The process behind upcycled jewelry, from find to finished! A guest post by Mei-Ling Uliasz of Twitch and Whiskers June 27, 2014 04:00 1 Comment
It's Sunday morning in Connecticut. Get up super early, grab a coffee, slather on some sun block, and head up Route 7 until you reach a field brimming with vintage treasure. You've reached The Elephant's Trunk in New Milford. It's our state's largest and best known flea market. This not-so-secret destination has been featured on shows like Flea Market Flip and Market Warriors. It's also the place where you can often find me digging around for inspiration and supplies for Twitch and Whiskers; my line of handmade, upcycled jewelry.
My search for jewelry making supplies always starts with "smalls." I carefully scan booth displays for junk drawer piles, glass cases filled with palm-sized curiosities, and boxes containing metal and plastic doodads. When selecting my purchases, I keep cost, condition, and designability in mind. I will only allow myself to bring an item home if I can visualize it in a completed piece of jewelry and if it's reasonably priced. This prevents me from impulsively spending too much money and filling my apartment up with cool, but unusable stuff.
My process of creating is a cumulative one. I am constantly collecting new supplies and combining them with materials I've been holding onto. Sometimes an item will speak to me right away and I will turn it into a completed necklace as soon as it reaches home. Other times I will have to hold onto a supply for weeks or even months before it gets used. The pieces found on my trip provided the perfect inspiration for new jewelry. I hauled home some great scores from The Trunk (as locals call it). My cache included: seven brass and silver toned star stampings, a tin protractor, eight pinback buttons, three brass sailboats, a metal Lawson logo, and an old match safe from the Diamond Match Company.
The pinback buttons were combined with vintage plastic buckles, poker chips, rhinestones, beads, vintage chain, and brass stampings to create whimsical necklaces and Fun 'n' Games rings.
I mounted some large pinback buttons from my collection and rhinestones atop of the brass and silver toned stars to create three bold pendants. The the bead chains were made out of beads from deconstructed pieces of vintage jewelry.
I used the Lawson logo and a variety of vintage chain to assemble a unique, multi-strand piece. The protractor was embellished with aurora borealis rhinestones and a floral brooch to make a beautiful bib necklace.
My favorite find of all had to be an early 1900's match safe with hinged cover. I instantly imagined it as a locket, containing a small diorama. At home, I found the perfect figural brooch in my collection to put inside. The adorable Spanish gentleman with jaunty hat looked 'muy fantastico' atop of cut outs from a 1950's travel book on Spain. I fastened to the lid a brass flower from a clip on earring, added a vintage brass bar chain, and dangled two tiny crystals from the chain to complete this one of a kind, interactive necklace.
Lastly, I made one more pinback button necklace using a sky blue porcelain cabochon, brass stamping, and vintage chain. The remaining, unused supplies were carefully stored away to hibernate until they someday awaken to reach their full potential. I'm sure future trips to The Elephant's Trunk and other places will uncover more inspiration. And so the cycle continues...
Mei-Ling Uliasz lives in Danbury, Connecticut with her husband and super duper cat Miette. She has been an elementary educator for 14 years and designing jewelry for Twitch and Whiskers for nearly five years. During her free time, she enjoys going on hikes, visiting museums, catching a live play or show, and watching movies with her husband. Mei-Ling also likes to blog about craft shows and other artists. She could eat a whole pineapple (but chooses not to).