Sisters bring artistic flare to downtown business

Photo by Dave Boyd
Missy Johnson works on some of her original jewelry that is being sold along side her sister's pottery in downtown Elizabethton.

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Correspondent
Even though sisters Missy Johnson and Joye Lyon live hundreds of miles apart, their artwork is displayed side by side in downtown Elizabethton. Each sister learned her respective craft locally several years ago, and now they have come together to make their work available to area merchants.
Johnson's jewelry and Lyon's pottery have been on display at Bumblebees, E. Elk Ave., since the beginning of October. Johnson believes the quaint store provides the perfect backdrop for her jewelry, as well as her younger sister's pottery.
"I really liked it as a store and I thought that the atmosphere in the store, and my jewelry, would go well together," Johnson said.
Although it was Johnson's idea to begin selling their work together, it was her sister who first piqued her interest in the hobby. Lyon taught her sister how to make beaded jewelry over 10 years ago after she learned the art from their great-aunt.
Over the years Johnson has made jewelry for herself and friends, but it was not until the birth of her son that she began to think about turning her hobby into a small business venture.
The former Hunter enrichment teacher wanted to stay at home after her son's birth, and saw making jewelry as a way to provide additional income for her family.
"I have made jewelry for such a long time for myself to wear, for gifts, and for friends. Then I had people offer to buy it. When I quit work to be a stay at home mom, I thought making jewelry would give me a creative outlet as well as a way to earn some extra income," Johnson said.
The delicate earrings, necklaces, and bracelets Johnson creates are each unique. She uses sterling silver, and silk to accentuate glass and stone beads.
The skills Johnson has learned over the years have allowed her to bring variety and creativity to her work. She has developed a technique of knotting the silk to hold each bead apart, so the luster of stones such as jasper can be seen. She noted that the natural beauty of each stone is often lost in necklaces that have beads strung from one side to the other.
"If I had two words to describe my jewelry they would be delicate but different," Johnson said.
What Johnson brings to jewelry, her sister brings to pottery. Lyon, an Elizabethton High School alumnus, began taking lessons from a pottery designer in Jonesborough when she was only 16 years old.
Lyon moved to Nashville, Tenn., where she worked as an apprentice under other designers. She is now a full-time potter, and produces pieces for bigger named potters in the Nashville area.
Even though her laundry room doubles as her work studio, the 29-year-old is doing exactly what she wants.
"Pottery is something that I felt like I had to do," Lyon said. "I have always had some hobby going my whole life. I took private art lessons when I was little and that got me interested in art."
Lyon has only recently begun selling her own work.
Some of her smaller pieces available at Bumblebees include vases, perfume bottles, mugs, and bowls. Her work includes a lot of purples, celadon green, and honey brown.
Local pottery enthusiasts may also purchase Lyon's ikibanas, a Japanese inspired vase that accentuates flowers' natural lines.
Lyon is excited about the opportunity to showcase her pottery along side her older sister's jewelry. She stated that she has been encouraging Johnson to sell her own work for several years.
"I am really proud of her for starting up her jewelry. She has always done a really good job with it, and I am so glad she finally bit the bullet and started selling it," Lyon said.
Despite the sluggish downtown economy, business is going quite well for the sisters. However, Johnson did note that she would like to see more local residents take advantage of downtown businesses.
"I don't understand why anybody would go to Johnson City to shop when we have such great stuff right here in downtown Elizabethton," Johnson said.
The sisters' work will be available at Bumblebees indefinitely. Johnson stated that she does not plan on taking their work out of the local store any time soon.