For the past several years Osher member Linda Silvern has organized a jewelry making workshop at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Towson University. She has collaborated with fellow Osher members, Nancy Rothman and Judy Milliken, on this unique workshop. Below, Linda describes the workshop, how it got started, and why participants feel great while they create baubles to be sold at Ruth’s Closet and Ruth’s Repeats—all to benefit victims of intimate partner violence and their children.

Several years ago, while volunteering at the donation center for Ruth’s Closet, a social enterprise of House of Ruth Maryland, Jen Talbert, the Social Enterprises Manager, invited volunteers to a jewelry-making workshop she was having with donated materials. I was unable to attend. Sometime later, we received a donation of more jewelry making materials. I asked if she was doing another workshop and she said that due to lack of time and space, she was not able to do so. She brought me up to her office and groaned as she showed me all the materials she had stashed hither and yon in her small office. The beads and other materials were in no discernible order. I took them home to straighten up and store for her, since I had space in my basement. 

I started taking beads off clothes that we were sending to be recycled to add to the pile. I sat and watched television with my seam ripper and take all manner of bling off torn, stained or worn out clothes. For someday. 

Members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Towson University select beads to make jewelry that is sold to benefit House of Ruth Maryland.

One day at Osher’s ‘Writing Our Lives’ writing group, Nancy Rothman gave me some jewelry making items for the donation center. We started talking about making jewelry and Judy Milliken said she made jewelry. “Would you be willing to teach me and others how to do it?” I asked. Nancy said she knew how to make earrings, Judy said she knew how to make necklaces and bracelets. It occurred to us that we could get a small group of Osher members together to have our own jewelry-making workshop with the participants donating their creations to Ruth’s Closet to benefit the House of Ruth. Jewelry could also go directly to the House of Ruth’s clients. We walked down the hall to let Tracy Jacobs, Osher at TU director, about our idea. She was convinced it was a worthy idea so we scheduled the workshop.

22 people attended our first workshop and we’ve held several since. I did a workshop for my women’s group.  We had our fourth workshop on December 12. We had a great group of people including a mom who brought her daughter, home from college.

I am a supporter of House of Ruth and I thought I would try the workshop since I’ve never done it before. I brought eight pounds of jewelry with me today after collecting pieces from my family and friends. There is a thirst out there for people to do good things and it is very satisfying.

PAT COLLINS, Osher at TU Member

Everyone had a grand time. We have a huge selection of beads and fixings, all donated by generous Osher members and members of the public. The selection grows with each workshop as people bring and/or drop off items for the stash including containers to organize everything.  Some people find me during classes and say, “I have some things in my car for you.”  (I also think the beads quietly breed in the dark in my basement where I store things.)  

Jewelry created by members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Towson University will be sold at Ruth’s Closet to benefit House of Ruth Maryland.

As participants came in, they poked around among all the choices. Choosing is often the hardest part. There are small beads and large pendants. Large beads and small pendants. Stone beads and metal tubular ones, shiny beads and matte beads, pukka shells and cloisonne pieces. Wooden beads, glass beads, and even some Pandora brand metal beads. There are gewgaws from ruined purses and shoes and single earrings all looking to be up-cycled. A final choice was gold and silver fixings. 

I gathered everyone together to give a quick overview of why we were there. Everyone knew that their work was going to be sold at Ruth’s Closet or given to the clients at House of Ruth. If they wanted to keep their work, I asked for a check made out to House of Ruth for $25, the price that they would sell for at the store. Nancy demonstrated how to make earrings and I showed how to make a necklace or bracelet.

Members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Towson University participate in a jewelry-making class to benefit House of Ruth Maryland.

Once participants decided what they wanted to make and chose their beads and fixings, they strung their beads, adding and editing as they went. Chatting and giving suggestions and opinions to each other added to the fun. Of course, everyone oohed and aahed over each other’s work. Nancy and I hustled around helping people, most of whom had never done any jewelry making before. Mary Jo Lindeman had never made any jewelry before but said, “I haven’t done this before and I like to try new things.” Everyone left feeling pleased and successful. They had helped a good cause, had a good time and met some new people. That is what a successful day out looks like to me.

It’s really fun to make jewelry and support a good cause. House of Ruth is a wonderful cause to support.

ANN DAHL, Osher at TU Member

Finally, I’d like to give a special thank you to Nancy Rothman, Tracy Jacobs, and Shelby Jones for their inestimable help, those who attended workshops and all the people who brought jewelry and ‘stuff’ to donate. I left with a market bag filled to the top with used and newly made treasures and two $25 checks for Ruth’s Closet. We hope to plan another foray into jewelry making in the late spring or early summer.