Jewels on the water: Two artists share the inspiration of the islands

Lissa Flemming at her Canoecopia booth and Jeff Rennicke on the Little Dipper

March 18, 2023

The Apostle Islands have long inspired artists, from songwriters to painters, potters, and poets. Recently, two local artists – photographer Jeff Rennicke and silversmith Lissa Flemming – combined their talents in a unique tribute to the inspiration they find among these islands. The result was a one-of-a-kind line of jewelry created by Flemming inspired by Rennicke’s photography, both unveiled during a joint presentation at Canoecopia, the country’s largest paddling expo recently held in Madison, Wisconsin.

It began with a photograph.

Jeff Rennicke with camera on his boat the Little Dipper

Photographer Jeff Rennicke aboard Little Dipper

“I have traveled all over the world, visited six continents, and still there is no place I would rather photograph than the Apostle Islands,” says Rennicke who often swims into sea caves before sunrise to capture the early light or boats under darkness into the islands to capture northern lights. “The light on the water, the maze of sea caves, the stretches of beaches, all capture my imagination and in turn, I try to capture that magic with the camera – the light dancing in a sea cave, a feather on the water, the northern lights. It is all magic.”

Lissa Flemming sees that magic too. “This lake, these waters, she leaves an impression and inspires me as an artist.” The owner of Silverwaves Jewelry in Bayfield, Flemming took one look at Rennicke’s photos and knew she had to interpret them in her own medium. Using precious stones, silver, and a shared inspiration of the lake, Lissa sat down in her workshop and got to work. “It’s amazing how much you can do with shape and silver, a few hammer strokes and flame,” she says. “And what a perfect way to try to explain how the Apostle Islands and Lake Superior inspire me as an artist! Taking a moment that Jeff captured with his camera and then creating a piece of jewelry.”

Woman fusing metal together with a jewelers torch

Artisan Lissa Flemming at work

Eagle feather cuff and photograph

Flemming created three pieces for the presentation – a sterling silver cuff with a hand-forged eagle feather set in 18k gold and a stone of blue topaz, a two-sided pendant depicting the northern lights through the trees created in silver and adorned with Labradorite, quartz, blue topaz and a Lake Superior agate, and finally a pendant of pounded silver depicting sunrise breaking through the ice. “I wouldn’t be making jewelry the way I am without the inspiration of the lake. I love this collaboration,” she says of the process, “and it has been an honor.”

Northern lights and trees jewelry and photograph

Both artists spoke not only about the beauty to be found in the islands but the power of art to inspire others. “Photography should be more than postcard scenery,” said Rennicke, who also works as the executive director of Friends of the Apostle Islands. “It has the power to engage, inspire, and motivate people to recognize the beauty of the Apostle Islands and do something to help protect that beauty.”

ice and sun pendant and photograph

Lissa too sees the impact of her art as a way to give back to the place that inspired it. “Each piece tells a story,” she says, “ and I am honored when someone wears one of my pieces to remind them of their own adventure. But more than that, I love knowing that it has fostered a love for the lake and with that love comes caring and a desire to protect the lake and these islands.”

Lissa Flemming Testimonial - 50th Anniversary

To see more of the work inspired by the Apostle Islands and Lake Superior, visit and join us at Friends of the Apostle Islands to be a part of protecting this inspiring national lakeshore.

To see how even more artists have found inspiration in the islands, check out our video “Sense of Adventure: Inspire!



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