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Jewelry

Maker Stories

High Society: Elegant Roach Clip Jewelry Designs

April 17, 2015

More than any other word, “roaring” is used to describe the 1920s. But despite the word being synonymous with “boisterous” and “rowdy,” mention of the decade usually conjures images of sophisticated parties, Art Deco, and beautiful women in stylish clothing dancing the Charleston. Sure, the parties may have been fueled by bootlegged booze and a crazy new style of music, but tales of the Jazz Age often leave today’s daydreamers feeling nostalgia for the class and culture of a decade gone by.

Erin Rose Gardner in her studio light | UncommonGoods

Intrigued by the melding of sophistication and excess that made the ‘20s such an interesting time, Erin Rose Gardner created a line of Art Deco jewelry “inspired by the significant changes in lifestyle & culture” of the period. This is a good place to mention that each piece in this collection of elegant designs also serves as a fully functional roach clip.


Mary Jane's Necklace by Erin Rose Gardner | UncommonGoods

One of these significant changes was the ratification of the 18th Amendment, which ushered in prohibition. During the 1920s it was illegal to manufacture, sell, or transport alcohol. Of course, prohibition eventually came to an end when the 21st amendment repealed its predecessor, and now adults across the nation are free to drink gin that didn’t get its kick in a bathtub.

Today the temperance movement against alcoholic beverage seems like the distant past, considering the prevalence of bars and nightclubs across the country, pop culture references to imbibing, and even some evidence that drinking in moderation can actually be good for you.

Erin’s work speaks to a sort of modern prohibition that’s happening now, the war on pot. “The modern prohibition movement is part of the current conversation,” said Erin. “It seems like we may be at the beginning of the end with individual states voting for legalization. I find it interesting to think about how political policies shift social norms.”

Erin working in her studio.
Studying metalsmithing and jewelry at the University of Oregon gave Erin training not only in the technical aspect of her craft, but also foundations in conceptualization and research. “With my work, I am constantly looking for connections and meaning,” she explained. “As a producer of maker-made objects, I want to create things that people find beautiful and well-crafted, but also interesting.”

The layered story of Erin’s Mary Jane’s Necklace and Earrings may seem to start with the style of the ‘20s and a commentary on modern prohibition, but the “connections and meaning” she spoke of go even deeper. In fact, according to Erin, the designs were born from a personal narrative:

It started over ten years ago, I stole my mother’s roach clip. She had not used it in years, but kept it poked into a houseplant as it held sentimental value. As a child I thought this thing was a toy or special pair of medical tweezers. Although I wasn’t sure what it was, I did know this metal thing was special because it was a gift from her sister when they were teenagers. When my parents separated, my mom forgot her roach clip in the plant, so I took it. I lost it within four hours and never told her. (She now knows because my baby sister is a tattletale!)

An online image search lead to a vintage clip that looked like Erin’s mother’s made by a company called Squirkenworks run by furniture artist Garry Knox Bennett. Erin became interested in how the artist questioned the “preciousness” of craft and explored non-traditional materials. Squirkenworks sold electroplated roach clips across the country and still operates today as Gold Seal Plating. “The passive income provided by this business has allowed Bennett the freedom make furniture that pushes boundaries and is not constrained by market expectations,” Erin explained.

Each of Erin’s own clips is completely handmade and features a unique sliding mechanism inspired by the one Garry Knox Bennett invented in the 1960s. (She actually had the opportunity to meet Bennett, discuss her project, and take a look at this collection of clips and other works when she visited him in Oakland, CA last summer.)

Erin's Anvil

Using a hammer and anvil, Erin shapes simple brass rods into elegant contours. “I strive for perfect symmetry and function as I make each individual pendant or earring,” she said. “Each piece features a unique sliding mechanism. Simply pull the slide back and the clip springs open. Then to clip, move the slider forward and the device is tightly secured. The tips are serrated which gives optimal grip.” The brass is transformed again during the final step in the artist’s process, when she polishes each piece and electroplates it with 24k gold.

