I met Dianka Pocop in a classroom here at Rio Grande. Yvonne Padilla was teaching Beginning BRONZclay™ this past January, and I was lucky enough to be enrolled in that class with Dianka. I ran into her again just last week, also in the Rio classroom, as I took photographs in Ronda Coryell’s class on Soldering 101 with Argentium® silver.
You know how sometimes you run into someone and it feels like a karmic connection? Like the universe is bringing you together but you don’t know why?
This wasn’t that way. I knew why. The reason we kept running into each other was because Dianka is dedicated to learning and loves to take classes here at Rio Grande.
Dianka (also known as Diana Pochop; Dianka is her Czech name) is a consistent and tenacious student of the classes that we offer. In the past year, she has taken Rio classes in Casting, Basic Soldering, Basic Plus Soldering, Polishing, Plating, Beginning BRONZclay™, Fusing, Fabrication and Granulation with Argentium®, and a PMC® Certification class (a Rio-sponsored class in Colorado taught by Terry Kovalcik). Dianka has a thriving business in Estes Park, Colorado, called Dianka Designs, and she commits to traveling to Albuquerque to expand her knowledge as a jewelry maker and a jewelry business woman.
Dianka operates Dianka Designs as part of her seasonal business Mystic Mountain Gallery & Gifts in Estes Park, CO (as her card says, across from the Egg & I restaurant and in between Ed’s Cantina and Kind Coffee). She has been making “compassion fashion,” or earth-friendly jewelry, for the past 15 years. When you visit her, you will find a stunning collection of jewelry that incorporates aspen leaves, rose petals, elytra (jewel beetle) wings, and gems. When she’s not attending jewelry workshops, she’s at entomology (bug) conferences where, she says, “You have hundreds of scientists—and me as the single oddball jeweler.” That just sealed the deal for me: She’s fabulous.What’s even more intriguing is something Dianka calls The Monarch Project. Dianka works with butterfly reservations in Indonesia, Africa, Costa Rica and around the world. She gathers the dead bodies of butterflies (which have a lifespan of one to three weeks), and gives them a beautiful new existence in her jewelry creations, in her words, “luminescent adornments.” Working with government-regulated reservations means that Dianka is helping to save thousand-acre rainforests for future generations. She explains, “The little town I am from has a sister city in Costa Rica, and I have worked with the friendly folks at one of the first butterfly farms [there] for several years.”
Save the butterfly, save the forest it lives in. It’s a perfect, harmonious relationship. Again, compassion fashion.
How did she begin working with beautiful bugs? “At a conference several years ago, one scientist gave me a handful of elytra beetle wings and said I should try [to make] something with them. They have a rich history in that Cleopatra used to wear jewelry made from the beetles, and in King Tut’s cartouche, he has a beetle. . . they represented strength. My passion for working with these unusual materials kept growing, and I just reached a point where my creativity and imagination outgrew my skill set.” That’s where Rio Grande comes in!
“Rio was my first and only choice for learning because of the amazing knowledge the teachers bring with them. In every class, the itinerary presented in the course description only scratched the surface of the things I was able to learn. I found that some of the most beneficial teachings come from the conversations, the problems you stumble upon while learning, and the expertise of the teachers who help you solve the problem. Or, [you can] simply call to the back and another expert from Rio pops in with the magic solution!”
Dianka uses the off-season to brush up on her skills, experiment, and keep up with trends for her customers and wholesale clients. Because Rio Grande offers two- to four-day classes mid-week, Dianka can get back to her shop for the weekend crowd. So, how do Rio’s classes contribute to her business goals? Dianka remembers, “I was drawing designs in my mind the whole eight hour drive home.” We can’t wait to see what she makes next!
Think about what you need to grow your business. What skills do you need to accomplish the designs that would enthrall your customers? Boost your sales? Fulfill your dreams? Chances are, we have a class for you! Take a look at our class offerings to find out more. And let us know about your own classroom experience at Rio Grande by leaving reviews on classes you have taken with us!