Local jewelry designer turns hobby into career

JForks Designs inspired by entrepreneur's love of outdoors

BANDERA, Texas – Jenny Forks will tell you she’s no girly girl.

Her style is more earthy stones and leather, which are the elements you’ll find in the jewelry line she handcrafts at her JForks Designs studio, at 414 Main St., in the heart of cowboy country.

“I’ve always loved outdoors – the rocks, the colors, the stones, the mountains,” she said. “It brings such inspiration to me.”

Her jewelry line is also inspired by her Native American heritage and her motto: dare to be bold.

“Especially in the society we live in, there is bullying, there is everybody’s opinion,” Forks said. “Be bold and stand for who you are. Don’t be a sheep.”

Forks is not. She's self-taught, an entrepreneur, silversmith, designer and aficionado of the natural stones she uses in her work. She even visits the mines where her favorite stone, turquoise, is mined.

“I’ve very proud we are in 325 stores nationwide,” she said. 

Forks recently opened a micro store, a small trailer parked at Broadway News in San Antonio. Her signature designs are typically found in boutiques and Western-style stores.

Forks has come a long way from where she started. As a teenager in the small town of Beeville, she made bracelets and necklaces at a kitchen table. 

Initially, jewelry was her hobby. But after she became a mother right out of high school, her craft became her career.

“The restaurant that I worked at let me put up a little board with jewelry for sale,” she said. “I put a couple pieces out, and the first day I put it out, I sold two pieces.”

They were humble beginnings. But before long, store owners began to call on her. 

Over time and after lots of hard work, her business began to evolve.

A defining moment came in 2012  when she sent a box of her pieces to a photo shoot for Cowboys and Indians magazine. Then the October issue came out with a cover Forks will never forget.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. She’s got it on,'” Forks said. “That photograph was probably one of the most awe moments of my life was to see my creation on this national publication.”

Forks’ husband, Cody Ackel, is a leathersmith, so the latest creations in the line are a marriage of leather and gemstones.

“It was a hit. Nobody had done what we were doing with the leather in jewelry,” Forks said.

Her success, 19 years in the making, has not come easily, enduring professional and personal setbacks. Forks credits God, her family and her philosophy: dare to be bold.

“There have been a bunch of setbacks in my life,” she said. “But I don’t ever call them failures because you just keep going.”

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