Erin's Materials
Erin commented that, like “every metalsmith,” she fell in love with the material. It’s easy to see this love, and her dedication to the process, when you look at the detail in each handcrafted piece. The collection appeals not only to those with 1920s fashion sense or fond memories of the roach clips that became popular in the ‘60s. The designs are fully functional for the enjoyment of those in legal territory, statement pieces for marijuana legalization supporters, and—as Erin put it herself—“well crafted, but also interesting” adornments for those looking for high quality, uncommon jewelry.



Erin Rose Gardner | UncommonGoods

The Uncommon Life

12 Months of Meaning: The History and Symbolism of Birthstones

March 27, 2015

When you ask someone what their birthstone is, they almost always know the answer. Today you see birthstones on necklaces and jewelry, on display, and as reminders to celebrate your birth month all year long. Birthstones are a part of modern society, but each gem has had special significance since ancient times.

Raw Quartz Birthstone Necklaces | Emilie Shapiro | UncommonGoods

The history of this practice dates back to ancient Israel and the Breastplate of Aaron that is described in the book of Exodus. The breastplate was decorated with twelve gemstones that represented the twelve tribes of Israel. Eventually, Christian scholars in the 5th century made the connection between the twelve gems, twelve months of the year, and twelve signs of the Zodiac. They theorized that each gem was connected to a certain month or astrological alignment and that they would receive therapeutic benefits for wearing one during that time.

In order to receive the full benefit, people took to wearing one stone for each month of the year and attributed a different meaning and value to them. Eventually this practice was modified so that a person would only wear the stone for the month they were born in (hence the term birthstone). There was a great amount of disagreement over which stone should represent a calendar month until 1912 when Sears published an “official” list of all the birthstones and the months they represented. Since then there have been a few modifications here and there but the list remains largely unchanged. We wanted to learn the history and significance behind why these stones were chosen in the first place and are still worn today.

garnet

Month: January
Stone: Garnet
Meaning: Protection
Color: Dark Red

Red garnets were the most popular gemstone in the later years of the Roman Empire. The word ‘garnet’ comes from the Latin word for seedlike, ‘granatus’. This was a reference to their similar appearance to pomegranate seeds. Another characteristic of garnets is their high refractive index which gives onlookers the impression that the gem is emitting light.

This phenomenon led explorers and travelers to carry garnets with them on their journeys to ward off evil and light up the night. This practice persisted through the Crusades. Interestingly, garnets’ association with protection was made in other ancient cultures as diverse as the Aztecs in Central America and some Eastern Asiatic tribes whose warriors would carry them into battle. Some of these tribes would even attempt to turn the tables on their enemies who were using garnets for protection by fashioning arrowheads (and eventually bullets during the late 1800s) out of garnets. While we don’t recommend that use for garnets, we do think the gift of a garnet is a great way to let a loved one know you want them to be safe on all of their future journeys.

amethyst

Month: February
Stone: Amethyst
Meaning: Wisdom
Color: Violet

Amethysts are a member of the Quartz family of gems and are highly valued for their deep violet color and twinned crystal structure. Amethysts have been engraved and set into jewelry since ancient Egypt and continue to be very popular today. The word ‘amethyst’ comes from the Greek word ‘amethystos’ which translates to ‘not drunken’.

According to a Greek legend, Dionysus (the god of wine and drunken revelry) had become enraged with all mortals after one insulted him by refusing Dionysus’ hospitality. He vowed to punish the next mortal he came across. The mortal happened to be a young woman named Amethystos who was on her way to pray to the goddess Artemis. When Amethystos realized she was in trouble, she cried out to Artemis who transformed her into a pure white statue and saved her life (though I would argue that Artemis didn’t dramatically improve Amethystos’ situation). Dionysus was moved by the statue’s innocence and in an act of contrition emptied his wine cup on top of it, dying it a deep purple.

This rare moment of sobriety for Dionysus forged an association with avoiding intoxication. To take advantage of the stone’s power, the Greeks would carry them on their person as well as cover their drinking vessels in amethysts. While we can’t promise that giving your friends an amethyst will result in a mythological alcohol tolerance, we do hope that it will inspire the wisdom not to overindulge.

aquamarine

Month: March
Stone: Aquamarine
Color: Blue or Cyan
Meaning: Serenity

Aquamarine is the blue member of the visually diverse Beryl family. Pure Beryl is usually clear and all of the colors associated with it are caused by impurities. The blue color in aquamarines is a result of iron being present in the deposits where it formed. Aquamarines are primarily found in Brazil, Sri Lanka, and South-East Asia. While less famous than other gems, they are highly sought after for their beautiful color and flawless crystal structure. Stones with deeper blue hues are considered more valuable because they occur less frequently in nature. This has led to enterprising jewelers using heat treatments to darken the color of their aquamarines.

