Monday, January 28, 2013

salvage operation

Often i am asked in conversation, when describing my two different jewelry lines, where i get all of the raw materials for ReWearables.
Over time i have collected and amassed quite a bit of broken beautiful things in my studio; they were used in mixed media projects and to create things for myself. Since i started NikCo my friends and family have been very supportive, gifting me jewelry that is broken or they simply do not wear any more, but more often than not ReWearables are created from beads and bits that i have actively salvaged.
It is important that when i describe a piece as having vintage this or that, it is true. With beading and jewelry making being a trendy craft right now stores are filled with all sorts of lovely beads, some of which look like beads from the past. I do have modern beads for the Quirkees so i sort and store them separately from the ReWearables beads to avoid any confusion.
This is what the vintage beads look like sorted and stored by color family, ready to be used in something fabulous

But of course that is not how they come into the studio.
Here is the last salvage purchase i made:
That is a pretty standard junk box from a dealer; it cost $10 and needs some serious attention.
The first step is to sort it, culling the junk and trash from the pieces with promise. I try to save as much as possible because you never know when something that looks like crap today might be exactly what you need tomorrow. Old strands are taken apart and corroded hardware is cut off.
In the end i have three distinct piles: trash, not trash but not ReWearables material either and the actual salvaged bits, which move on to the next step.
Some of these things are 70 years old. They have been in somebody's basement or attic or garage or under a rug. Great-great-aunt Millie wore it on the hottest day of the year in 1952 and it still has ancient sweat or makeup caked to it. Plastic has broken down, metal has turned, paint has cracked, strings have dry rotted. Plus all of the pieces have been entwined with trash, dust and general ick. They need a good cleaning.
In small batches everything gets soaked in really hot water with seriously heavy-duty detergent; it took five batches to do this set. I'll change the water and soap as many times as it takes to get each batch to have clear water on it. Each small batch is then rinsed thoroughly in a strainer with hot water and laid out to dry on towels.
At the end you have this:
water from the first rise
This might seem like a lot more work than is necessary,
but trust me,
it is necessary.
Blech... shudder...

Not only is it important to get everything clean, this is the step that will reveal damage.

If a vintage finish can not make it through my cleaning process then i don't want to use it.
We are a lot rougher on our jewelry today -tossing it in our purses, lending it to our friends who dance like maniacs when they drink, "packing" it for travel by wadding it in the bottom of our carry-ons, wearing it in the rain, sleet & snow, covering it in sunscreen- than women were in yester years. I need to know that any piece i create and sell will stand up to today's life. And sometimes if a finish cracks the bead can still be saved if i am able to peel it down naked to the white or clear glass underneath.
After a few hours of drying i rough sort the load into two bowls: miscellany and beads-ish.
I have any where from one to ten of these bowls sitting around the studio, kitchen, dining room, living room at one time. When i watch a movie or have some down time i grab a bowl and fine sort it; beads are divided by size, color and shape while metal is sorted by color, size and original purpose and then they are stored in the correct container so that i can easily find the right thing when i am designing.

In summary,
this mess 
becomes this necklace
Royal Honey, for sale here
with a little time, soap and elven magic.

1 comment:

Rea said...

Very pretty! Look how this week, we both had pictures of our 'treasures' laid out on a kitchen towel!!