Joyce Fritz ’84, communication and the arts, started making jewelry and related items resembling insects for a Neville Public Museum garden show in 1993. Now she sells the little buggers across the United States and even in Canada and England.
The following is an expanded version of a story that first appeared in the February 2009 edition of the Inside UW-Green Bay print magazine.
“The Neville was having a garden show, and they (the bug creations) were so well received a distributor took them to a New York gift show and called back with $10,000 in orders that had to be filled in three months,” explained Fritz.
Working independently, and with a small child at home, Fritz had her work cut out for her. Using an ancient technique called “millefiori, she could essentially mass produce her colorful creations with very distinctive patterns, and then add the detail work. The result was anything but scary.
Fritz named the business “Yipes!” In her Green Bay studio, she creates beautiful pins and earrings in the form of bugs, beetles, dragonflies and butterflies, and frogs, lizards, and turtles, as well. She comes up with a new line of species every year, while some of her creations “go extinct.” Her new line in 2009 will include the elusive walking stick. Also popular is a line of larger, frameable (not wearable) insects, which resemble scientific specimens.
By changing designs each year, she encourages her clients — mostly exclusive shops, galleries and museums —to reorder and maintain a fresh population. Some of her designs are whimsical, others are true to form, and others are hybrids. Fritz, who says she could have gone into science or art in college, has enjoyed the “science side” of her creations.
“I really enjoy working with color and patterns and I like getting the essence of the insect, and making my own interpretation,” she said. “I use a lot of field guides and go to museums and study insects in their collections. I recently participated in the Wisconsin Naturalist program (a series of workshops) at UWGB.”
Fritz also credits new creativity to her longtime assistant, Joan Berkopec, a trained naturalist who has taken classes at UWGB and works closely with known spider-specialist, Prof. Michael Draney.
“Joan deserves much credit for my scientific inspiration and discussion,” Fritz said.
In the Green Bay area, Fritz’s Yipes! creations can be found at The Gift Itself, on Broadway Street in Green Bay.
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