The comet, Hale Bop, blazed across the Arizona sky as Marla Bugge and company found what they were looking for – a clay-filled crystal pocket.
The group had been digging for two weeks, following a white quartz seam using a hammer, chisel and coffee can. They were 12 feet into the mountain, in a space just big enough for their bodies.
After the slow task of cleaning out the clay, the group ended up with 800 pounds of gem-quality crystals.
That was March, 1997. Living and travelling in a van, Bugge had already started carving stone that she had backpacked out of a canyon in New Mexico.
“I had the time to be more expressive and had started sculpting with wire, sewing leather, and many other things that presented themselves,” said Bugge. “After I opened that first pocket, I did not understand why people would cut crystals. I saw so many fascinating pieces that I thought were just perfect the way they were.”
It’s with those crystals and others that Bugge uses in her jewelry and carving designs, which she sells through her Eye Candy Gallery.
The part-time Vernon resident is one of a number of well-known local artists and artisans who will be showing and selling their work at the 34th annual Okanagan Artisans Guild Show and Sale at the Best Western Vernon Lodge Nov. 22 and 23.
In 1999, Bugge discovered rutilated quartz.
“Most pieces have to be cut to see how amazing they are inside,” she said about the process. “I started to collect arbors, diamond wheels and saws and started cutting stone. I hung out with the old timers in Arizona and got a brief introduction from them. Then I set out on a journey of trial and error.”
Soon Bugge was creating pieces of jewelry by wrapping her cut stones with wire.
“I would sit in the woods, with no distractions, and wire wrap and came up with my own unique style,” she said.
As time went on, Bugge’s ideas changed and she ventured into creating more sculpted and all-stone pendants.
“I cut rock. I like it simple. I get an idea and try to figure out how to make it with the strengths and weaknesses of each stone,” she said.
Starting with a rough stone, she slowly removes the excess to bring out the image she sees in her mind’s eye.
“I have been blessed with an endless imagination and a passion to create something new,” she said.
Many of her pieces are laminated.
“Laminating stones together, I create a much more interesting piece, but it was the strength I was really going for when I started this process. It is like making plywood out of stone. I want to make the pieces as strong as I can.”
None of Bugge’s pieces are tumbled (smoothed and polished) to a finish. She works out the scratches from wheel to wheel, to the final polish.
“There are 10 different wheels all embedded with diamond for this process,” she said.
During summer, Bugge lives and works on her houseboat, which she has been doing for seven years. She leaves the houseboat to attend farmers’ markets and shows, to sell her jewelry.
“The back of the boat has been made into a rock shop, where I can work and look out over the lake. I live off the grid and kayak to shore to get all my gas and supplies.”
Vernon provides Bugge’s home base for the rest of the year, although most winters, she is found south following her passion, mining and collecting more rock and gems to cut and polish for her Eye Candy Gallery (www.eyecandygallery.biz).
Hours for the 34th annual Okanagan Artisans Guild Show & Sale are Friday, Nov. 22 from noon to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information on the participants, visit www.okanaganartisansguild.com.
— Written by Debbee Werner.