Regardless of the shade of blue, these gems have evoked images of sea water and endless skies for generations. Many sailors would bring aquamarines on their voyages for a variety of calming purposes like getting a good night sleep by keeping it under their pillow at night or warding off poisons and bad food by keeping one in their pocket while eating. Aquamarines are also said to inspire harmony in your marriage. These benefits combine to make an aquamarine a great gift for new brides, moms, and especially your “eccentric” friend who is planning to sail around the world.

Clear

Month: April
Stone: Pure Quartz
Meaning: Strength
Color: Clear

Quartz is the second most common family of gemstones on the planet and are found in a variety of colors due impurities (similar to the Beryl family). Quartz’s natural color is clear. Quartz is found all over the world in every kind of rock formation. Frequently they can be found inside of geodes, hollow masses of mineral formed by quartz filling in gas bubbles in cooling volcanic rock or the dissolution of sedimentary rock that is replaced with quartz particles. Frequently quartz gems have a twin crystal sharing a point of contact on their symmetrical crystal lattice, this phenomenon is known as twinning.

Quartz’s association with strength comes from its resistance to damage and scratches. Quartz is one of the hardest minerals on the Mohs scale which is used to rate how resistant minerals are to scratching. The connection was strengthened by their appearance in geodes, something beautiful hiding inside something ordinary looking. Quartz crystals or a geode that’s been broken open make an excellent gift for a loved one who needs to be reminded that they are strong even if they don’t look like it on the outside.

emerald

Month: May
Stone: Emerald
Meaning: Hope
Color: Dark Green

Emeralds are unique among gemstones because their surfaces are very resistant to scratches but the crystal lattice that makes up the gem is susceptible to fracturing from impacts. For this reason, an emerald with no cracks visible to the naked eye is classified as flawless even if there are flaws that can be identified using magnification.

Emeralds are named after the Vulgar Latin words ‘esmaralda’ and ‘esmaraldus’ which translate roughly to a green gem. While that might be a little on the nose for some people, we think emerald is a great name for this gem because of its beautiful green color that inspires thoughts of springtime and renewal. This association makes emeralds a great gift for someone who needs a reminder that winter doesn’t last forever (even in the North-East!) or is starting a new chapter in their life.

alexandrite

Month: June
Stone: Alexandrite
Meaning: Love
Color: Variable

Alexandrite is a transparent yellow-green under ordinary conditions. However, under polarized light (like from the Sun), specimens explode into a variety of colors ranging from red to dark purple, or orange depending on the direction of the light as well as your viewing angle. This phenomenon is called pleochroism and is very useful for mineral identification.

There are a lot of gems in the world that are transparent yellow-green, but very few exhibit this range of color when exposed to light. We think this is a really beautiful analog for love because it doesn’t come in only one color or form and when you have the real thing, you can always tell. The gift of an alexandrite stone is a wonderful way to express your love with all of your loved ones because just like there is more than just yellow-green alexandrite, there is more to love than just romantic love.

ruby

Month: July
Stone: Ruby
Meaning: Vitality
Color: Red

Rubies are a special form of the mineral corundum that would be considered a sapphire if it weren’t for their characteristic dark red color. This red color comes from the chromium present in the ruby. Rubies with an insufficient amount of chromium are labelled ‘pink sapphires’ and aren’t allowed to play in any of the gemstone games when they’re growing up in volcanic rock formations.

