If art is the ability to turn the mundane into the beautiful, Leta Altom is the consummate artist.
About 8 years ago, Leta was helping the owner of a farm near Wimberley clean up the property. They came across a pile of 10,000 small metal disks, the kind used roofers used to use to hold down tar paper. Someone had thrown them in a pasture and covered them up.
The disks were already rusted, but Leta considered them gorgeous.
“I asked, could I take a few of these? I saw the unique patterns of the rust, and I got so excited. So I started fooling around with them.”
Leta was already an inveterate collector. She had pieces of Victorian lace and bric-a-brac she had saved since being in her teens. She has made regular trips to England since 1983, picking up finds from jumble sales.
She started going through her boxes and combining textures and patterns on her little metal disks. The result? An entire collection of jewelry–broaches, earrings, necklaces, and more.
Her business is Blue Chelsea Treasures and based in Wimberley, where she works with her daughter, Courtenay. The collection features vintage and rusted elements put together with contemporary design. In addition to lace, she has been known to use horn and bone, antler, dried pumpkin stalks, and even wasps nests.
“The thing with unique shapes in nature is that there can’t be duplicates. Every piece is one-of-a-kind.”
Word has spread of Leta’s unique art, and now friends and neighbors drop off weird things they come across.
“I got a message that someone had dropped a bag of bones on my front porch. I love it!”
Leta now works on staff at the church where her husband is associate pastor. But design has always been her passion.
“I would say I have an exaggerated sense of placement and design. I know that people can walk into a room and immediately feel comfortable because it’s designed well. I try to create that atmosphere.”
Leta now offers her jewelry line exclusively in Fredericksburg at Gathered & Good, where she is attracting a growing following.
“I love the idea of gathering and the finding and putting things together that they have here. Plus being a mother/daughter business here in this shop run by a mother and daughter.”
Or even more generations.
“I like to save things that meant something to somebody else a long time ago. I’ve made quite a few custom pieces, where people bring in items from their grandmothers. That is wonderful that they can pass them on to their granddaughters.”