Spend a Day with Jewelry Extraordinaire Heather Rivera

You notice it instantly. With an appreciation for the aesthetic, her heart bears a creative ember that gives rise to innovation and emits a recognizable energy. Heather Rivera is an artist. Lured by the azure Gulf waters and the offerings it gifts our beaches, Rivera relocated to Southwest Florida in pursuit of dreams. Spend 24 hours with one of Cape Coral’s up-and-coming jewelry artists.

Her day begins with snooze and the first of four cups coffee followed by negotiations with Mister McSchmidt, her German Shepard/Akita. Unlike those who almost immediately leave their house, Heather settles in, pajamas on, to her in-home studio to package email orders. Realizing the larger packages will require a pitstop at the post office, she sets them aside. Now it’s time to face that wire wrapped shell statement necklace, a commission piece for a respected client. Self-doubt creeps in.

“It’s horrible and not taking shape,” she says, struggling. “This uncooperative wire is not moving the way I want it to, and this shell has this odd angle. I hate this and don’t feel like an artist today.”

The project, hidden under a towel, now awaits inspiration.

It’s time for a second cup of coffee and a change of scenery, so Rivera visits her neighbor, her 81-year-old father, who vigorously practices the art of retirement. A short chat and a cup of coffee later, she bids farewell and is back home preparing a smoothie for the road. She consults her trusty tide chart a final time before leaving and now sports “acceptable-for-wear-in-the-outside-world” clothing and a shell bag. Rivera is off heading west toward Sanibel Causeway.

After a quick stop at the post office, she’s off to the Harbour View Gallery in Cape Harbour Marina, her main artist cooperative where she arranges the Argentium Drop in the Gulf collection on a shelf in her glass display case. She quickly checks over the other pieces throughout the gallery, making sure everything is nicely curated.

A left turn at the stop sign and she arrives at Sanibel’s Lighthouse Beach just before the confirmed 11:09 a.m. dead-low tide. Barefoot, she unearths the gems and jewels of the sea. Before leaving, she takes a seat on a rock in what she calls the “Maw of the Mangroves.” With a moment of reflection and a bag full of encouragement, her mission is successful.

At home, she rinses and scrubs her bounty with various brushes and tools, soaks them in a water and bleach bath and processes other batches in acid treatment, giving those a final scraping and a clear coating. It’s lunch, followed by a cup of coffee and she’s off to deliver a wholesale order of earrings to a salon owner. Her gym is nearby, so she squeezes in a quick workout and heads back home for a shower and a chat with that necklace. So immersed in her work, hours pass without her realizing a single second has gone by.

“I can’t tell you why or how, but somehow, the necklace is just flowing into place,” she says. “It’s an extension of my heart through my hands. It’s perfect for my client. It’s unbelievable. It’s finished. It’s completely, wholeheartedly worth it. I can’t believe I get to do this for a living. I’m an artist after all!”

Glowing from the satisfaction of her creation, she heads next door to deliver Dad’s dinner and drop off Mister McSchmidt for a guy’s night in. Once again, she is en route to Harbour View Gallery, coffee in hand, to teach Beginner Wire Wrapping.

After placing the last kit beside a menagerie of tools, she transitions into evening. Heather welcomes students to the room above the gallery. It overlooks the classic navy and white sailboats resting in their slips. Their majestic masts reach upward toward purple clouds as guests quickly realize the appropriateness of the name. Participants learn technique before creating their own pieces. Heather incorporates technology by working under a camera and meanders around the table offering hints and encouragement. As pieces take form, little cheers and giggles erupt from the sparkle and shine. Embers ignite! Participants hold up their creations, relishing the moment that artists hold so dearly. Completion. Heather’s gift is shared.

Acknowledging the joy of creativity and expressing gratitude for her daily adventures, she arrives back home. Heather doesn’t turn many pages in her current book before slipping into sleep, fondly dreaming about tomorrow’s first cup of coffee.

Find Heather’s work at 
Etsy.com/Shop/GutsyGirlDesigns and CaptibelDesigns.com. Email her at 
GutsyGirlDesigns@Yahoo.com. For more information on Harbour View Gallery, visit 
HarbourViewGallery.com or call 239.540.5789.