There is something special about rubies that have made them absolutely fascinating to humans for millennia. No small part of the ruby’s appeal is the red luminescence that results from absorbing natural light and re-emitting it later. The most valuable rubies in the world are called pigeon-blood, after the dark-red with blue undertones that makes them look eerily like blood. This similarity to the color of blood has caused an association with vitality and physical strength. Since we toast each other’s health, it made sense to set rubies into drinking vessels since ancient times. Today, a ruby makes a great gift for someone who could use a reminder that they are full of energy and life and have a lot to offer the world around them.

peridot

Month: August
Stone: Peridot
Meaning: Beauty
Color: Olive Green

Peridot is the term used to differentiate gem-quality olivine from lesser specimens. Peridot is always a yellow green and the darker a specimen, the more valuable it is. The darkness of the stone is dictated by the amount of iron present. Ancient records indicate that the Egyptians mined peridot on an island in the Red Sea, but the location was lost until it was relocated in 1900. Since then, new deposits of ultra-high quality stones that are larger, more opaque, and darker colored than previously discovered deposits.

One of the distinctive characteristics of peridot (and a chief distinction from other similarly colored gems, such as emeralds) is that their color is the same in both natural and artificial light. This ability to give off the same green glow at night led to their association with great beauty, especially in Egyptian culture. Unlike the beauty of those wearing these stones, peridot is susceptible to breaking easily and require a lot of preventive care to continue looking its best. Today, the gift of a peridot can tell the recipient that they light up a room regardless of the circumstances they are in.

lapis lazuli

Month: September
Stone: Lapis Lazuli
Meaning: Truth
Color: Deep Blue

There is evidence that lapis lazuli has been mined since 4,000 BC in Afghanistan and had been a hot trade commodity with other developing civilizations like the Egyptians. Lapis is a soft gemstone which made it easier to work with by hand. Unlike many gems, the color blue that is characteristic of lapis lazuli is pretty uniform across most specimens. The chief difference in appearance is the concentration and arrangement of pyrite crystals that dot the exterior of lapis specimens.

After Alexander the Great conquered Egypt and parts of Persia, he began importing lapis along with many other gems to his home in Macedonia and eventually the rest of Europe. In Europe, lapis was ground up and used as a paint pigment called ultramarine. Ultramarine was unique among the other blue pigments available because it did not lose its color when exposed to direct sunlight. This made it very expensive. This true blue stone has since become associated with encouraging honesty in your relationships and making better decisions, making lapis lazuli the perfect gift for Frank Underwood or the other politicians in your life.

tourmaline

Month: October
Stone: Rubellite or Red Tourmaline
Meaning: Healing
Color: Pinkish Red

Tourmaline is the technicolored dream coat of gems, there isn’t another stone with a greater range of colors found in nature. Because no two tourmalines look alike, they were mistaken for other gems until the 1800s when they were reclassified as a distinct mineral species. Before that tourmalines had been confused for sapphires, emeralds, rubies, and other gems. In fact, the rubies in both the Russian and British crown jewels are now believed to be red tourmalines also known as rubellite.

Rubellite and tourmaline come from the Latin word for ‘reddish’ and Sinhalese word (the native language of Sri Lanka) for ‘mixed gems’. It is very rare for a tourmaline to be only one color, it is more common for a specimen to have a red interior and green exterior (known as a watermelon tourmaline) than for it to be only one color throughout. Therefore, monochromatic tourmalines such as rubellites are very valuable. With a ring shaped crystal lattice and a color that is associated with vitality, rubellites developed a reputation for spiritual healing after coming into fashion as a unique gemstone. That healing energy may explain the longevity of the current Queen of England’s reign, if the rumors are true.

citrine

Month: November
Stone: Citrine
Meaning: Joy
Color: Dark Yellow

Citrine is one of the rarest varieties of quartz found in nature. Natural citrine has only been found in Spain, France, Hungary, and Arran (a small island off of Scotland). Despite this it has become the second most popular variety of quartz in jewelry (after amethysts). Jewelers had even been heat treating some lower quality amethysts and smoky quartz gems to change the color to a shade of yellow or reddish yellow to more closely resemble citrines to keep up with a growing demand.

This popularity was due to the lack of affordable gold gems on the market. Gold gems are attractive because they channel the power of the sun and all of the positivity associated with it. Citrines are believed to improve your mood and appreciate your surroundings, which is quite appropriate for the month that includes Thanksgiving. Giving a citrine as a gift is a great way to tell someone that they radiate joy and make you experience their joy.

turquoise

Month: December
Stone: Turquoise
Meaning: Friendship
Color: …Turquoise

These opaque blue-green gems have been highly valued for thousands of years by many cultures that each had their own names for them. Turquoise comes from an Old French word for Turkish because it was introduced to the French via Venetian traders who had purchased the stones in modern day Iran (then a part of Turkey). Turquoise was widely traded because deposits are so rare. The only major turquoise deposits currently known are found in Iran, Egypt, the Southwestern United States, and China. Turquoise also has the unique distinction of having a color named after it and not vice-versa.

