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Charming Stories

Every Piece Tells a Story with Mari Keating Schofield

Mari Keating Schofield has been making and selling jewelry for 30 years. “My mom was one of 12 kids and grew up in Paterson. Her family didn’t have a lot of money and bought what they needed at the Salvation Army and local thrift stores. When I began visiting these stores with my mom and grandmother, I discovered shoeboxes filled with broken necklaces and beads…and I was hooked,” she says.

A collector of unique and vintage beads since the ninth grade, Mari continues to visit thrift stores to collect beads for necklaces and bracelets. “I’ve always been a treasure hunter. Rocks, shells, sea glass…I love garage sales and thrift stores.” Mari finds vintage beads and pearls and upcycles them with new designs and original combinations.

“I tell a story through beads. I have beads that are 50 years old; many are unique pieces from all over the world. I share the history of my beads with my customers and that’s why they love my jewelry!”

Winnie and Belle was Mari’s former store location in Midland Park (she now works from her home in Wyckoff). At the time she was opening the store, she saw a news segment on the social and economic challenges of Camden, New Jersey. She was deeply affected by the huge numbers of homeless people in that city. The story narrative mentioned that there was only one homeless shelter in all of Camden for women to shower. She decided to use her new store to be the site of a toiletry drive and the idea took off. Mari ran the drive for five years, collecting and delivering thousands of items to the Camden shelter.

Pearls for Peace is also a Camden initiative Mari innovated that promotes seeking alternatives to violence. She has developed a line of necklaces made of hybrid seed beads with a single pearl called “Pearls for Peace.” All proceeds support CURE4CAMDEN which works to heighten community awareness about gun violence and encourages residents and community, business, and faith-based leaders to work together to end violence in Camden. Mari also generously donates her jewelry line to local schools, organizations and fundraisers.

“I diligently research my beads, says Mari. “I found an organization in Africa from which I can buy beads made from recycled bottles by impoverished women for fair trade. The beads have wonderful texture and character.” Mari also purchases Tibetan beads from her vendor who is a native and pays a fair price for the work.

Mari also honors requests from clients who have mementos, buttons, costume jewelry (even vintage plates!) handed down from family and loved ones. “Clients will visit me with certain pieces, and say, ‘I can’t part with this, but what should I do with it?’” With a little creativity and redesign, her customers have a new, wearable piece of art--a much better alternative than leaving memories in the drawer. “Creating beautiful, custom pieces for my clients and being trusted with their family heirlooms is a privilege,” says Mari.

“I like to find the best resources, that is the part of the story. I want anyone who purchases jewelry from me to enjoy it and have it forever.”

Winnie & Belle Shop on Facebook

@winnieandbelle on Instagram

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