Caroline and Bert Odegard have found wedded bliss at the Magic of Q.
The Deka Lake couple were driving past the Lac La Hache gallery, run by Sheila Fenn, last summer when they decided to pop in for a coffee at the adjoining Q Brew and a look around. They left with an order for matching silver wedding bands – their third set in the past 31 years because they keep losing them.
“I looked in and the quality of the jewelry was awesome,” Caroline, 56, said. “I was surprised to find something like that in Lac La Hache so I went back to my husband and said ‘why don’t we just go in and get a set made for us?’”
Fenn, a silversmith who has run the gallery since 2017, was happy to oblige. She hasn’t been able to show off her work at the gallery the past few years due to wildfires and COVID-19.
To make ends meet, Fenn and her husband Andrew opened the Q Brew coffee shop – where the Odegards saw her jewelry – and plan to reopen the gallery this May. The gallery features more jewelry, arts, sculptures and paintings from local artists.
“A lot of people are really going to be surprised. They’ve attached themselves to the coffee bar, they have no idea what’s inside,” Fenn, 60, said.
Silversmithing had long been a dream for Fenn, who gave up her job as an office manager in the dental industry in 2008 to pursue the craft full time. To fund her dream, she invested everything she had into buying silversmithing equipment, including taking out a mortgage on her house in Port Moody.
She landed in Lac La Hache after heading to the Cariboo in 2014 to spend time with her father Loydd Daccke, who owned several pieces of property, including the old church building where her gallery is located. Daccke, who has since died, allowed her to stay in the largely empty building and it was there she began building her studio and gallery.
“I can just think something and then go to my bench and make it,” she said. “I love what I do and I am the type of person who has to be loving what she does or I’d rip my hair out. I can work 24 hours a day if I’m embroiled in a piece. It’s like kindergarten art class for me, I never get bored, because there are so many places that I can go with it.”
Although mostly self-taught, Fenn has received some training from Nanz Aalund, a Washington state-based jeweler, who had done design work for Tiffany & Co. Over the course of several intensive workshops, Aalund taught Fenn the basics of the craft and helped her develop her early artistic style.
Most of Fenn’s work is freestyle as she uses sheets of silver and wire to shape rings, necklaces and earrings. She likens the craft to working with paper, except her glue is her soldering iron and her scissors are fine tooth saws.
Rather than using standard sterling silver, Fenn prefers Argentium silver, an alloy with a higher concentration of silver that is more resistant to tarnishing. She maintains the silver is easier to work with and fuses better when she’s making rings or her own chains.
“It’s whiter, it’s brighter, it’s hyper allergenic and creates its own anti-tarnish finish,” Fenn said. “There’s more silver in it and it’s not alloyed with any crap like nickel.”
Although she finds satisfaction whenever she creates, Fenn said she often becomes invested in the stories of clients who buy her pieces.
“When I make those things I think about those people. I believe that when you buy something original, especially if it’s made for you, you’re buying a piece of the artist that goes into it.”
Caroline Odegard also feels a special connection with their wedding rings. Bert, 65, a retired electrician, had a habit of losing his rings on the job, while she lost her second ring picking up seashells in Mexico.
The two of them gave Fenn design instructions and measurements for the latest set but ultimately had to get Bert’s ring resized after he suffered a severe stroke. Caroline said the rings are even more important now, as she wasn’t sure he was going to make it.
When they picked up the rings last week, Caroline said she was pleased to see her “knight in shining armour” wearing a wedding ring again after not having one for four years.
“When you say you take someone through sickness and in health, well, we’re on the sickness part right now. He’s paralyzed at this point but hopefully, he will become healthier,” she said. “These rings were bought to show we still care for each other.”