In Turkish tradition, the gift of a turquoise was supposed to give you the ability to make friends very, very easily. The only catch was that in order to acquire this super power, you needed to already have a friend who would give you a turquoise. This sounds a bit like a catch-22, if you ask me. Turquoise’s association with friendship is appropriate because it requires copper and aluminum compounds to work together and form a new mineral, just like a friendship.

Birthstone Definition Necklaces | UncommonGoods

Now that you know a bit more about your birthstone and the benefits you can derive from them, you are ready to make an informed evaluation of whether or not you were born in the correct month. Any issues should be taken up with your mother; maybe you could preface the conversation with the gift of her birthstone.

Maker Stories

Fernanda Sibilia: The Tango, Fileteado, and Freedom From Fashion

February 27, 2015

While some artists and designers have to go out of their way to find inspiration—venturing out to museums or into breathtaking natural settings to rekindle their creative spark—Argentinian jewelry maker Fernanda Sibilia says “inspiration is easy in Buenos Aires” where she has her studio. It’s in the Abasto district, named for the Mercado de Abasto, which was the main fruit and vegetable market for the city for nearly a century. Now a fashionable mall, it remains a focus of tradition and vibrant urban life for Buenos Aires.

Fernanda Sibilia | UncommonGoods

Fernanda observes that Buenos Aires offers many layers of inspiration—natural, architectural, and cultural. “The sky is blue almost every day, and the trees have a different color each season,” she says. “My favorite month is November, when our trees bloom…Jacaranda, Palo Borracho, and Tipas, one after the other.” This vivid natural palette is rivaled only by the colorfully decorated buildings of the fileteado porteño style, where entire facades are adorned with elaborate ribbons, fanciful dragons, and floral arabesques. The spirit of fileteado also finds its way into the patinated floral surfaces of some of Fernanda’s jewelry.

Embossed Patina Cuff Bracelets | UncommonGoods

Fileteado | Wikimedia

Buenos Aires, rue Jean Jaures 709 (Paseo del Filete) façade painted by Tulio Ovando, Wikimedia Commons

Fernanda’s Abasto neighborhood is also associated with the blossoming of the tango in Buenos Aires, a sensuous tradition of music and dance that can be glimpsed in some of her designs where the gestural twisting and layering of metals produces alluringly sinuous forms. She says that she “feels like an alchemist” when combining the qualities of different metals, and “love[s] mixing the green of patina, the red of copper, the yellowish brown of brass, and the iridescences of oxides.”

Cerro Statement Necklace | UncommonGoods

Whatever the influences on her work, Fernanda makes an intriguing distinction between modes of inspiration, saying, “I try to be near art rather than fashion. This makes me enjoy simple things without being aware of trends, so I’m aesthetically independent.” Essentially, she’s pursuing a timelessness in her designs, steering them away from the mercurial influence of fashion, avoiding the limited shelf life of ever-shifting trends.

Maker Stories

Glass Winner Heather Trimlett Melts Our Hearts With Her Vibrant Design

January 16, 2015

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

I remember the first time that I watched a glass artist use a torch. I was sitting in a glassblowing demonstration at an art fair, surrounded by a big crowd waiting to witness what would happen when molten glass meets high heat. The crowd’s silence gave way to an entrancing performance. Watching the artist manipulate red and orange glass was like getting hypnotized by a campfire. I couldn’t imagine the patience and precision required to work hand-in-hand with an alluring, deadly element.

One glance at Heather Trimlett’s Spiro Earrings instantly takes me back to that day. I can tell that Heather’s ability to twist glass into a freely flowing pattern requires an eye for enchantment. As I got to know Heather during this interview, it doesn’t surprise me that she found her niche in jewelry making. Her personality is just as warm, friendly, and colorful as her beautiful pieces. Her color palette is a perfect match for our assortment! Meet Glass Design Challenge Winner Heather Trimlett, and learn about the process behind her winning design, her first experiences at the torch, and how she views the world in multicolored glasses.

