A Hill to Climb

Remember my first post, I talked about climbing that hill. Well I picked a big hill to climb this time, it was a chance, but I swallowed hard and went for it and was rewarded at every turn. This hill was lined with blackberries and cheese, friendships and eagles, farms and Amish honey, kittens and chickens. And jewelry making! Ah, beautiful jewelry!

But back to the hill, the hill I had to face. I taught myself to solder and have been making these pendants for a few years to give as gifts and such and recently took an online course to really learn how to make them. I wanted to list them in my Etsy shop. I wanted to hang them on vintage chains but it’s hard to find these for a good price and the right size. I love the look and idea of repurposing the vintage items into a new chain and using several chains together. I have no jewelry making skills besides stringing some beads and crimping them. I needed to take a class. The online soldering teacher holds an “art retreat” type class in Washington so I think maybe someone does something like that in the South.  I decide to go to my pinterest “Jewelry Love” board and follow back some of my favorite jewelry photos and see who is making this stuff and see if they teach classes. That is when I found Nina.

nina bagley.  I just *love* the buttons and stamping and the vintage measuring tape, omg.

This is the photo I had pinned. I followed the link back and found myself on Ornamental. Nina Bagley’s blog. I read a little about Nina and saw that she lives in North Carolina. I live in Alabama. Good. On the right hand side I see “Workshops”!!! Okay, She teaches!!  I click on Valley Ridge Art Studio, All Wrapped Up Bracelet and Necklace Wraps (3 day workshop). I click and these words jumped off the page at me …layering assorted treasured findings, beads, and ribbons, wire wrapping,  charm connections,  attachment of leather/ribbon to metal clasps, dangling pearls, letter stamping into metal, patina aging for brass,  embroidery stitching for leather, incorporation of vintage laces and ribbons into jewelry design. These pictures are beside the description! My heart gasps! Does your heart do this? Mine did.


I read further about Valley Ridge. “I can’t think of a better environment for this special time than the beloved studio of valley ridge, surrounded by soft and beautiful  rolling farmland and the songs of swallows nesting in the eaves of the porch.  Prepare to head home with a full heart and a mind overflowing with inspiration from creating amongst like-minded kindred spirits”. Sounds heavenly. The class was 6 weeks away and it was full, I am not surprised. I was hugely disappointed but signed up to be on the wait list for a cancellation. But who would EVER cancel!! But I was also happy I found an artist that made jewelry I loved that lived in North Carolina that taught classes so I had that hope!

Fast forward 3 weeks, the Saturday morning after mother’s day. Remember I got up early to go to the Antique Alley Yard Sale, I got an email from Katherine. Katherine at Valley Ridge. There was a cancellation. The first to respond would get the spot. I’m never awake at 5:30 on Saturday mornings EVER except today. So I got the spot.  I sent my payment in. I told Kevin today is going to be a great day! I was beyond excited!!! Katherine emailed me links to various places to stay while at Valley Ridge so while Kevin was getting ready I begin to look at a few of the Bed and Breakfast since I only had 3 weeks before class I needed to find a place to stay. The first B&B link wasn’t working so I searched for it by name but it was located in Wisconsin. That couldn’t be it. So I went to the next B&B and it was also in Wisconsin. That is when I started getting this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Where is Valley Ridge? I went back to the website and IT IS IN Wisconsin!! Oh no! What have I done! Why did I think this was in North Carolina??  About this time Kevin was ready to go. I quickly looked to see what the cancellation policy was, $75 fee. I looked on Google maps to see where is Wisconsin? Sad I know. 12 hour drive from Alabama. On the drive to Fort Payne Kevin said so tell me, why is today going to be a great day? (This is where the hill climbing begins.)

I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt so torn.

I really had to think about what direction I wanted to go, what I hoped to gain, what other opportunities that might come up that I would have to give up if I went. I wasn’t afraid of going. I was giddy with the thought. I wasn’t worried about leaving the boys. Kevin was going to be gone on a business trip and the boys are 18 and 16 and grandparents right down the street. They would be fine. It really was about investing money in me, solely, for me. It’s a difficult step. I anguished over it. Thank you Kevin for helping me make that step and feeling okay with it. Before we made it to Fort Payne, I was Wisconsin bound!

The location of Valley Ridge is beautiful. It is serene. It is a retreat. A farm In the middle of the southern central Wisconsin, and has been hosting art retreats for 13 years but sadly this is the last summer. Katherine is the owner and she is truly talented and moving on to some other great opportunities after the summer ends. She totally has this down to an art, treating us as honored guests. Many of those attending have been coming for years but for a few we are new to Nina, new to Valley Ridge and me new to all.

On the way to Valley Ridge

milkweed, smells divine


There was none of the awkwardness of newness, everyone was friendly and warm and eager to get started. There were 14 in our class. We came from Florida, 2 friends from Tennessee (Nashville and Franklin), Iowa, Ohio, Texas, 2 friends from North Dakota (one from the coldest place in the USA), Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We went around the room telling a little about ourselves and how we found ourselves here. And then the creating began. We were making a wrap bracelet which Nina described as a sampler, we would learn a technique and make it and add it to our bracelet. We would keep adding it until we had a long wrap we could wear as a bracelet or choker. I enjoyed seeing everyone’s ensemble of treasures. These are from the “besties” from North Dakota, Jennifer and Mindi. Jennifer has twins. They pushed their tables together and shared an ipod bud in each ear and created. Cute friends!

