Scarvey column: Barbara Lockert's jewelry trees

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 9, 2011

When Barbara Lockert’s neighbor and friend Lynn Fowler called to tell me about Barbara’s unique hand-crafted jewelry trees I just had to see for myself.
When I called Barbara, she acted like they weren’t any big deal, but I wanted to see them anyway.
I think it’s because I suspected that Barbara and I might be kindred spirits creatively. I’ve made some tree ornaments out of odd items over the years, like interesting toys and an old medallion of my mother’s from the 1960s.
Barbara takes odds and ends of jewelry and uses them to decorate one-of-a-kind little trees. A few of the trees are her personal treasures; others she gives away to family members.
Barbara says she began this particular artistic pursuit 20 or 30 years ago. Inspired by family members who had talent in painting, Barbara hit upon her own creative outlet.
Barbara is making two trees right now that she’ll give away to her oldest granddaughters for Christmas.
When she started, she had the raw material on hand, things she’s saved for years — jewelry belonging to her mother and grandmother. Eventually, though, she began to seek out items, going to thrift stores and getting items donated by friends.
Barbara reminds me of the local artist John Morehead — who makes wonderful fish sculptures — in that she is a salvager, giving new life to items that might otherwise languish in attics or end up in the trash.
“I’m looking for stuff no one else wants — a ring that’s broken, something that I can take apart,” she says.
She loves real silver items, she says, but admits that polishing them isn’t much fun.
I was immediately drawn to a tiny silver fork perched near the top of one of Barbara’s trees — one of the trees she won’t give away.
That little fork pin, she says, was given to her when she was in second or third grade in Murfreesboro, Tenn., by a boy named Bobby Bass.
It is lovely.
She remembers that her mother, worried that she had received such a nice gift, approached Bobby’s mother about it, who reassured her that indeed, Bobby wanted to give Barbara this gift and it was absolutely fine with her.
“I’ve kept it all these years,” Barbara says.
There are other items that have sentimental value to Barbara, like her grandmother’s Eastern Star pin, which serves as the topper for one tree.
There’s an owl earring made of macrame, crafted by Barbara’s mother. An old friendship ring. Her father’s Navy and Seabee pins.
One challenge Barbara faces is finding the right trees on which to display her carefully selected items. She needs plain trees with branches that “flare out” so ornaments will dangle.
Barbara uses thin copper wire and pliers to attach items to the tree, although some adornments don’t need to be wired on, she says.
Barbara says she once asked her bridge club members if they had any items to donate to her for her trees. People seemed interested, she says, until they saw her trees — which made them decide to hang on to their odds and ends so they could create their own jewelry trees.
It’s harder these days, she says, to find things in thrift stores, but she still loves to go searching when she can.
I tell Barbara that she has inspired me to try to make my own tree.
“Do it!” she says.
And I’m pretty sure I will. I have no shortage of material. I lose earrings with frightening regularity, and I hate throwing away the ones without mates. I imagine I have the raw material right now for two or three trees. If I could only find something beautiful to do with all those lonely socks.
Creative inspiration aside, the real gift was in meeting Barbara. We talked and laughed for almost two hours — only a third of it about the trees. We talked about things that don’t usually come up with somebody you’ve just met.
And so I was right, after all.
We are kindred spirits.
Contact Katie Scarvey at