HERE AND NOW
New local boutiques, businesses and
brands you may not know — but should.
By Lynne Konstantin
to life on an
lish a recon-
A Dream Jar,
sugar jar, is
meant to hold
— or trinkets;'
symbols of hope,
etsy Besl loves stuff.
Beautiful stuff. Cast-aside stuff.
Lost and forgotten stuff.
And like most collectors and art-
ists, she often doesn't have a specific
purpose for the stuff she brings home.
She just saves them because she finds
beauty in almost anything. Then she
transforms them into works of art so
that others will see their beauty, too.
The Farmington Hills mom of two
grown daughters and teacher at
Temple Israel's Early Childhood Center
in West Bloomfield earned a bachelor's
degree in fine arts from the University
Growing up in Cincinnati, Besl says
she "can't remember a time that I wasn't
"When I was little, I made tiny books
out of pieces of paper that I had made
drawings on. My mom was a huge nee-
dlepointer, so she taught me how, too;
but I would make my own designs, like
caterpillars and colorful mushrooms:"
As an adult, the artist collected any-
thing that she found whimsy in, from
floral magnets to vintage teapots. Sil-
verplate, china, enamel — they weren't
always of value, but Besl was drawn to
their sculptural forms and loved what
they represented: comfort, family,
friends and home.
Cleaning her kitchen one day, her
eye was drawn to a red, white and blue
floral brooch that had been made into a
magnet on her refrigerator. Wondering
how these primary colors had found
their way into her pink-and-green
kitchen, she snapped it off and looked
at it in her hand. Lovely on its own, she
was struck by an idea: She scooped up
vintage buttons and other goodies,
plus a few of her silverplate teapots,
and got to work.
She began embellishing her tea-
pots with charms, costume jewelry,
a keychain with a carved wooden
elephant. The result is vintage-inspired,
charming and stunning works of art
that touch a chord in clients.
Bringing a group of 46 hand-repur-
posed Specialteas teapots to her first
show nine years ago, she was stunned
when she sold 36 in a few hours.
"People come up to me all the time,
and say,'That pattern reminds me of my
mom's china,'or'That bracelet hanging
from the handle is just like the one I
played with in my grandmother's jew-
elry box," Besl says."' love how people
respond to the pieces, because they
often evoke memories of childhood
or a special person, but I try to bring a
contemporary element to them, too, so
they can be displayed as works of art"
Besl loves doing custom orders, too.
"A lot of people have a tea service that's
chipped or damaged, just sitting in
their basement. It may have belonged
to a family member, so it is cherished,
but not in great condition;' Besl says.
They bring them to her, with or
without embellishments, and the artist
transforms the piece into something
the client will treasure, whether a funky
version with gumball-dispenser trinkets
or an organically beautiful complement
to the teapot's natural patina.
From the success of her Specialteas,
Besl has evolved her business into ad-
ditional items, including hand mirrors,
candleholders and salt and pepper
shakers. One of her favorites, which she
calls Dream Jars, she started crafting
from the sugar bowl that came with a
tea set she purchased."They evolved
from 'sweet sugar'to 'sweet dreams'
—just a play on words to create a
metaphor for the sweetness, mystery
and beauty of life. People have really
responded to them, and often buy
them as gifts for friends who are going
through a difficult time'
Similarly, Besl creates newly
trademarked Mi She-Bei-Rock stones,
which she hand-paints and embellish-
es with Jewish symbolism in honor of
the Mi Shebeirach, a Hebrew blessing
often recited for people who are ill.
"I love Debbie Friedman's version
of the blessing, and when I hear our
cantors at Temple sing it, it is so mov-
ing;'Bes1 says."It inspired me to create
something that would be a symbol of
strength, hope and healing. People
have told me some really amazing
stories about the stones, and they've
become extremely meaningful to me:"
Besl feels fortunate to be getting
these responses to her work. "I feel like
the rocks are special and meaningful,
and the teapots bring joy;' Besl says."In
the words of Chaim Potok:'Come, let
us have some tea and continue to talk
about happy things:"
Specialteas can be purchased at area gift boutiques
or custom ordered, and range in price from $40 to
$400. Besl also owns the Funky Craft Studio, where
she does arts and crafts, cooking and tea parties with
kids and adults at various camps and for birthday
parties. For details about Specialteas and Funky Craft
Studio, call Betsy Besl at (248) 553-8801.
Our favorite shopping picks for men,
women, kids, the home and more.
By Lynne Konstantin
arm up with our favorite
Iridescent pearly white
teams with matte jet black
(which doubles as eyeliner
when wet) for a stunning
smoky eye in NARS DUO
EYESHADOW ($34) in
Pandora. Area Nordstrom
stores (nordstrom.com ).
24 January 20141
Tory Burch's soft and slouchy
season less MARION HOBO
($495) in Bleach is crafted of
pebbled Italian leather with
whipstitch detailing. Tory
Burch, the Somerset Collection,
Troy (248-458-1307; toryburch.
Snuggle in style with
LOFT's alpaca and lambs'
wool DRAPE HEM OPEN
CARDIGAN ($89.50), with
ribbed collar and cuffs. Area
LOFT stores (loft.com).
4 4 \
Bordeaux's casual and comfy
terry LACED FROST DRESS
($138) gets a touch of sweet
sophistication with a peek
of lace. Area Anthropologie