Bonnie is a chef and she prepared a wonderful lunch for us every day. It was delicious. We ate it in the red barn with black and white checked table cloths. One day we had watermelon quinoa salad. I’ve never heard of quinoa either. It was light and refreshing and presented just so. Everyday something delicious chicken salad, pulled pork tacos, fresh fruit and of course Wisconsin cheeses and yummy desserts. Each morning plenty of coffee and homemade breakfast breads and a frig loaded with caffeine to keep us going after lunch.

old thrasher at Valley Ridge

The workshop was beyond amazing, more than I could have ever anticipated. The other students were so kind to share their supplies and knowledge. Nina is a wonderful teacher. She is so warm and generous. She brought several pieces of her jewelry and it is beautiful, creative yes, inspiring yes, but more than that it tells a story. She is a true artisan. A beautiful person. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this class and get to meet Nina and now call her a friend. I have found a gem in Wisconsin.

me and nina

I did not get to talk to Kevin but one time while I was in Wisconsin, he was in Vegas at a trade show, but I would text him several times a day and tell him about my adventures and so when I finally got to talk to him on Wednesday night he said I’ve heard about the Amish, the barns, the farm, the food, about Nina, what about the jewelry??? So without further ado here is my bracelet!

My bracelet

 I will write further post about the farm, the barns and the Amish. But I wanted to start here. Enjoy.




19 thoughts on “A Hill to Climb

  1. ohhhhhh honey. i do love you so!!! i hope you don’t mind if i put a link to this post, when i FINALLY get around to posting one of my own. life! friendships! art! this says it all. sending so much love and pride your way – xoxo

    • Nina I would be honored. Since Valley Ridge I’ve started reading your blog and you are a beautiful writer and now I can hear it in your voice. Thank you for your inspiration. Sending love to Firefly Road.

    • Alissa, Thank you for reading my blog. you have been a busy girl yourself. I’m so happy for all you have happening to you!! You deserve it all. Katey

  2. It was everything you described and changed my life in ways I see daily. I think about it a lot and feel the creativity exploding in my head. To be around such awesome people was so inspiring. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, your bracelet is so beautiful. Love to all.
    Nina we miss your writing and you. Thank you

    • Laura, Thank you for sharing your comments. I really appreciate what you said. I feel the same way. Since I’ve been home I’ve gone back and read Nina’s blog and she is amazing! I remembered you saying how she helped you through the loss of your friend and I can see now. She is truly gifted. Katey

  3. Your bracelet is beautiful and it was wonderful getting to know you. I am so glad you came to the class (brave!) and I hope you come and see Katie and I in Huntsville and possibly Birmingham in November. I wish you could attend the GLW gemshow in North Caroline the last weekend in July. We always make a pilgrimage to that and spend lots on stones to set. Please let me know if you can come. :)

    • Dawn, I will come find you and Katie for sure!! Would love to go to North Carolina one year with you guys but can’t this year. I bet your pilgrimage is a lot of fun!! So glad to meet you both!

  4. Your bracelet is gorgeous, I think I see at least one borrowed bead from my boxes, it makes me feel special I can share! Yes, it was an amazing time, even though I have been to Valley Ridge maybe 10 times, I felt that class was very special, I connected with the people in a different way, and you were a big part of that! Thanks Katey. I think I will go for one more class this year, just can’t decide which one!

    • Thank you Kristin, I really appreciate your comment. My bracelet has several beads from your awesome boxes. Thank you for being so generous. You are so fortunate to have visited VR over the years. Enjoy your last class.

  5. Katey, I loved reading your post seeing your pictures! Valley Ridge has been one of my favorite places to take classes and Nina’s class was an extra bonus! I am still soaring from my visit and the fun and laughter that was shared there! Can’t wait to read your next post!! Your bracelet turned out just beautiful!!!

    • Lorraine, Thanks for your comments, I appreciate it. It was great to meet you all the way from Texas and me from Alabama meeting in Wisconsin. Funny how that goes. Thank you for reading my post. Katey

    • Katherine, Thank you for your comment. I still have your email on my phone saying I was “in” the class. I hope your summer goes well and your next adventures are awesome!! England! How could it not! Katey

  6. I love what you said about Valley Ridge it was truly a great adventure. Time just for myself to do what I wanted to do, create. Nina was so lovely and everyone there was so special. Also a big shout out to Kathrine for making it all happen! Thanks for writing about your experience.

    • Susan, You came home with some beautiful jewelry. I was quite jealous. You got me looking around all my stuff to see what I can turn into a great necklace now. I agree with what you said. Nina was lovely and made us each feel special. Thank you for your comments. Katey

  7. Thank you all for your lovely comments. I really appreciate it and enjoy reading them. I am currently working on the next “installment” of my Wisconsin trip. :) Thank you again. Katey

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