list their ingredients on them because of issues I have with skin allergies/sensitivities. To that end, I will always try to list out the materials and if they are semi-precious stones I will say so, if they are not I will say they are plastic, glass, or whatever. There are cases in which I was given donated materials and I am not 100% sure what they are actually made of, so I will say things like crystal-like or something like that.

–Is there anything you would like to add?

If you are interested in my work, my store is located at http://www.jennileerosedesigns.storenvy.com. If you are wishing to commission a custom order, there is a contact form on the store’s website, or you can get in touch with me on my Twitter page (https://twitter.com/jlrosedesigns) or Like my store on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/JennileeRoseDesigns) and message me there.

Also: my main job (and passion) is for web design and development, so I also do custom website design and coding and do not discriminate based on religious belief for the sites I create. You can contact me through the Facebook page for that or email me at jennileebenda at jennileerose dot com.

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