When: Visit the ‘Tater Chunks’ booth from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 22 at the L.A.M.B.S. Holiday Bazaar in the Ministry Resource Centre in Turnerville
Cost: $5 and higher
More info: www.facebook.com/taterchunks
Potatoes are one of the most versatile foods in existence. They can be cooked into hash browns, mashed potatoes, French fries and soups.
And now they even can be made into jewelry by creative minds like Lula resident Linda Shubert.
Shubert created her business “Tater Chunks” as a way to sell her pieces made from potato beads at various markets and fairs. But when she began, she was just looking for a way to make inexpensive gifts for friends and family.
“The fall of 2008 was difficult for me,” Shubert said. “I had triple heart bypass surgery the year before, and my hearing had gotten so bad that I got hearing aids. I was depressed because I had very little money left to spend on Christmas presents.”
Then, Shubert’s cousin called with an out-of-the-ordinary idea. She read a newspaper article, which explained how to make beads out of potatoes. Liking the idea, Shubert decided it was worth a try.
“When I first started, they just looked awful,” Shubert said. “I ended up baking bread for everyone that Christmas, but I’m not one to be outdone by inanimate objects, so I gave it another try.”
Shubert tried different paint techniques, different ways of chopping the potato and created new designs until she had some she was pleased with. She wore a piece to a doctor’s appointment one day and received a multitude of compliments.
“One of the doctors told me he wanted a set for his wife,” Shubert said. “I had never made and sold pieces to anyone before, so I didn’t even know what to charge him.”
After her initial sale, Shubert realized the jewelry could be a source of extra income. So she began making various pieces to sell in a booth at different locations. She started selling her wares at the Hall County Farmers Market two years ago and expanded to fall festivals. She also ventured to apartment complexes and created a Facebook page.
While each design is handmade and original, all start with the same root.
“I chop up the potatoes differently depending on the size and shape I want,” Shubert said. “I put them in plenty of ventilation to dry out, and sometimes I can manipulate the shape by placing them in front of a fan.”
Shubert admits the process is inaccurate. She dries out several beads before she can match enough up to make a piece of jewelry. Some of her pieces are made from large chunks that have odd shapes. Some have small, very square shapes to the beads.
“It takes a long time for the large pieces to dry out,” she said. “The small ones are really fragile, but I haven’t had any start to decompose.”
Once the chunks are dry, Shubert paints them in a rainbow of colors depending on the beads she adds to the piece from her costume jewelry collection.
“I use recycled jewelry a lot, too,” she said. “Some of the other beads or charms come from things I had, things I bought at thrift stores, or things friends gave me to use.”
After painting, the beads are sealed with a top coat to prevent decomposition, making them inedible. However, the beads can get soft if too much humidity is in the air. But Shubert notes placing the beads in a well-ventilated area will restore the dryness.
Over time, Shubert has tried new methods for her beads, including leaving the peel on some pieces, adding more wire or detail to the pieces and including unusual items.
“I’m proud of using odd things,” she said. “I’ve used the inner parts of a light bulb, belt buckles and even an old zipper from my favorite vest.”
Shubert works on her “Tater Chunks” every day. And when she finds something she likes, she can stay up into the wee hours of the morning, nurturing her creative side.
Some of her new designs include holiday colors, spiral shapes and smaller dangles on pieces.
“The real joy I get is from the comments I hear from people,” Shubert said. “A girl with her family, around 8 or 9 years old, came up and said ‘Isn’t it amazing that something that bland can be something so exquisite.’”