DALLAS — Sitting on the floor, surrounded by trays of beads and wire, Jo Anne Brooks makes jewelry with her feet at the Dallas Market Center. When she was 4, polio left her with both arms paralyzed and just partial use of her left hand. She hooks her thumb and finger around her left big toe for leverage. Looking at her intricate jewelry, one would think each piece requires hours of tedious work. But she is so skilled with her feet that it takes about 30 to 45 minutes to make a simple piece and an hour for multiple strands.
"I’m kind of reinventing what works for me,” she said at the Dallas market, where retailers shop for clothing accessories that will be in the stores in spring. "I’m not one of those people who measures, lays it out and counts beads.” The result: Every piece is one of a kind. Influenced by her mother, a painter and jewelry maker, and her father, a chemical engineer who stressed commitment and accountability, Brooks said she’s always been involved, independent and determined. She raised two children and recently retired as supervisor for the federal probation office in Laredo, Texas. Her daughter, 1st Lt. Brittany Lynn Walter, is stationed at Vance Air Force Base in Enid. Brooks started making jewelry about four years ago, selling it at arts and crafts shows.