Spiro Earrings | Glass Design Challenge Winner | UncommonGoods

 

How did you come up with the concept of your winning design?
For years I have played, practiced and experimented with carefully layering different colors of glass on top of each other and creating twists made of these different colors of glass. When I realized that adding a rod of clear glass to my twists would magnify the colors and allow them to appear to float freely in the clear glass, I had my magic. This combination of layering and precise twisting came together for the Spiro Earring design.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

How did you celebrate when you found out that you won our Glass Design Challenge?
My first wave of euphoria came when I found out I had been accepted into the UncommonGoods Glass Challenge! I sent an email to all my clients, students and supporters, and asked them to please vote for my earrings! I was thrilled by their enthusiastic response.

Then I won, but couldn’t tell anyone! During the “period of secrecy,” I told a few close friends and toasted with a few glasses of wine. My insides were jumping up and down yelling “YEA!”

Once it was OK to tell, I sent an email to EVERYONE I knew to tell them I had won!

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Can you tell us 3 fun, random facts about yourself?
1. I’m an avid gardener. Propagating my Staghorn ferns then sharing the babies with friends ranks high on the list of fun things about the garden. Spending all day Sunday in the garden is the definition of a perfect day for me. My fingers are perpetually crossed that one day my Proteas will decide to bloom. My newest venture is growing things we can actually eat.

2. I have become a collector of Lego figures. Probably the influence of a 4-year-old grandson. Or is it all those bright colors?

3. While I sit at my torch making beads, I watch bees drinking at my fountain. It’s amazing; there are hundreds of bees every day in the summer! The bees at the fountain, conversations with my students who are beekeepers and my concern for the declining bee population have led me to start studying beekeeping and trying to work up the courage to keep my own hives.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Describe your workspace.
I have two workspaces with garden views. The studio is my space for glass work and includes torches, tools, and all things related to fire. Living in southern California has allowed me to comfortably work “outside” in my garage for 20+ years. I like to say I park my car in my studio. From my torch, I have a beautiful view of my front garden.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

My beautiful, bright new office is the second workspace. It’s done in my favorite color combo: lime and turquoise accented with black and white. A large glass door opens onto my garden at one end. I sort beads, make jewelry and take care of paperwork in this space.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Who or what are your design influences?
1. Color! This is the #1 driver for me. Sometimes I feel like a magpie chasing shiny things. I am constantly aware of the color around me, checking for combinations that might work well with my glass work. I love how bright colors can be in the California sunshine!

2. Order. I love orderly things, mechanical things, symmetry and repetition of line and shape. The fine mechanics and shine of a well-made tool truly inspires me.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Describe your first jewelry designing experience.
I was born to be a maker of things. I have always sewed, crocheted, built stained glass windows and many other things.

Playing with pop beads as a child was probably my first jewelry making experience. I still think they are a hoot and use them as design inspiration with my students.

Once I found flameworking (making beads at a torch), my career was set. I backed into jewelry making out of a need to do something with the plethora of beads I was making. My jewelry is simple and clean, as well as a nod to my love of symmetry and color. Clean, repetitive simple shapes are my favorite.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Can you walk us through the set by step process of creating the Spiro Earrings?
The first step in making my Lime Spiro earring is to make the twist that will be the spiral pattern within the earring. I start with one rod of clear glass and three rods of color. I heat the four rods and melt them together. The colors are placed around the clear like the stripes in toothpaste coming out of a tube. While the glass is molten, I carefully twist and stretch it out until it is about the diameter of a pencil and then let it cool. This is my twisted cane.

Next, I begin to create the bead itself. I heat a stainless steel mandrel and a rod of lime glass simultaneously. The size of the mandrel determines the size of the hole in my bead. I carefully wrap one layer of lime green glass around the mandrel as my base layer. Next, I heat the twisted cane gently and carefully, wrapping it around the lime green layer. Lastly, I apply a very thin layer of turquoise glass. I continue to head the bead gently to bring it to its final smooth shape.

I place each finished bead into the kiln to anneal (cool gradually) overnight. For me, the next morning is like Christmas when I open the kiln to see all that I accomplished the day before. I remove the beads from the mandrel, clean & polish them and then assemble them into the Lime Spiro earrings.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Are there any interesting future projects you would like to pursue?
When I am not on the road teaching or home making beads, my 10+ year goal is to learn battuto, an Italian glass engraving technique.

