By KAREN MARTIN Assistant People editor
Beatrix Bell will be representing Louisiana at a Christmas market in France this year with a dozen Louisiana artists selected to participate in the monthlong Christmas lights festival, Les Lumières de Noël, in Montbéliard in eastern France.
A Cajun chef and musicians also are making the trip. About 30 people in all will be in the state’s entourage, said Doug Stannard, president of the Louisiana Crafts Guild. “It’s the ‘Louisiana Experience,’” said Stannard. “It’s going to be kind of cool.”Already about 500 bottles of New Orleans Rum and 2,500 bottles of Abita beer have been shipped to Montbéliard, along with about two tons of artwork, Stannard said. “There are about 140 booths, called chalets, at the festival, which runs from Nov. 27 to Dec. 24,” said Stannard. Bell will be selling her jewelry in one of the outdoor booths and is working frantically to add to her stock while still selling at local crafts shows. By far, this will be her biggest market ever with about 400,000 people expected to attend the festival. “I’m still trying to wrap my brain around how much I’m going to need,” said Bell, 31, who’s shooting to have at least 1,500 pieces ready to sell.
Bell, who started making jewelry at age 16 but only last year decided to stop teaching and make it her fulltime job, is concentrating on crafting her signature pea pod necklaces, where she wraps up to four pearls in sterling silver or gold-filled wire. “The pearls represent family or friends,” Bell said. “They sell really well here.” She’s also added some Louisiana pieces — necklaces with a charm in the shape of Louisiana or with small crabs or crawfish — to her repertoire. “I wanted to do something with a Louisiana twist that wasn’t a fleur de lis,” she said, knowing that many people are going to want to take home a souvenir from the festival. Bell crafts all of her pieces using silver and gold wire, twisting it with pliers, hammering it into geometric shapes or soldering it with a torch. To that she adds semi-precious stones, glass beads and Swarovski crystals and pearls. Most of her pieces sell here for between $40 and $50 at about 40 boutiques across the country, including the LSU Museum of Art in the Shaw Center for the Arts. “Right now I’m learning how to convert to euros,” Bell said laughing, “and I’m practicing counting in French.”