Former Technology Executive Creates Some of Delray’s Most Stunning Art

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By Ellen Thistle The Pineapple Contributing Writer

There is an underground web of men in Delray Beach who know the secret to keeping their wives happy. Most of them don’t even know one another. But they all have one thing in common: three times a year, they go see jewelry designer Stacey Wissow. “This whole thing started with a simple, three- strand, garnet necklace,” Stacey says. “I just wanted three strands of nice beads. And I couldn’t find what I was looking for. When I searched for it online, I just kept coming up with places that sold beads. “ So Stacey decided to make the necklace herself. “I wore the necklace to work one day, and a woman in my office flipped out. ‘Oh my god,’ she said, ‘where can I get one of those?’ I told her I made them. Pretty soon, all the women I worked with were ordering my jewelry.” That was ten years ago. Stacey was working as a technology executive in the finance industry and living in New York City. But in 2004, Stacey realized it was time to make a change. When charged with laying off three people in her department, Stacey nominated herself and two others. She retired and started making jewelry full time. For two years, Stacey supported herself through online jewelry sales and weekly “Tupperware” parties she hosted out of her home. But eventually, she came to the same conclusion many people who live here did: she was sick of the cold weather. She packed up and moved to South Florida. While the desire for a garnet necklace might have sparked what became a life change, the roots of Stacey’s inspiration go deeper. “I’ve always been an artist,” Stacey says, “I really was attracted to color and light. I love glass. I like the transparency, the way it changes based on light.” In fact, Stacey worked with stained glass for years before she started making jewelry. “That kind of led me to real gemstones,” she says, “I found it appealed to the same thing. “   When she says “real gemstones,” she means it. Once a year, Stacey travels to the gem district of New York City. She walks up to inconspicuous- looking locked doors. She rings a doorbell; they buzz her in. She walks upstairs, down dim, bare hallways, and into back rooms with case after case of precious gems stretching from wall to wall.

In places like this, Stacey invests in exactly what make her pieces special. She buys tiny, faceted, droplet-shaped sapphire beads, topaz beads in three shades of blue, pendants of clear, caramel citrine and deep, royal amethyst. She examines each tiny gem bead up close. She holds it up to the light. She selects only the ones that are flawless. Stacey doesn’t work with clay or glass beads. “Gemstones have value,” she explains. “You can buy a bag of glass beads, and ten years from now it’s going to be worth exactly what you paid for it. I buy good-quality gemstones and use precious metals, so all of my pieces are investment pieces: they will only go up in value. “I spend thousands of dollars on beads when I go to New York,” she admits, “But I get the best there is.” And then, equipped with dozens of bags of vibrant, precious beads, Stacey sits down at her corner workbench, turns on the light, and gets to work. “I start with color,” she says matter-of-factly. “Usually, I’m inspired by the gems,” And sure enough, her workbench is a kaleidoscope. Upon closer inspection, one thing is immediately clear: this woman has an uncanny eye for color. In one corner, slate-gold pyrite is paired with lucent, brick-red garnet in the beginnings of a bracelet. Steely hematite accents black, diamond- like spinel in a half-finished necklace. Trays with beads made from blood-red rubies, fiery carnelian, and sea-green turquoise are scattered around her workbench in artistic disarray.

This isn’t the kind of beading your eccentric aunt does. Stacey pulls out one of her finished pieces: a necklace of small, tear-drop shaped beads, in an intoxicating color combination of greens, purples, reds, and yellows. “These are sapphires. They’re triple-A quality—that’s the highest rating a gemstone can get…. These stones are perfect.”

Once Stacey has completed the beading for a piece of jewelry, she chooses from fasteners made of braided sterling silver and 14-karat gold⎯high- quality clasps that are miniature works of art in their own right. “The way you finish a piece is as important as the whole piece.” She explains. “I use professional beading wire, wire guards, crimp beads (which I knot underneath), and I use expensive clasps. My pieces don’t break.” She brings out another finished work of art: an 18-carat pendant of watery blue topaz dangles on a string of small, lustrous freshwater pearls and glimmering, chartreuse peridot beads. It’s breathtaking. (PHOTO) After moving to South Florida to escape the cold weather, Stacey was on her way to the work life she had always dreamed about. There was only one problem: she missed working with people. Tired of the isolation required to be a full-time, at- home artist, Stacey figured out a way that she could practice her art and stay connected with people. She opened up a store. For the past five years, Stacey has owned and operated Spotted on 2nd, a charming store in Pineapple Grove that has quickly developed into one of Delray’s favorite treasures. Stacey sells her jewelry along with the work of over fifty American artists. While handmade artisan jewelry (made by her and others) accounts for about 70% of her sales, her inventory is diverse, ranging from handmade mobiles to iron sculptures. It is an ideal place to shop for gifts, and it suits all price ranges. It’s Stacey’s loyal cult following that has kept her in business. “I have husbands who come in here three times a year,” she says, “their wife’s birthday, their anniversary, and Christmas. And they hit a home run every time.” Surrounded by Stacey’s masterpieces, it is hard to remember that only a few years ago, her professional life revolved around board meetings and quarterly reports. Now, she concerns herself with finding high-caliber jewelry clasps and filling her store with unique, quality, handmade art from all over the country. Stacey’s success story echoes that of so many others: it kind of just happened by chance. “One time, I was at the drug store picking up a prescription,” she says. “I was wearing one of my pieces around my neck. It had tourmaline, kind of like this,” she said, gesturing the shape of a long, rectangular pendant on her chest. “The pharmacist bought it from me on the spot, right off my neck. That’s when I knew that I was on to something.” “I kind of fell into it,” Stacey laughs, “And then I just perfected it.” You can find Stacey and her jewelry at Spotted on 2nd, located in the 200 block of NE 2nd Avenue. In Pineapple Grove. Or check out the store’s website at www.spottedon2nd.com.