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January 23, 2013

Birmingham designer bejewels models at Auto show

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Birmingham resident and jewelry designer Beth North was asked by several auto companies to supply accessories for their models and product specialists at this year’s North American International Auto Show.
Tiffany Paige, a model with Lexus at this year’s auto show, sports a necklace she selected herself from Beth North’s collection.
Birmingham jewelry designer Beth North made hundreds of pieces of jewelry for the models and product specialists at this year’s Auto Show. Among the accessories was this engraved acrylic cuff, which she created for Chevrolet.
 

BIRMINGHAM — This week, Birmingham resident and jewelry designer Beth North has been showing off her jewelry in an exhibition that’s expected to be visited by more than half a million people by the time it closes Jan. 27.

Not bad for a mother of two who studied business accounting and finance in college.

North, who’s been creating her unique metal and stone jewelry for 16 years, designed and crafted pieces to be worn by models and product specialists promoting cars at this year’s North American International Auto Show in downtown Detroit.

“I did a lot of jewelry for galleries and clothing shops, but never on models like it is now at the show, which is really exciting to see,” said North, who sells her designs online and at Yellow Door in Berkley, Voila Boutique in Grosse Pointe Farms and The Artisan’s Bench in Brighton.

Her career as a designer began years ago, when she took a basic jewelry-making class at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center. She spent years selling her wares at local art fairs and slowly building a devoted following, but nothing can compare to the attention her work will get while being shown off at what’s arguably the biggest annual event in the Detroit area.

The process of becoming the official jeweler of the Auto Show began months ago, when one of her customers asked if she would be interested in sending some samples off to carmaker Lexus. That customer was Shari Barnett, the director of creative services for Productions Plus, a talent agency for auto and trade shows. Barnett’s job was to work with car companies and their creative teams to hire models for nationwide car shows, train them, pick out their wardrobes, coordinate with display designers and make sure each aspect of the show exhibits were aesthetically perfect.

“I, personally, like using local people, so that was a top priority. But her jewelry was so unique and inspiring,” said Barnett. “She’s just a great person to work with, and I liked that her jewelry was so different than anybody else’s.”

Different was exactly what the carmakers’ creative teams seemed to have in mind, as well. While many of the items chosen to adorn models at the car show were picked from North’s existing collection, others were tweaked and specially commissioned to fit each company’s marketing message.

Chevrolet, for instance, chose one of North’s cuff bracelets, which featured a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote etched into the acrylic. The company asked, however, if she would be willing to customize the words to something of their choosing, and she happily obliged. Keen-eyed Auto Show guests will notice that the cuffs now feature words like “fun,” “play” and “inspire,” to coordinate with the overall Chevy theme.

Lexus wanted to do something a little bit different, as well. Instead of choosing one necklace for its models, the company chose three and let the model’s choose their own, to give its display a bit of individuality. 

“Last week, when I got the pictures, I couldn’t believe it. To see so many people and so many models wearing it, it’s overwhelming,” said North. “It’s really flattering. I feel really lucky.”

But North’s luck won’t run out as the NAIAS closes its doors at the end of the month. Her jewelry will continue to grace car models at 78 auto shows across the country through the spring. The final show will be in New York around Easter, according Barnett.

“Every (model) who received her jewelry — probably a couple hundred people — when someone comes to an auto show, say in Oklahoma, and they ask the model about the jewelry and they say, ‘Oh, it’s Beth North,’” said Barnett. “She’s being promoted not only locally, but nationally.”

North said she’s thrilled about the prospect of the publicity, and after creating hundreds of pieces for the models in just a few months’ time, she said she’s ready to handle what could be a huge influx of orders.

Until those requests start coming in, though, she and her family are just enjoying the fact that her hobby has turned her into the signature jewelry designer of the Motor City’s signature event.

“It’s so fun,” said North. “Obviously I love what I do, and I feel really lucky that I can be a full-time mom for my kids and that I found my passion and I can make it work.”

For more information on Beth North’s jewelry, visit www.bethnorthdesigns.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.