Wear a bay treasure - Coastal Culture – Marilou McCrosky
by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
Marilou McCrosky of Tappahannock loves the Chesapeake Bay and its natural resources.
By day, she teaches students at Washington & Lee High School about the world’s largest estuary and its abundance of fish, crabs and bivalves. By night, she meticulously crafts oysters, mussels and crab legs into stunning pieces of jewelry.
McCrosky, a science teacher at W&L, says “I teach about oysters. I go on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation field trip about oysters every year. It just seemed natural that I make oyster jewelry.”
New to the hobby, McCrosky started making jewelry just over a year ago and now is busy displaying and selling it every weekend, sometimes at two or three events.
Her business, Celebrate the Chesapeake NNK Style, with the support of friend Joe Conkle, has taken off. She sold her jewelry for the first time in Reedville last summer at the village’s annual Fourth of July celebration.
“I was just thrilled to pieces with how much I sold,” she said.
Although McCrosky has taken a few jewelry-making classes in Richmond, she’s basically self-taught.
She bought jewelry making items from a friend, a piece or two at a time, just over a year ago and checked out a YouTube video about jewelry making.
“My friend said if you start doing wire wrap, it’s addictive,” she said. “I didn’t see the point at the time, but now I love it.”
McCrosky’s pieces are all Bay inspired. Her signature pieces are all about the oyster, though.
“I got into this really to feature the Bay. I’m not a jeweler by any means,” she said.
Her necklaces include an oyster pendant, wrapped in beads and copper, bronze or silver enamel-coated wire. They’re ornate and elaborate but oddly enough not heavy.
“As far as my jewelry goes, it’s important not to make it heavy,” said McCrosky. “I don’t want anything hanging around my neck that I’m thinking about all the time, so I know my customers don’t want that either.”
McCrosky also makes pendants with stones and mussels and now is working with resined crab claws. She even has a pendant with beads that resemble grapes and has titled it “wine and oyster pairing” in honor of the Northern Neck’s wine and oyster trails.
The oyster shells have to be small, almost just over spat size, she says.
She collects all of them herself and spends a lot of time searching for just the right size bivalve shells along the shores of Pope’s Creek and at Windmill Point and Hughlett Point.
The ideal shell is about 2 inches by 1 1/2 inches, she said.
Although McCrosky has an Etsy online store where customers can order her jewelry, she can usually be found peddling her wares at the numerous farmers’ markets across the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula. She’s a regular at Montross’ First Friday events and can be found at the Irvington, Heathsville, Deltaville and Urbanna farmers’ markets. She’s even sold at White Stone’s 606 and Miss Mary Seafood.
“I have lots of repeat customers and ones that have referred others to me,” she said. “And I will work with anyone on a special order.” Her jewelry prices are $28, $35 and $42.