They Might Come from Different Backgrounds, but These Three Women are Equally Passionate about Their Art
Nikki Graf, the Jewelry Maker
It’s pretty unusual for a weekend family outing to become a part-time family jewelry business, but it can happen.
Nikki Graf and her husband, David, loved to visit the peaceful Peace River for canoe trips on weekends to just get away from the hustle and bustle of the work week in Cape Coral, but then they saw people sifting, digging and looking for something in the river—and they became intrigued.
What were those people looking for in the Peace River? Ancient shark teeth and other fossils.
So, about six years ago, Nikki and David joined in the shark tooth search. They initially used what they found for personal jewelry or to give as gifts, but it wasn’t long before they were too flush with fossils.
“You’ll find a lot of teeth on any given day. If you get in a good honey hole, you can find hundreds,” Nikki says. “We just had too many! We had so many we decided to start making the jewelry to sell.”
Nikki’s wire-wrapped shark tooth necklaces typically start around $10 and go up from there, but most of her love of her art is the experience collecting the teeth.
“It’s so much fun to search for them. These shark teeth are millions of years old, and you never know what you are going to pull up from the river,” she says. “Everyone wants to find the meg, which is the big tooth. It’s really like a treasure hunt.”
And by “meg,” Nikki means a tooth from a massive megalodon, the extinct species of shark that lived approximately 23 to 2.6 million years ago.
The Grafs usually go to the Peace River every weekend during the winter months to find new shark teeth and fossils and, yes, they have indeed found some of the coveted megalodon teeth there.
Nikki’s shark tooth line of jewelry includes necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings—and she also works with beads, stones, crystals and even uses her husband’s used guitar strings.
She’s also the lead jewelry instructor at Karma & Coconuts.
“I teach the wire-wrapping classes, which are so much fun,” Nikki says. “You can bring in your own stones. It’s great when people bring in something special to them, learn to wrap it and it becomes a unique piece of jewelry. It’s always one-of-a-kind, sort of like a shark tooth.”
You can find a large collection of Nikki’s shark tooth jewelry for sale at Karma & Coconuts in Cape Coral.
Jaclyn Howell, the Author
With 15 years of teaching experience at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, Jaclyn Howell knows a thing or two about what happens in the lunchroom and on the playground—a lot of bullying.
Jaclyn herself admits she remembers being bullied as a child as well.
That led to this dedicated elementary school teacher taking pen to paper—literally—to do something about it.
“I hand-wrote the story in a composition notebook, and that took about three months,” Jaclyn says. “But it took me a good year to write it and edit it, and I had my family members help me edit it.”
Her debut children’s book, Riches to Rags, is a story about an entitled young girl who begins bullying and hurting classmates after she’s lost everything—including her own mother to cancer.
The book also touches on the serious issues of online bullying and isolation bullying.
“I felt in my heart that God wanted me to write a story about schools and what kids really go through, and bullying is a big topic. Some kids have even taken their own lives because they were the victims of bullying. It’s something that needs to be addressed, even at a young age.”
The book is targeted toward kids ages 8 to 12 and offers constructive ideas and suggestions that can be used as a teaching tool for both kids and their parents.
Despite being her first book, Jaclyn’s groundbreaking work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The Purple Dragonfly Awards honor accomplished authors in the field of children’s literature and highlights up-and-coming and newly published authors. Jaclyn won the award in three categories—School Issues, Charity/Making a Difference and Spiritual/Religious Books.
“It’s my first book, so I did not anticipate winning at all, and it was just a wonderful feeling,” she says. “I feel really inspired.”
Jaclyn is certainly not done writing. She plans to try her hand at nonfiction writing next, a children’s book about animals and tongue twisters.
“I’ve always loved to write, even as a kid. I’d never published a book before and had no idea how to do it,” Jaclyn says. “I just kept writing, and it eventually worked out. You just have to keep trying.”
Yveline Mauclerc, the Chef
Chef Yveline Mauclerc and her husband, Eric Perez, always planned to move from France to the United States—but they didn’t know exactly where they wanted to live.
They set their minds on sunny Florida and spent a few years traveling back and forth from France and Florida looking at cities on the east and west coast of the state, but they really liked what Cape Coral had to offer.
So, not only did they move here, but they also opened their delightful French cafe and bakery, My Sweet Art, in May 2017.
“I always wanted to move to America. It was my dream since I was a very young girl,” Yveline says. “I love France, but where I’m from is very gloomy…I wanted sunshine.”
In France, Yveline worked in corporate event and party planning, but her real love was being in the kitchen. She eventually decided to enroll at the prestigious Ecole Lenôtre Paris where she earned a diploma.
“I loved it there. It was fast-paced, but I learned so much,” she says. “I really love doing pastry.”
At My Sweet Art, Yveline’s husband, Eric, who ran a restaurant in France, helms the kitchen, and she does most of the pastries and baking. Her favorite thing to make: macarons.
The menu is decidedly French with classics like beef bourguignon and croque monsieur, but they have also added things to tempt more American palates—including a French-style burger.
“We have a lot of wonderful customers who come back time after time, but we also love meeting the new customers who come in,” Yveline says. “We are a bit of a hidden secret, but we have a lot to offer. Just stop in and you’ll see.”
Not only is Yveline an artist in the kitchen, but she’s also a talented painter whose work is displayed throughout the restaurant. She’s also planning to offer small cooking classes later this year.
My Sweet Art is open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. They are closed on Sunday and Monday.
My Sweet Art
290 Nicholas Parkway, Suite 22, Cape Coral, 239.458.7646, My-Sweet-Art.com