Living in the backcountry of Allegan County, sandhill cranes and wandering deer often hear Ann DeHoog playing her flute by an open window. For many years, she was flutist for the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Now DeHoog’s passion finds her working in her studio, creating jewelry with Michigan stones for her business, Almond Branch Designs.
DeHoog says color is what first attracts her eye when beach walking the Great Lakes, especially along Lake Superior’s rocky shores in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“It’s usually color — color and texture,” DeHoog says. “Especially if I’m looking for agates. Agates have a waxy look on the outside, and they can have pits. They're almost glassy- looking. Or I look for banding that you often find in agates: reds and browns and beautiful grays in white-banded agates.”
DeHoog is a self-taught jewelry artist who became interested in rocks and geology as a girl, rock-hounding with her father. She continues to search for the "perfect stone" with her son, Mark, who assists her with polishing and metalsmithing. Before taking up jewelry-making, though, DeHoog was a professional musician. A flutist, she performed with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and other musical ensembles. As with jewelry, she began learning the piano on her own, but later polished her skills with years of lessons. She studied both art and music at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.
“When I play my flute, and I close my eyes, I also see color,” DeHoog says. “To me, it’s a connection that’s natural. We have a tendency to be drawn toward the things in which God has given us gifts, and I guess that’s how it expresses itself in me.”
DeHoog works with precious and semi-precious stones and gems to create her jewelry pieces. Favorites include Kona dolomite, Leland Blue, Petoskey stones, Michigan greenstone, and others. The name of her studio, Almond Branch Designs, comes from the Bible in Jeremiah 1:11-12, when Jeremiah says, “I see the branch of an almond tree,” and God answers, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”
“The almond branch was symbolic of God doing something new in my life, since the blooming almond tree is the first sign of spring,” DeHoog says.
DeHoog’s jewelry is available at select galleries, but also online at Almond Branch Designs.
Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.