Creative people all have those days (or weeks!) when we feel lost, unmotivated, or stuck.  How do you keep yourself inspired?
1. I am always charged up after teaching a class. My students give me energy, support and inspiration!  Their questions create new puzzles for me to solve all the time!

2. Glass Bead Yoga. Production work gets me back into the groove. The repetition it requires is calming, feels good and safe, like an old friend. My mind has the space to settle down and regroup, ready for the next design idea.

Heather Trimlett | Glass Design Challenge Winner

Maker Stories

Graffiti Jewelry: Off the Streets, into Art

December 17, 2014

Amy Peterson and Diana Sebastian Small | UncommonGoods

Detroit got its nickname, Motor City, from its once booming automotive industry. For the last few decades, as the American automobile industry has declined, Detroit has deterioriated along with it. But over the last decade or so, creative types have been attracted to Detroit’s low real estate costs. Entrepreneur Amy Peterson is one of the creative small business owners helping to give Detroit a new identity–and she’s making a positive impact on her community in the process.

Amy, who has lived in Detroit for 8 years now, saw the beauty in chips of fallen graffiti around her neighborhood. While those flakes of old paint were once reminders of the city’s decay, Amy and a team of artisans are now turning bits of urban detritus into stunning symbols of rebirth.

Graffiti Jewelry Collection | UncommonGoods

Amy and her business partner Diana Russell work with area women from local shelters to transform the fallen paint into unique jewelry designs, including necklaces, earrings, and cufflinks.

Although Amy and Diana both have backgrounds in jewelry making, their current business wasn’t founded solely to produce fashionable pieces. According to The Daily Beast, when inspiration for the Graffiti Jewelry Collection stuck, Amy was already on the lookout for a way to help her community. Since she lived near a local shelter, she had spent time listening to the stories of women in need. She realized that the short-term housing provided by shelters doesn’t provide a long-term solution to the problem of unemployment.

Through experimentation with the graffiti pieces, Amy and Diana developed a technique for creating stone-like paint “gems” with brilliant layers of color, reminiscent of (and sometimes even more vibrant than) the original street art.

 

Creating Graffiti Jewelry

No existing art pieces or buildings are harmed to gather the paint. “We collect the graffiti once it crumbles off the walls in the city of Detroit, ” said Amy. ” We take it through a special process to reveal all of the layers that make up the scrap piece of graffiti.  It creates a beautiful palette of colors that serves as the inspiration for the women we hire. They cut out whatever shape and color speaks to them.”

The Detroit Free Press beautifully describes this process as turning “nondescript sheets of paint scavenged from alleyways and weedy lots” into  “a shocking kaleidoscope of color.”

 

Graffiti Jewelry Process

Amy said that she considers herself fortunate to have met each and every one of the six woman that her small business now employees. “We plan on continuing to grow and help more women in our community,” she said. “Each piece of jewelry that we sell goes directly to supporting that mission.”

In addition to giving the female artisans she works with full-time employment, Amy’s company also helps them connect with organizations that provide further assistance.

“We have been able to offer [our employees] free legal aid thanks to the generosity of Foley Lardner, women’s empowerment classes thanks to Yodit Mesfin at Lips and Hips, a host of supportive services thanks to Focus Hope and Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS), Digital Inclusion provide[s] affordable computers, [services from ] Community Social Ventures, and financial advising from Lauryn Williams at Waddell & Reed Inc.,” Amy explained.

 

Making Graffiti Jewelry | UncommonGoods

The financial management, business education, and life wellness skills that these programs teach allow the women to successfully transition from shelter situations to independence.

Taking part in the creative process and developing the technical skills required to produce the jewelry pieces also has a positive impact on the women who craft these designs. “It really helps enhance their confidence when they create beautiful works of wearable art that customers are proud to wear,” said Amy.

That confidence shines through in every perfectly polished piece of Graffiti Jewelry; and, much like the many customers who have told Amy and her team how proud they are to wear these designs that are as meaningful as they are beautiful, we’re proud to show off this collection in our assortment.

 

Graffiti Jewelry Artists