From the Back Yard to the Big Shop
Story by Sarah Naron
What began four years ago as a small venture in a 10×20 back yard in a residential neighborhood in Dallas has now flourished into a thriving business located along I-35 in Abbott. Owned and operated by Andrew and Teisha Vandekop, Backyard Silversmiths gives visitors a chance to not only purchase artisan jewelry, but also take a sneak peek into the effort that goes into taking the products from ideas to reality.
Andrew, who designs and creates all of the jewelry offered at Backyard Silversmiths, was first introduced to silversmithing by his maternal grandfather as a teenager.
“He was a silversmith in England, and I spent my summers helping him in his workshop,” said Andrew, a first generation American with parents hailing from Holland and England. “Fast forward about 25 years, once we started getting our kids off to college, I started making jewelry following his designs in our back yard.”
Andrew and Teisha traveled to various art shows, fall festivals, and holiday bazaars throughout the Dallas area before relocating to Abbott in 2017 and upgrading the business from a mere back yard to the large workshop and store it currently calls home. In addition to offering his products for sale, Andrew also gives customers a chance to enjoy a sneak peek at how the pieces are made.
“We have the back opened up so people can actually see me making jewelry,” he said. “Whatever I’m doing that given day is what visitors get a chance to see.”
The idea stemmed from the experiences the couple had while attending festivals and shows.
“People really liked meeting the artist, and we had fun doing it,” Teisha recalled. “We thought, ‘When the kids go off to college, maybe we could have a place where people could actually see how it’s made and meet you.’ So, we think that’s our really unique factor here – that they are greeted by Andrew, the artist.”
Much of the jewelry Andrew produces revolves around a rural Texas theme, and among his most popular pieces is a spur bracelet.
“You know, the spur’s been around Texas forever,” Andrew pointed out.
The process of creating the bracelet begins by fashioning small wax models of buttons using lost-wax casting.
“Then, I sink the wax pieces into a kind of a concrete,” Andrew explained. “Once it dries, I melt out the wax, and then, I pour in pure silver. It will create and exact copy of the wax model.”
The piece is then transferred to an anvil, heated with a blowtorch, and polished.
“It’s his grandfather’s anvil, by the way, so it’s nice and special for us,” Teisha shared.
“It was made out of piece of railroad steel from England,” Andrew said. “I was fortunate enough to bring it over on the plane. Back in the day, you could put an anvil on a backpack and carry it on a plane. You can’t do that now, but you could in 1984.”
The spur bracelet, Teisha said, is a patented design and one of approximately 42 unique pieces Andrew creates.
“They range everything from bull skulls to little triangle earrings,” Andrew said. “I make kind of a wide range, because everybody has a different taste. Some of the millennials like stuff that’s really small and dainty, and then, some of the people from my generation like big and bold, cool, chunky pieces. We’re right on I-35, so, when people pull over, we try to have something that would interest them.”
While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had negative effects on many businesses and entrepreneurs, Backyard Silversmiths has devised a plan to help their fellow artisans continue to make a living doing what they love.
“With the pandemic, a lot of shows got canceled around the country, so we’ve started carrying some pieces,” Andrew explained. “Originally, it was just friends of ours that we knew from shows, but we’ve kind of grown out a little bit more. We have wooden bowls. We have some home décor pieces that are really cool; they’re made out of nails by a guy from Ohio. We have American flags made out of wood. We have purses.”
Teisha added that many of the artists hail from various cities throughout the state of Texas.
“We have a guy out of Claude that hand tools leather wallets, keychains, and portfolios,” she said. “There’s a guy that uses a vintage leather press in Dallas, and he designs his own illustrations of longhorns and the state of Texas and creates stationery.”
The addition of home décor and other products, Teisha reported, is one that has been well received by the customers of Backyard Silversmiths.
“We’re really, really happy that it’s made a lot of people happy when they walk in and see so many different artisan finds,” she said.”
Backyard Silversmiths is located at 391 I-35 in Abbott. Hours of operation are Thursday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
“We also have everything on our website, and we ship for free,” Teisha said.
For more information or to make a purchase, please visit www.backyardsilversmiths.com.