The Barnstable Patriot published this story about our Barnstable Bracelet, January 2005:
Francis makes jewelry with a sense of place
Local symbolism distinguishes new Barnstable Bracelet
By David Curran
The idea came in July. In December, it became a reality. By Christmas, the first few members of what promises to remain a fairly exclusive club were wearing Barnstable Bracelets on their wrists.
“It’s just weird to me to see something that I created on all these people,” Karen Francis said this week.
A self-described “jewelry hog,” Francis was familiar with the Dennis Bracelet (a.k.a. the Cape Cod Bracelet), so called because for the past 30 years or more, purchasers have waited in line for hours to be fitted for one at the shop on Route 6A in Dennis that is the only place the authentic Dennis Bracelet is made and fitted for each customer. In July, Francis found herself thinking about a bracelet named for a town that incorporates the community’s signature symbols, the artifacts that express its unique culture.
“We have seven villages,” the West Barnstable resident thought to herself. “There has to be a way to make the seven villages into a bracelet.” She set out for the Whelden Memorial Library to do some research.
By September, she had decided on the icons - for Barnstable Village, a whale’s flukes; for West Barnstable, an embossed Barnstable Brick Co. brick; for Centerville, a cranberry scoop, invented by resident Daniel Lumbert; for Cotuit, a Cotuit oyster; for Hyannis, a fish, symbolizing the village’s primary enterprise for much of its history; for Marstons Mills, a grist mill; and for Osterville, a Crosby Cat Boat, so called because it was “quick as a cat.”
The folks at Whelden were of great help, she said, as were several Cape history books, particularly four volumes in the Images of America collection from Arcadia Publishing of Charleston, S.C. that cover every Barnstable village except Osterville and Marstons Mills.
“Those books are great,” she said. (All four are available for purchase at the Patriot office in Hyannis.)
“The history of stuff is the coolest thing, to be able to express all of this,” she added.
With the symbols selected and the bracelet designed - and with school back in session for daughter Jess, 15, and son Max, 6 - Francis, whose husband is Barnstable High School Athletic Director Steve Francis, was ready in September to wade into the logistical thicket involved in turning any idea into a product.
“The hardest part was finding out, ‘How do I do this? How do I make this thing?” she recalled.
The answer started with a carver whose brochure Francis had saved from a craft show several years earlier. The carver was unable to take on the project, but recommended someone who could - and did.
The carving was turned into a mold, and every bracelet - containing more than an ounce of sterling silver - was individually poured, she said. “It’s a hand-carved piece and each one is done individually,” Francis said, “so it takes time.”
It also accounts for why, at one point in the fall, one of the people involved in production said to her, “I didn’t realize you meant this Christmas.”
You can’t get the Barnstable Bracelet™ just anywhere. In fact, you can only get it directly from Francis, via word-of-mouth or by visiting the bracelet Web site, www.barnstablebracelet.com. A few shops have expressed interest, but Francis said she has politely declined. Would-be investors have met with the same courtesy. Francis said she is keeping them all in mind, just in case.
Each bracelet comes with a scroll relating the historic significance of the seven symbols. Wanting an antique look, Francis had the text printed on parchment paper. She cuts them by hand with special scissors to give them irregular edges, then rolls them and ties them with ribbon..
Only 50 bracelets were ready in time for Christmas, in part because the production company shuts down for the holidays. Those first 50 were gone in a week, some bought sight unseen, Francis said. She was expecting to pick up 100 more yesterday, about 20 of which already were spoken for. If you want to see the bracelet in the flesh - in the sterling? - Mulberry Corners in Osterville has one on display.
Francis said she never considered mass production.
“I want it to be exclusive,” she said. “I want it to be something special.”
Francis is adding a second item featuring the same design: a tie clip rather like the one fashioned by her husband. As soon as the first 50 came in, he dug up an old tie clip and glued the bracelet’s symbols on it. He has become something of a walking advertisement for the jewelry.
“He’s into this marketing mode and he couldn’t be happier,” she said. “He’s got one in his pocket all the time.”
He was an unflagging supporter of his wife’s enterprise from the beginning, she said.
“He didn’t know what it was going to be like, but he was very supportive,” she said. “The whole time he was always (saying), ‘Go for it.’” Francis said she isn’t in the jewelry business to make money - indeed, she characterized the enterprise as something she “had to do” - and has no plans to quit her day jobs as a physical therapist at Whitehall Estate in Hyannis and for the Visiting Nurse Association.
“This isn’t my main thing,” she said. “I love it. It’s fun... Everyone I’ve worked with on this project has been great.”
At the same time, she’s not exactly telling opportunity to go knock on someone else’s door. In addition to the tie clip, she plans to promote the bracelet during the upcoming wedding-planning season and she has begun work on a Falmouth Bracelet™.
Photo: David Curran, Barnstable Patriot
NO TWO ALIKE - Karen Francis of West Barnstable sits at her kitchen counter Monday cutting parchment scrolls she includes with every Barnstable Bracelet she sells. Francis designed the bracelet, researching the history of the town’s seven villages to decide on a symbol for each. The bracelet (soon to be joined by a tie clip) is available only directly from Francis, though one is on display at Mulberry Corners in Osterville. The first 50 sterling silver bracelets were ready for sale Dec. 9, and are long since gone, some purchased sight unseen. Francis expected 100 more to be available beginning yesterday; she said she had a waiting list of about 20 people. The price of the bracelet goes up from $145 to $155 March 1.