While this weekend’s 86th annual San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo is an opportunity to compete and watch beloved local sports, for former Hollister resident Michelle Bernat it’s a homecoming and chance to share her jewelry through her business Bernatti Designs.
“I am a metalsmith. I solder, forge metal, and set stones,” she said.
Bernat said she moved to Hollister with her family soon after she was born. After her parents’ divorce she still spent time there.
“I went to Hollister High School one year and spent all my summers and holidays there,” Bernat said. “My whole family lives there. My dad still lives there. I have hundreds of cousins.”
One Hollister resident significant in Bernat’s formative years was her grandmother Evelyn Pivetti.
“I was really, really close with my grandparents,” Bernat said. “My grandmother was jewelry-obsessed. She instilled a love of jewelry within me.”
Part of that love can be found in Bernat’s memories created with her grandmother, dating back to childhood when she played with her grandmother’s bracelets. While in labor with her second daughter, Bernat knew her grandmother was coming down the hospital corridor because she heard the sound of her bracelets clinking together.
Bernat started creating her own pieces as a hobby six years ago while working as a registered nurse.
Then her business grew. Bernat stepped away from nursing two years ago to focus on jewelry full time with the support of her husband.
This move led to recognition for her work, as seen in an interview with SD Voyager.
“I feel so much happier in my life,” Bernat said. “My stuff was so primitive at first, and it’s not perfect now, but I like that about it. I am still evolving. I am still learning.”
Part of Bernat’s development included learning to work with metal and other mediums. Outside of taking one class, Bernat is a self-taught artisan.
Bernat also designs, creates and markets all of her pieces for sale at events like the upcoming rodeo, as well as through Instagram and her Etsy shop.
“I make stuff that is easy to wear every day,” Bernat said. “I only make stuff that I like and I am lucky other people like it as well. It is a beachy, boho California style.”
Bernat’s father, Bob Pivetti, has also been supportive of Bernat’s jewelry career. At age 77, he will be competing at the rodeo this weekend.
While Bernat and all of her siblings live out of the area, it is a family tradition to come home for the rodeo every year, if possible.
“Last year my dad told me I should sell my jewelry at the rodeo,” Bernat said. “It’s funny because our dad is a cowboy and we all wear flip flops.”
For the second time, Bernat is returning to the rodeo to sell her pieces.
“I signed up early. I am really excited,” Bernat said. “I am going to be bringing lots of rings, bracelets and earrings. I do not have any benitoite, but we already have plans to go and check some out.”
When asked what she was looking forward to most about rodeo weekend, Bernat said, “I am most looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces of family and friends and some new ones like you! Also I am hoping at least one person says, ‘I knew you when you were knee high to a grasshopper!’”