Colleen Pilat demonstrates her sea-glass jewelry-making technique at the Purple Door in Jamestown.
(Ashley Wilkerson/Daily News staff)

Actor James Woods fell in love with a sea-glass necklace made by jewelry maker Colleen Pilat when he met her at Salve Regina University in July.

In fact, he loved it so much that he bought her whole inventory, about three trays of 30 pieces. "I had no idea it would take off like this," said Pilat, a Portsmouth resident. "Never in my wildest dreams."

Not only did Woods buy her jewelry, he's spread it around the set of the courtroom drama "Shark," the CBS show in which he stars. "I don't know how many actresses have worn pieces on the show, but I know it's more than one," Pilat said.

Forgive Pilat if she's a bit overwhelmed. She started making jewelry just two years ago, a switch after years of painting. Her meeting with Woods was a lucky break.

The actor, who grew up in Warwick, was visiting the Salve Regina campus with a family member. Pilat, who works at the Newport campus as an administrative assistant, long has admired Woods' acting. She didn't expect more than a quick how-do-you-do.

Instead, she now is in regular contact with the man she calls "Jimmy," either directly or through his assistant.

Woods was so taken with Pilat's jewelry that after the Salve Regina encounter, he arranged a second meeting at a Starbucks in Warwick. Pilat showed up with a bunch of jewelry; Woods showed up with his mom. "He's just a great guy," Pilat said. "And his mother is a wonderful lady, so much fun, delightful. She loved my stuff, and I made her a necklace."

As for the TV show, Woods said in an e-mail: "We use Colleen's jewelry on 'Shark' because it is classy and sophisticated, yet simple and elegant. It fits in perfectly with our stories about the rich, the powerful, the glamorous and the famous, helping to accent and define these characters.

"Overall, Colleen provides a very high-end product and we are proud to have her exquisite jewelry on our show."

Pilat collects sea glass from local beaches and people send her samples from across the world. She strings them together with wire, polishing the glass to create a shine. "I use a toothbrush and toothpaste mixed with water," she said. "That works very well. It brings the luster right back."

She sells her pieces - the more intricate go for about $250 - privately and at the Newport Restoration Foundation Store on Thames Street. On Tuesday, she dropped in at the Purple Door, a Jamestown bead shop where she runs workshops.

Owner Debbie Goyette said Pilat's work and classes are popular. "Everyone loves what she does," Goyette said. "They all want to know how she does it."

Pilat works mostly at home and is in the process of overhauling her workspace.

For now, she's trying to keep pace with supply and demand. And, thanks to new friend Woods, she peers in on "Shark" on Sundays to see if Jeri Ryan or another actress is wearing one of her pieces.

"I think I felt I always had talent," she said. "But I didn't know it would be in jewelry. This is all new to me. It happened from out of nowhere."

©2007. The Newport Daily News. All Rights Reserved.