Case-Daniels Jewelry & Metalsmithing: eclectic place of community

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By Sandra Serra Bradshaw

Sun contributor

Case-Daniels Jewelry & Metalsmithing, centered in the village of Suttons Bay, is found off the main M-22 thoroughfare. The establishment, located at the end of a short-and-straight brick walkway, beckons passersby to explore its path. You will find the sky-blue building of Case-Daniels at the end of the walkway. Flanked along the pathway are five other artist-owned and quite vibrant shops: New Mission Gallery, Sporck Tileart, Murdick’s Fudge Shop, Laughing Fish Gallery, and—located inside Laughing Fish Gallery—is Kat Dakota Design and Pet Portraits.

As a newcomer living “up north” in Suttons Bay, I wrote a small piece about Case-Daniels in the Gift Shops & Galleries chapter in my first book, Seasons of the Leelanau. It read: An exceptional jewelry and gift shop. Silver and gold jewelry, custom work. Beautiful handcrafted leather jewelry, small sculptures, and contemporary jewelry. Those words, penned and published in 1994, still describe the shop (with some new additions), and now all these many years later, I am again at the delightful task of writing of Case-Daniels Metalsmithing—more specifically, about the artist/designer/owner himself, Will Case.

“Metalsmithing is about all metals, all metals not just one,” he stressed. “It’s like music, you play a song and people sing to the music. There are many parts, a composition of many things.”

Case’s story of his Suttons Bay Leelanau connection is a long and interesting one, and too lengthy to share in its entirety in this short article. It was back in 1965 when he met his first friend in the village, the well-known Suttons Bay architect Kenneth Kranz. Today, Case and Kranz are still close and treasure their many years as such. “Ken was teaching painting classes in the back of his shop, Inter-Arts Studio. We went over to Snooks, (which later became TJ’s and then to what its now, Prime Time Pub),” Case explained. “I was looking for a place to live and Ken was able to direct me to a rental property on the shores of West Grand Traverse Bay in Peshawbestown. That first meeting led to a years-long friendship that endures even now.”

Being Walked by the Dog. Be Right Back.” If you see that sign posted up on the front door, wait a bit please, you will not be disappointed. Yes, you may be greeted by Milo, Case’s beloved dog. Milo is super friendly. The man you meet who owns Case-Daniels Jewelry & Metalsmithing is all about “a caring and support-one-another kind of community,” and the proof is in a visit to this special place. This much applies to the entire village too, with its many enterprising shops and the people who run them, in business for many decades.

One of the extraordinary things about Case-Daniels is the fact that this business—and its proprietor, Will Case—have been able to stay out of the hustle and bustle of the internet. Just try to find much of anything on an internet search and you will come up with very little, or shall I say, “nothing much at all,” and that is the way Case likes it. He thrives marvelously without its entrapment. His not being on the internet means obviously nothing to the many customers who return year after year.

“When I come into work in the morning, my mind is free,” said Case. His time is not filled with endless emails, texting, newsletters, nor the constant barrage of so much stuff to read that most of us find ourselves involved in daily. “I can look around my shop with a clear head, see some item and then know that is what I will be working on next,” he explained. In my two most recent visits there, a steady gentle flow of customers came inside, not all just to buy, but all of whom mutually are considered as friends. It was not just locals, and they stop in often too, but others that stopped in that afternoon were from as far away as Denver, Colorado, Montreal, Canada, and Norway.

“Will has beautiful, handcrafted jewelry, and great stories to share,” commented Paul Whiteford. He was in the store asking Case to design a piece (from his thoughts no less) as a present for his wife, Gaylene—a thoughtful gift he purchases prior to each of the ocean cruises he takes his wife on. “Paul knows every bit of the village like the back of his own hand,” Case said. “Every faucet, he is impeccable in his work for the village. Whiteford works for the utilities department of Suttons Bay Village and is well-known and well-liked by everyone in town.” Whiteford is not just a customer to Case. He and Whiteford have been close friends for many years.

To describe Will Case is no easy task, he is a unique individual. “It is fascinating on how we limit ourselves in to what we do,” he reflected. “Yes, presence is something. But what about the absence of something; can absence be as dominant as something?”

The same uniqueness of the man also applies to his shop and the items he chooses to have for his customers. And even more to mention the countless pieces of well-thought-out jewelry pieces he has designed for them. Case in point (no pun intended), he pointed out a pair of leather earrings hanging on his display wall. “A customer was in the other day and asked if I could duplicate an earring she had lost,” he explained. “‘No,’ I told her. I showed her a piece of leather and some colored pens and told her to go home and design what she wanted herself… she did, and the piece I made of her design she now wears.” They are lovely, I might add. And more are available hanging in his shop now.

“I come from a family of journalists,” Case said. “All my aunts and uncles were, except me,” he grinned. When Case moved to the Traverse City area in 1965, he taught math and science at Sabin School. In 1967, he found himself with a short stint in the Peace Corps. Today, his talents still bend in the educational direction, helping with Suttons Bay Schools’ Exposures Magazine. It is a literary magazine which started some 34 years ago. “It involves six schools, and a lot of great peoples’ contributions,” said Case. “It is a wonderful opportunity for the entire community to come together in support of what our children produce in their art. And a whole topic for another story,” he added.

All the shops along the aforementioned brick pathway are each owned by actively working artists. “Will has a real artist colony here,” said local jazz musician Harry Goldson. “Will is, we say, our village philosopher. And all his artistry, like his weather vanes sculptures, are phenomenal.” Harry and his wife, Piper, own Suttons Bay Art Galleries on Jefferson Street in the village. “We have known Will for well over 35 years,” said Piper. “He is always so generous of his time for the community. He did so much too for the Suttons Bay Art Fair,” she said. The proceeds from that art fair were given to support the student art programs.

“Will was there when the art fair first started back in 1980,” said Carol Bawdin, artist and owner of the Painted Bird Art Gallery in the village. “Will supported my art from the first moment I came to Suttons Bay from San Francisco back in 1983,” she said. “He sold my work in his shop. And when I opened Painted Bird, you would think most people would think it as being competition, [but] not Will. He is always so supportive.”

Besides his contribution of his time for the Suttons Bay Art Fair, Case has done much for the Exposures. It is a publication put out by six local schools highlighting the artistic and journalistic endeavors of the students. “I’ve been with it over thirty years,” said Case. “So many other great people are also involved.”

Case and his shop have weathered the test of time—and life—with its all sails bright and billowing. “Years ago, I thought that jewelry making was for, well… I injured myself while I was in the Peace Corps, and part of my therapeutic process was weaving,” explained Case in an interview—again, long ago—for Leelanau Communications. “While making heddles (these are the sets of parallel cords or wires that, combined with their mounting, make up the harness used to guide warp threads in a loom), I began to twist them into rings…”

“I love this village and its people,” Case simply stated in that mild tone of his. “It is Quality of Community, and ours has an enormous amount of it.”

Case Daniels Jewelry & Metalsmithing, located at 305 Saint Joseph St. in Suttons Bay, is open Monday–Saturday from 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. during the winter. For information call (231) 271-3876.