Author: Valerie Tan
When Christine Wittmann, a lifelong western NY native, approached me about collaborating with her in her jewelry business, it was a no-brainer. Christine and I have been friends since middle-school, and now almost 40 years later (did I just reveal our age?), we have found a way to combine our lifelong artistic paths.
About 10 years ago, Christine was searching for a better work/life balance than she could get with her industrial sales and marketing job. She wanted to spend more time with her family, and decided that the solution was to change her path by starting a company where she could focus on her passion for producing and teaching others about custom jewelry. Initially, Christine vividly remembers thinking that her “hobby” had simply run amok with most of her pieces featuring buffalo nickels. In 2016 Christine came up with a new inspirational focus, and this is how her new company, bfloGALS, came into being. The company product line has expanded considerably from buffalo nickels, and her line can be found at the Blue Rooster in Hamburg, Buffalo Gallery & Gift (several locations including in the Eastern Hills Mall), Pink Martini on Grand Island, Thin Ice on Elmwood in Buffalo, BonTon (now closed), and Village ARTisan on Main Street in Williamsville.
I am also from Buffalo, NY. Although Chapel Hill, North Carolina is where I live now, Buffalo will always be HOME. I have fond memories of skiing at Holiday Valley and sailing on the Niagara River and Lake Erie. I even celebrated my 50th birthday by eating chicken wings and pizza at Santora’s and having ice cream at Antoinette’s. Christine appropriately presented me with a necklace that says “No matter where I go Buffalo will always be home.” I am not a formally trained artist but I have over 30 years of experience. I mainly focus on color combinations within colorful scenes, but seldom does my art reflect what most would consider to be “realistic” colors. I have pieces or art in many areas of the country, one prominent being in the Grand Island, NY public library. For Christine’s jewelry, I have created a new line of artwork that focuses on Buffalo, NY.
The COVID crisis has had a big impact on all small businesses, and Christine’s was no exception. All of the shops that carried her line either closed or had severe restrictions on business, and she could not longer hold jewelry-making classes in her studio at the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center.
Christine found herself wondering how to move forward, and it was then that she reached out to me about combining my artwork into a series of new jewelry pieces. From my point of view, it has been a gift to connect with a childhood friend in this way after sheltering in place and the solitude at home.
Garnering inspiration from each other, I have created new artwork that Christine is transforming into multiple beautiful jewelry pieces. These pieces are still in development but will slowly be introduced as shops are allowed to re-open. As Christine has written on her website: “a bfloGAL is a girl who, no matter where she finds herself living, calls Buffalo, NY her home.”
bfloGALS is all about Buffalo artists working together to create artisan pieces. To learn more about bfloGALS, visit www.bflogals.com.