Bits 'n' Pieces: Artist cultivates pearlsinto jewelry, works of art

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Jewelry artist Helen Brock, 65, discovered the artistry of pearls while living in China for three years, where her husband's job took them.

In a pearl market outside of Shanghai she saw Chinese freshwater pearls that filled an arena. "Tables stacked a foot high with pearl strands. It was mind-boggling," Brock said.

In China, Brock began learning how to string pearls and jewelry. At first she made jewelry for herself. "Then I decided I couldn't wear it all, so it was time to sell it," Brock said with a laugh.

Pearls have seen a revival, thanks in part to the wider availability of inexpensive pearls in a variety of sizes and colors, Brock said.

"Women and pearls seem to gravitate together," she said.

She will combine fashion with art in her featured show, "The Changing Pearl," throughout August at the Alcove Art Gallery. It will showcase a variety of her jewelry designs incorporating pearls.

"I tend to describe a design as one of a kind," said the Hazel Dell resident. "That's where the art part comes in, it's in the choosing."

Helen Brock's jewelry will be on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays through Sept. 1 at Alcove Art Gallery, 328 Pioneer St., Ridgefield. View her jewelry at http://pearlsbyhelen.com.

— Ashley Swanson

BBQ thanks music shoppers in new millennium

Most area music lovers know that Music Millennium, founded in 1969, is Portland's grand old music shop. And many still mourn the 2007 closure of the huge Music Millennium store on Northwest 23rd Avenue -- due to the migration of music distribution from physical discs to Internet downloads. The remaining shop (including Classical Millennium) is on East Burnside Street.

But most probably don't know that Music Millennium owner Terry Currier is a Vancouver guy. He grew up in Burien and came here as a high school junior in the early 1970s, and fell in love with local AM radio station KVAN, then a purveyor of music and the groovy vibe of the times. He also fell in love with Portland's 3-year-old Music Millennium, and worked his way into management and ownership in the 1980s. Currier and his store became national leaders of the independent record store scene -- a status they still enjoy today, despite the changing nature of the business.

To make sure Music Millennium's old-fashioned walk-in browsers and buyers know how crucial they are, Currier has held a Customer Appreciation Barbecue every year for the last two decades. The 20th annual barbecue is coming right up: It's set for 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, at the store at 3158 E. Burnside. Food and drink are free, and there'll be live music all day. Visit the store's website at musicmillennium.com.

Currier, who's identified so strongly with the unique culture of Portland(ia), still lives right here, with his wife, Karen, in Vancouver's Lincoln neighborhood. "I live in the same house I bought years ago so I could listen to my music in peace," he said.

— Scott Hewitt

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.