Thursday, November 17, 2022

Bonepile Bling! Artful treasures, unique jewelry emerge from junked vehicles

Artist Celeste Barnett makes jewelry of discarded car parts that are not suitable for restoration.
Here in her shop and studio, she eyes raw materials which will become sculpture and jewelry. 


Here is an artful sampling of the metal
creations made in a country shop.


A COUNTRY GIRL with ambition and a flair for design is turning trash into treasure.
Each day, she's on the look-out for a discarded and useless piece of "old whatever" that could be transformed into art.
Celeste Barnett grew up a self-proclaimed tomboy, following her welder dad, Terry Durden, into his Livingston, Montana, shop to watch and learn.
"He's a very creative guy, a real talent," says Barnett with pride. "He taught me how to do everything he'd learned -- I loved to watch him work."
Barnett asked her dad questions about the art of welding, learning to use his tools. "He made it look so interesting.  It was fascinating. I was hooked."
That fascination has held from those long ago days, when Barnett preferred her dad's workshop to the kitchen. Inside the house, her only sister was more at home with her mom in a  traditional domestic backdrop.
"But because I was the oldest of the two girls -- no boys -- it seemed more natural for me to be out in the shop with my dad."
In her shop, cutting, grinding and polishing
from auto parts that can't be salvaged has
become a career for Celeste Barnett.
FAST FORWARD a few decades, to college in Powell, Wyo., and MSU in Bozeman, a happy marriage and the birth of two much loved children, fourth generation Park County kids, Raelynne, 21, and William, 14. She's a nanny in Belgrade and he's a budding bareback rider who has already established a rodeo career.
"Small businesses can be a way to support dreams," she says, noting that her artwork's proceeds go to William's rodeo career and tour and travel expenses.
The family moved to Stillwater County in 2006 after her father-in-law was killed in an auto accident and they wanted to help and support his family.
SHE CREDITS her husband of 17 years, Coleman Barnett, with playing a major role in encouraging her art career after years in marketing and graphic design. Barnett is convinced her time illustrating brochures, book jackets and other artistic endeavors paved the way for the metal art that she finds so fulfilling today. She also believes the pandemic and 2019 prepared the family for belt tightening. "By the time 2020 hit, I needed a break," she says. A shop fire, her daughter's departure for college, plus turning 40 had blocked Barnett creatively.  "Even tequila and dark chocolate couldn't help me!" 

Bracelets, necklaces, earrings and more
can be found in Barnett's country workshop.

She took a time out and during this period of reflection, Barnett's husband's job at Stillwater Mining Company kept the family going. "I took a step back and realized I could create something I really wanted. Bonepile Bling was born."

Earrings are light and showy, and
recycled from an abandoned car.
PART OF the inspiration was Coleman's ongoing 1964 Chevy restoration project.  He has an eye for collectable cars and trucks, finding discarded vehicles to help him restore the Chevy.  His "leftovers" provided the initial materials for his wife's budding career in metal working.
"He'd picked up a parts truck for the Chevy and after he'd stripped all he needed, he planned to haul it off for scrap. Before we let it go, I salvaged a few pieces with that beautiful patina."
She didn't have a specific project in mind, but she saw potential.  
On their way to being jewelry, the process
first involves cutting and salvaging pieces.
Her artful eye found a future for those eye-catching discards. Using skills honed in her dad's shop, she creates graceful bracelets, flashy western style earrings, and other adornments. A new career has emerged.   

ONE OF her most interesting commissions was for a client who wanted jewelry fashioned from a car belonging to her late, beloved father. She sent pieces from the vehicle to Barnett who created a fanciful necklace, bracelet and earrings to the woman's appreciation and delight. The finished products came from an arduous process of cutting, cleaning, bending, grinding and welding. Patience and vision are implicit in Barnett's creative process of "junkyard salvation."   

This beautiful bracelet could have
emerged from a hood or old door.

Other autos beyond use and turned into jewelry include a 1957 Bel Air, 1959 Seneca,1977 Dodge Adventurer, and 1968 Ford Fairlane.  All inspire the growing custom made collection. Prices range around $40 and $45 and Barnett welcomes ideas for individual creations.


Barnette designed her logo.
and a wide-ranging client list from Iowa to Minnesota, the Rockies and west coast help fund her son's rodeo endeavors and keep Barnett feeling productive. "I truly enjoy spending time in the shop, junkyard browsing, and marketing a product that’s all mine," she says. She admits, though, that "it’s much more scary to be emotionally invested in my own project than trying my best to help get someone else's idea off the ground." 

Dani Diaz and Ramon Villa are part
of an energetic cast at Scripps Ranch.

 More info or to order:

BEST BET: San Diego's Scripps Ranch Theatre's "Extreme Home Makeover" is a thought-provoking work. An energetic four-person cast -- including two emerging young actors -- finds forum for their talent in this story of loss, grief and determination. It centers around a recently widowed Tejano woman, her two bright teen-agers and her cynical mother-in-law. The dream of making it big on the TV show from which the play's title comes is the theme, but there is a huge subtext. Each family member is struggling with the father's death, and Marco and Lupe as the kids are dealing with their mother's depression and anxiety. A clever work and one which will leave you moved and reflective.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Christene "Cookie" Meyers
 and Bruce Keller give thanks for their blessings, chief
among them the ability to see the world. Next up! 

UP NEXT: Giving thanks! So much to be thankful for as we bounce back from COVID ("crawl back" might be more accurate.) Even with the past few year's challenges -- family tragedy, the virus, the war in Ukraine, the failing  economy, political rifts, natural disasters of floods and hurricanes -- we celebrate being alive and relatively healthy and able to fly and travel again. We'll take to the airways and give thanks for being alive. Count your own blessings with us, and remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, nature, the arts, family and more:


  1. Pennsylvania Art LoversNovember 17, 2022 at 1:33 PM

    What a fun piece about a creative lady. Love it. Great photos, too

  2. Good piece on an entrepreneur!

  3. This work is so imaginative and clever.

  4. Refreshing to see in a day of discarded everything!