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Bonnie Basham Lance

Like the best family memories, Bonnie Basham Lance’s jewelry isn’t all polished perfection. It’s organic, with beautiful quirks and flashes of color, inspired as much by the past as by flights of fancy.
As odd as it may sound, the rare scene unfolding in the Lance back yard is as beautiful as one of her gilded shark tooth necklaces. Oldest son Hewes, 5, and his father Rob are working on a science kit. Well, it might be more appropriate to say that Dad is working on the science kit and young Hewes has decided that he can best assist with the experiment by fully disrobing. Siblings Willa, 3, and Shepard, 21 months, quickly follow suit. Or, birthday suit, as it were.
“Where are your helpers?” Bonnie shouts through the back window to Rob, who is now the only one tending the experiment. She starts to turn back inside, then does a double take. Rob is stirring a bubbling beaker of chemicals. “Wait. Is that my favorite wooden spoon?” she asks. This jewelry designer is, after all, the head cook here most nights of the week.
Before the Bonnie Basham brand became a name in accessories, the former Miss Monahans Texas 1995 earned her degree in public relations from Texas Christian University and married Rob Lance, an anesthesiologist. But a fire had been lit during her childhood.
Inspired by time spent in the darkroom with her grandmother, her artist father and a mother who supported her creative forays, Bonnie found herself always making something. Her jewelry started as one-off designs for herself, then friends, then friends of friends. Her work was borrowed for a feature in D Magazine when she was working there in advertising.
It wasn’t really intentional, Bonnie says. “I just have a burning art inside of me … I maintain that part of me. I really, truly feel like I’m an artist.”
What developed was the Bonnie Basham line of handmade jewelry. Both earthy and artistic, the designs combine her Texas roots and fashionable intuition through natural and utilitarian materials. “My jewelry is a little more eclectic and out there,” Bonnie says. “I usually just design what I want to wear.”
That business plan worked: When the company kicked off, it was a whirlwind of developing collections, snagging showrooms and using her PR background to gain exposure. The line quickly earned representation, spanned the coasts and spread to Tokyo, and, before long, was seen on the likes of Nicole Richie and Jessica Simpson.
But, being a small business, energy and resources for Bonnie Basham jewelry ebbed with geographical and family changes. Moves to Iowa for Rob’s residency and then back to Texas offered more than a little challenge while bringing up a young family, so the line hasn’t had the traditional seasonal releases as it did in the beginning.
“I’m a mom that makes jewelry, but mom is first,” Bonnie stresses. “I don’t categorize myself as a jewelry designer only. I would love to branch out and do all sorts of stuff, but I do it enough to make me feel good and to stay in my art.”
That itch for discovery, that need to create, still propels the artist through her days, inspiring not only her designs – which, locally, are sold at Hemline and often at V.O.D. Boutique, as well as by appointment and at trunk shows – but also ideas for room redecoration and craft projects with the kids.
And it doesn’t die down on a Sunday. Just before Bonnie opened the door for our interview, the spirited mother of three had taken on candle making in her kitchen after finding a kit during a stolen moment of me-time at Michaels. Now the funky-chic Lance house is filled with the warm, welcoming smell of sandalwood, and Bonnie is brainstorming scent combos and label designs for holiday gifts.
As any parent well knows, this is a rare gem of a Sunday. A Sunday when things are going as planned, both parents are home, the kids are in good moods and no true meltdown or disaster has occurred. Because they will.
“My house is usually very chaotic and loud and with a fit being thrown. It's not all science experiments and candles and fun time,” Bonnie says. “I’m not trying to pretend like it’s all hippy fun around here, because it’s not. Someone’s usually screaming.” If busy stress is everyday stud earrings, these good days are the Bonnie Basham signature necklaces.
She spends several afternoons a week working on her designs while the kids are at school or dance class – there’s simply too much going on with the family to design every day, and frankly, that’s just not how she creates. She’s also worked with GAIA, a local organization that sells handcrafted creations made from sustainable or repurposed materials, and aims to empower women in need by offering training and guiding them to a self-sufficient life. Bonnie designed bracelets and agate napkin rings as companions to the GAIA napkin line.
As the napkin rings suggest, Bonnie is open to expanding her efforts beyond jewelry, but her next side project is more child-focused: She’s busy coming up with hands-on projects for the time she’ll be spending in Hewes’ classroom. Taking a cue from his mom, Hewes loves to make bracelets, so Bonnie is toying with taking jewelry making to school. From storytelling to art to dramatic flair, all of the kids, in fact, have a bit of their mom’s creative streak in them.
Bonnie’s artistic energy is cyclical, after all: Childhood inspiration breeds successful artist breeds inspired children. And all of her energy and their energy – classroom projects, after-school crafts, quality time with her husband – feed right back into designs that add beauty to someone else’s memories.