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What started as a hobby turns into a brush with Hollywood
By Kathleen Ostrander

Stephen Parfitt has come a long way from making beads out of sticks he picked up in the backyard when he was 7.

Parfitt, 35, makes jewelry, beads and most recently, movie props.

He said some of his work that he was offering on eBay caught the attention of a prop person with "The Last Airbender."

"I'm really excited because I like M. Night Shyamalan," Parfitt said.

"The Last Airbender" is scheduled for release in July 2010. The movie is about a successor to a long line of Avatars who must give up his wastrel ways to stop the Fire Nation from enslaving the Water, Earth and Air nations. It will star, among others, Jackson Rathbone and Dev Patel, who was in "Slumdog Millionaire."

"I'd like to do more work like this because it interests me. ... I would love to do some work for the next "Lord of the Rings" movie ("The Hobbit")," Parfitt said.

"I've always been interested in world cultures and designing true to those cultures. I like working in bone and shell and antler.

Parfitt said he's collected American Indian art and artifacts for more than 20 years.

For the movie, he will be making two effigy carvings, one of a whale and one of a walrus head. Parfitt said he enjoys making reproductions of items used by American Indians. He also enjoys making pen and ink, and colored illustrations related to the items he creates.

Some of his work is at La Bead Oh!, 606 E. Pine St., where he works part-time. He also has opened his own shop, Ancient Circles, 107 S. Seventh St.

Parfitt comes by his artistic talent naturally.

"When he was 7, he went out in the backyard and came in with a bunch of twigs," said Becky Millett, his mother. "He told me he was going to make some beads. I woke up one morning and he had a whole necklace done of hand-carved and painted beads."

As Parfitt talks, his hands fashion jewelry of beads and metal. He designs seemingly without thinking and - voila! - something lovely and unique emerges.

Parfitt carves beads or fashions them out of metal and crystal. He also does lampwork.

"He even taught himself to sew and design clothing," Millett said. "I went to bed and woke up and he'd made a coat with lapels, really nice sleeves and a hood.

"I had a bit of a start when one of the first things he carved was a skull. But I talked to his art teacher and was assured that was normal."

Parfitt is a believer in recycling. He made a belt buckle out of a piece of a discarded wok. "I love base metals," he said.

He likes metal-working and metal-smithing, carving with a Dremel tool and making his own glass beads.

"I can make something out of anything," he said. "But I'm a realist. If you come to me with an idea and want something done, I can tell you if I can do it or not - most of the time I can."

One of his best recycling efforts nearly came at the expense of an insurance claim at La Bead Oh! Leslie Riegel Cully, a friend of Parfitt, said one of the pipes at the store had burst because of the cold, and store owner Kathy Anane kept the piece of burst pipe to show the insurance adjuster.

In the meantime, Parfitt came in to the store, saw the piece of pipe and decided to make a pair of earrings for Anane as her Christmas present.

"They were beautiful, and it was such a nice chunk of metal," said Parfitt with a sigh.

The insurance adjuster had to look at the earrings and what was left of the pipe when it came time to review the claim.

Parfitt's son, Phelan, has already started doing metal work, and has made cuff bracelets and pendants. Both he and his father do custom work. Prices depend on the time and detail.

In an interview in early March, Parfitt was looking forward to his store opening. He will display both men's and women's jewelry as well as ethnic and tribal jewelry.

And with 700 pounds of collected and handmade beads at home, he was looking forward to getting more space.

Parfitt also collects antique beads, vintage jewelry, skulls, early American folk art, vintage neckties from the '40s and '50s, natural history artifacts and books on all of those subjects. n


Story published Friday, May 1, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 3 )

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