The pandemic and a painful hernia changed the life of Mark Battuello, from St Helena, last year.
Battuello had been instrumental in his family’s vineyard, working with his brother Dave to clean up the property on Ehlers Lane, maintain the irrigation system and, of course, help with the harvest.
But last year Battuello’s hernia prevented him from continuing to work the land. Luckily, he had taken a jewelry making class from master jeweler Nancy Wintrup at 180 Santa Rosa Studios just before COVID-19 hit.
Already a painter and photographer, Battuello quickly learned how to make bracelets while learning to use a variety of jewelry-making tools and techniques.
After the course was completed, he continued to use his new skills, gradually adding tools to his home studio. And he learned to work with metal focusing on rings.
“I wanted to expand into bracelets,” Battuello said, “so I became a goldsmith. I finally sold a ring at the Made Local Marketplace in Santa Rosa, and I knew I wanted to keep going. I learned on my own how to use a lathe and started making rings from wine barrel staves, then whiskey barrel staves, and then inlaying gems in different types of cores. ring, including ceramic, stainless steel, wood and even animal skins like deer, alligator, and rattlesnake skin.