Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spirit and Soul, Bonedust and Richard Schmidt Jewelry

Vendor spotlight: Bonedust, OK at the Triangle in Round Top, Richard Schmidt Jewelry on Mill Street opposite the square in Round Top

Bonedust Oklahoma is the mythical hometown of carver James Stephens and his Bonedust Cowgirl Jayme.  Living and working in Oklahoma City, their store “The Bonedust Cowgirl” got its name when Jayme remarked that when James was working she “was always cleaning up bone dust.”  Jayme’s mother said the name was biblical, that bone dust is a sacred element described in Ezekial 13.   That is appropriate because James is a very spiritual, religious man.  After a long life of challenges and often very difficult times, James and Jayme were born again in 2005 changing their lives.  As James put it: “they are just kickin’ up dust on their journey down this spiritual path”.  And so it is a true blessing to James that he found this outlet for his lifelong skill at “whittling” and “carving”.  Working with ancient Mammoth

Bonedust by James Stephens

Tusk and moose antler, James lets the material speak to him, carving images of Indian chiefs, and birds.  The birds are especially elegant in their simplicity and pure form.
James was born in OK, at the edge of the Osage reservation, and at the age of four his father’s job with Kerr-McGee took them to Idaho.  As a young teenager he hiked the foothills in the snow picking up shed antlers which he and other boys sold to a man who came twice a year to the grocery store parking lot to pay them for what they had gathered.  Timing was everything in collecting “sheds”.  After the moose have shed their antlers annually, and late enough so the snow would be melted revealing the antlers.  Too early and the snow would hide them.  During the summers of his childhood , James would stay with his Osage grandmother who was a renowned cook at the Indian Dances.  He says those Indian Dances are the source of inspiration for the intricate Indian Chief heads he carves.  The birds are born out of the triangle in the moose antler where the long horizontal beam of the antler meets the spreading palm, forming a triangle.  Each bird is different, as each antler is different.  The colors vary, too.  The antler can be very pale, greyish white, or a deeper warmer tan.  Some have the “bark” on the back giving them additional character.  The long beam of the antler is sliced into rounds which James inlays with turquoise pieces, a complicated process, and then polishes to a soft luster.   The turquoise, in its many color variations creates a beautiful contrast to the neutral tones of the antler.
As a true whittler, James will carve anything, wood, antler, tooth.  Even vintage Mahjong tiles became a raw material for his tools.  Removing the bamboo back, leaving the ivory with its colorful game markings.  James leaves the markings, carving the ivory into crosses, and skulls, which he embellishes with folk-art faces. He strings his carvings on repurposes leather strips to make necklaces.   Jayme is never without a much coveted horse head James considers one of his best.  Filled with movement, the natural edge of the antler creates the flowing main. 
Bracelets by Richard Schmidt

James and Jayme always dreamed a silver smith would incorporate James’ Bonedust pieces into jewelry.  Looking through a copy of Cowboys and Indians magazine, Jayme saw an advertisement for Richard Schmidt’s jewelry and was thrilled to see the store location was La Grange, Texas.  They had been setting up in Warrenton for a few years and knew La Grange well.  They imagined themselves walking into Schmidt’s Jewelry wearing lots of bone dust.  When they did visit the store (not festooned in bonedust as they had imagined) Richard wasn’t there.  But Richard had seen other people wearing bonedust, and had been trying to find them, too.  He too saw the natural fit with his jewelry style.  Jayme and a friend wandered past Schmidt’s booth in Round Top.  This time Richard was there.  He said “you’re wearing bonedust!”, just as Janet Schmidt, his wife, returned to the booth carrying a handful of pieces she had just purchased from James.   James and Jayme moved their booth from Warrenton into the Triangle in Round Top, to be closer to Richard’s booth on Mill Street, at Knutzen Square.  It is a perfect fit, the soft, lustrous bonedust creations inlaid with turquoise and the hard, shiny silver which Richard hammers and embellishes with arrows and buffalo heads, making magical cuffs and pendants incorporating James’s work.

And to James and Jayme, it is an answer to a prayer. 
AntiqueWeekend is a sprawling, sparkling multi-week event located across Fayette county and spilling over into adjoining counties.  Tucked into the many showsites are incredible artists like these two men who create with their spirit and soul.

This post is revised from an article written by Linda Stall, Special to the Fayette County Record, which originally appeared in October, 2012.  For more information about the AntiqueWeekend shows visit   you can find Bonedust on facebook:  and Schmidt Jewelry online:

Follow us on Instagram ( Facebook and Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment