SH couple’s native American-style jewelry among attractions at annual rock show

Sean C. Morgan

John and Brenda Burford find beauty in the things they dig up out of the earth and make into jewelry and tools.

The longtime members of the Sweet Home Rock and Mineral Society were busy over the weekend at the organization’s 68th annual show at Sweet Home High School, demonstrating flintknapping and wire wrapping.

John knocks off flakes of flint with a deer antler, held on deer hide, much like Native Americans used to do it. His finished pieces usually end up in his wife’s hands. She wraps them, and people can use the pieces as jewelry.

Among the displays were an array of John’s arrowheads.

Jordan Mapes of Eugene, who said he’s been interested in arrowheads for a long time, stopped by the Burfords’ booth to chat.

“I always thought you just find them” Jordan said. “I’m just watching him. I was thinking about getting into it.”

John Burford said he finds the flintknapping process “relaxing.”

“It’s accomplishing something, making something beautiful out of it. There’s no pressure.”

He finds no need to make a perfect piece, he said. As he told Mapes, every rock has a fault, which makes each one unique.

The family started out when John became interested in silversmithing, Brenda said.

“He just likes learning new things and new hobbies,” said his daughter, Bridgette Barber.

John began attending silversmithing classes at the Boys and Girls Club in Albany, Brenda said. From there, he became more interested in rocks and minerals.

Their hobby has also increased their appreciation for the Native Americans and how they manufactured their tools, Bridgette said.

The couple has been together more than 50 years. John worked at Wah Chang, and Brenda worked different jobs and was a homemaker. Their journey into rockhounding started some 27 years ago.

They became members of the Sweet Home Rock and Mineral Society about 24 years ago, and they brought their daughter Bridgette into it.

Now their grandchildren are getting interested in it. Grandsons Triston and Justin are both learning from their grandfather.

“It’s beautiful,” Brenda said. “It’s nature. You see what it’s like in the ground. Then you see something beautiful you make with it.”

Show chairwoman Marie Ekenberg praised John Burford’s work.

“He’s just an A-plus person,” she said. “I think you’ll find that with a lot of rock hounds. They’re very sharing with their knowledge and experience.”

The place was full of them Saturday and Sunday, with vendors who actually make the products they’re selling instead of selling imports, Ekenberg siad. “It’s kind of a unique experience.”

The show was busy, she said. It drew 2,150 visitors.

“I think it was great,” Ekenberg said. “It’s a tradition for a lot of families. Generations of people come every year. It’s great to see the younsters, the enthusiasm.”