Becoming the Bay Gypsy: Finding a pearl within the pandemic

By Debra R. Messick Dorchester Banner 
Posted 9/23/22

Juliet Huber has always been a Maryland girl at heart. But it took the recent pandemic to truly unlock her inner Bay Gypsy.

As the Covid lockdown closed in on life during March 2020, Ms. Huber and …

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Becoming the Bay Gypsy: Finding a pearl within the pandemic

Posted

Juliet Huber has always been a Maryland girl at heart. But it took the recent pandemic to truly unlock her inner Bay Gypsy.

As the Covid lockdown closed in on life during March 2020, Ms. Huber and husband, J.P., were each laid off from their jobs on the same day.

A longtime emergency veterinary technician, who loves animals deeply, Ms. Huber had, the year before, decided to try a less emotionally draining career, becoming a craft beer sales representative. Living and working in New Jersey, the couple tried for a while to hang on there.

But as the health crisis grew more dire, they decided to return to Maryland, which had, so far, escaped the worst.

Ms. Huber had grown up in Glen Burnie, staying to graduate high school there after her parents relocated to Denton. With her embedded love for all things Maryland, especially crabs and oysters, coming back seemed to make all the more sense.

Familiar with Cambridge already, when beer brewer J.P. got hired at RAR Brewing, the deal was sealed. With time on her hands, Juliet, a self-described "lifelong maker," dove into watching a trove of how-to art and craft related YouTube videos.

"Since childhood, I started out drawing and painting, and was pretty much into trying anything hands-on crafty, anything a little different," Ms. Huber recalled. (Along those eclectic lines, she's tried her hand at reconstructing personalized bobblehead dolls.)

With that background, and a stash of blank canvases, she and J.P. waded through every Bob Ross video from the late painter's PBS series.

Though she'd never worked with metal, Ms. Huber's jewelry of choice to wear was sterling silver, so she decided to look into how pieces were created, devouring videos teaching silversmith basics (soon adding copper to her repertoire).

With a taste leaning toward boho (bohemian) and rustic styles, Huber especially enjoyed creating unique pieces from repurposed material, such as old silver flatware, stained glass segments, found sea glass pieces, and even sanded remnants of porcelain dishes.

She soon purchased a small kiln, and began melting down bits of stained glass left over from projects created by her artistic mom, Lynn Cegelski.

She and Ms. Cegelski regularly take road trips together to Hoopers Island to hunt for sea glass on the riverbank at what used to be an old dump, Ms. Huber said. While she's thought about possibly venturing into the water to search, she hasn't needed to, having had success finding what she described as  "the nicest stuff," including the recent excitement of stumbling upon her first piece of red glass.

(Her mom currently crafts unique animal art painted on driftwood, which Ms. Huber enjoys helping her locate.)

After whittling down the stained glass pieces using an old Dremel tool from the 1960s, Ms. Huber melts them in the mini kiln to produce a unique finished effect. 

She then forms them (and the sea glass) into metal framed cabochons, for pendants, earrings, rings, and hair pins, often featuring sea-life inspired designs – jellyfish, oysters, whales, and more.

Ms. Huber also welcomes client ideas and custom orders. Among the most memorable of these was a request for a piece incorporating the ashes of a departed pet.

Sadly, she was able to test out the process first using the ashes of her beloved 13-year-old terrier mix who had passed away from cancer during the pandemic. (The couple lost two other pets during COVID, as well.) 

"The melted glass imbued with ashes actually looks like stars," Ms. Huber marveled, noting that her own pup's piece "resembled a nebula."

Wrapping up her first full year devoted to jewelry crafting 100 percent of the time, she remains more fond of creating than posting her work on Facebook and Instagram (though both of her pages showcase latest creation photos). Fortunately, J.P. has stepped into the unofficial role of IT guy, building and maintaining a successful website which has already brought in long distance sales (thebaygypsy.com).

Ms. Huber has enjoyed being a regular Thursday afternoon vendor at the Cambridge Farmer's Market, where mom Lynn often assists.

Calling her "my number one fan," she fondly recalled her mom's retort whenever someone compliments her jewelry. "Pointing proudly to me, she'll tell them, 'she made that, and I made her,'" Ms. Huber laughed.

Sunday, Sept. 25, will mark the second time she's participated in the Dorchester Center for the Arts' iconic Showcase on High Street.

Other upcoming events where she'll be appearing include Artoberfest in Stevensville, Oct. 1, Easton Fall Craft Fair, Oct. 15, and Makers Market, Cape Neddick, Maine, Oct. 30.

For more information, visit The Bay Gypsy website, Instagram, and Facebook pages, or email thebaygypsy@gmail.com.

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