Laborata Studio opened up in Penacook’s village earlier this year as a place for jewelry-making arts


Monitor columnist

Published: 07-20-2023 10:12 AM

The drawers on a pair of wooden jewelry boxes were pulled out, one layered on top of another, forming a miniature three-story piece of furniture containing rocks.

There were small stones, beautiful, smooth and shiny, with colors and patterns that looked like painted works of art. When asked who had painted them, Carol Ellis – who opened her own jewelry studio called the Laborata Studio six months ago in downtown Penacook, said no one had. They were totally natural pieces of art.

“They came from the earth,” Ellis said. “Someone polishes them, but they are stones from the ground. The light blue is from the Caribbean. The arrowhead is purple lepidolite .”

One of them showed a turtle that was not a turtle. It just looked like one.

“Just a shape,” Ellis said. “I found it that way.”

She teaches yoga at the business next door and welcomes visitors to her own studio, where art is in the eye of the beholder.

Her stones, which she finds like a ground-penetrating radar detector, can be used alone or incorporated into another piece of jewelry. Ellis uses sterling silver, copper, aluminum and various other metals. She makes art from forks and knives and anything, really, to create her work.

She teaches her students the process of creating homemade jewelry, from sketch patterns in the well-lit front room of her studio. She uses mandrels and other tools in the back room to finish the job.

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She speaks about things that can not be seen, about the power of crystals and rocks, and about touching, through art, what’s inside you at any particular time. Along with meditation, Ellis says stress is conquerable, and the mainstream medical community, she added, is noticing.

“The power of crystals can offer and support lots of different tensions,” Ellis said. “Some of the alternative practices that we are talking about, yes, we are becoming more receptive.”

Ellis continued: “They’re starting to understand the benefits of meditation, the benefits of self care. Lowering blood pressure, calming the heart, and it’s something I think all of us need living on this planet.”

She opened six months ago across the street from the Civil War statue. This is her first business venture, after teaching how to produce art with soul at Kearsarge Regional High School for 21 years.

She reads a lot, absorbing anything she can to expand her horizons. Ellis studied Eastern medicine training and has instructed hundreds of yoga sessions in her side business. Now, she’s also a fine arts instructor in Exeter.

She knew early what path she’d take.

“Always arts and drawing,” Ellis said. “It was my escape and I was introverted and having my time with my sketchbook, or coloring, or painting. Then the spiritual part came along. I started to explore what is out there besides just this physical plane.”

Her studio is bright, with big windows facing the Civil War soldier in the town square. The dark-grained wood on the floor is spotless and smooth. Ellis explained the three phases of her process that occur most, starting from the front room for sketching out a vision or bouncing ideas around.

Next, at the soldering station, there’s silversmithing and soldering, or “annealing the metal and joining it together,” Ellis explained.

Each side of the platform has a jeweler’s torch. The ventilating system included two hoses that hovered over the work table, resembling the antennae of an alien creature.

Any reshaping or other finishing touches occur at the finishing table, which has four vises, needed to stabilize the art for further work. And a lot of these items are more than just items.

“People love to make rings and set stones they had,” Ellis said. “Some like to work on silversmithing rings and bracelets, and people like to come in with some of their dinnerware from families, or they’ve had in the family a long time. It becomes an heirloom piece. You can have a daughter and a mother and a grandmother coming.”

Those shiny rocks we discussed earlier, the ones with different shapes and colors and designs and a turtle, were made by no one and everyone. Other pieces included ocean Jasper and moss agate.

“You can choose a stone,” Ellis said. “Then you can learn how to do a basic metal setting. You’re learning about tools and design work tools, creating original pieces.”