Sometimes the thriftstore is just magical. Often, as I’m driving over I’m thinking about the things I “need” and all too often, those items are there for the finding. You guys know I’m on a big grunge kick, and that means old flannel shirts. The above, scored for $6–which truthfully, I feel is a lot at Value Village–has a dirty 70’s vibe I could not resist. Foolish? Well folks, you can pay $6 or you can head over to Urban Outfitters and pay $49. I left at least 7 other flannels on the racks, and I’m sure they’ll be stocking ’em all winter so go grab one, or two, or three. Take that UO!
I was also longing for jewelry supplies. The knotted vintage double-strand choker above features heavy white glass beads and gorgeous rhinestone rounds. Cost: $2.99. You can pay that much and more for a single rhinestone bead and there are six of them on this necklace. Since I’m into these vintage sparkles in my recent work, my intention was to pull this apart.
Grunged tribal Talhakimt earrings–Write Yr Story–with black diamond vintage rhinestones above would look great with this shirt and necklace combo.
Amazing necklace above is a strand of Czech glass beads in the sweetest delicate shade of pale blue givre, with a little iridescent pink flash. Between each bead, a rhinestone rhondelle! Price: $3.99. Again, I intended to release this strand into my supply stash until I tried the damn thing on. Both necklace finds: definite keepers. Oh, and these rondelles, purchased new, are at least $1 ea, sometimes more. I think there are about 40 on this strand.
The Titanica earrings incorporate rhinestone rondelles, except these are SQUAREDELLES… and how cool is that?! With the best bead caps I’ve ever found–0nce shiny gold brass, they now display a great crusty hand-applied patina.
The ombre flannel above was brand new with tags and thusly priced through the roof at $10. Since these vintage-styled flannels (let alone actual vintage ones) are harder to come by, I bit the bullet and paid. It’s gorgeous, perfectly oversized, super soft. The necklace above ($3.99) has a great industrial romantic look. I immediately thought about pulling it apart to make earrings. But yeah, you got it. I tried it on… and… CRAP! More jewelry for me! Just what I don’t need. (sigh)
The Rose Garden earrings would be sweet with the ombre flannel with just enough grunge and sparkle. The large glass beads (Czech) are really the bomb. With irregular hand-cut facets, soft rosy coloration and a splash of iridescence… bohemian gypsy chic. The earring collection will be updated weekly for awhile, so I hope you’ll check often.
Also this weekend, a little denim repair a la boro and sashiko with some lovely red flannel. I hope to do a post about my obsession with Japanese stitchery soon.
You know, way back in the ’90’s. Nirvana, Marc Jacobs, flannel, old boots. Well, it became a thing, but I’m old enough to tell you it was there long before Vogue mag declared it a fashion thing. I think by that time, I’d been shopping for clothes primarily in thrift stores for 2-3 decades, favoring girly dresses with combat boots for awhile. And I wasn’t the only one before this was co-opted by the media machine.
The preference for things worn, used, tattered and torn–objects with a previous life, a history, with distress, destruction, and survival felt natural to me as a form of escape from mall-ified suburban America. So, what does it mean when we MAKE things that are new appear very old (above)? Thrifstores–once filled with glamorous 40’s gowns and beaded cashmere sweaters–are palaces of polyester these days. There are crusty jewelry parts coming out of Russia and Afghanistan these days, rather than Value Village… the cost is a bit prohibitive on most of it.
This is shiny new brass. Un-grunged. It’s soaking in dish soap to remove oils so that the chemical agents can do their job. This does not always work, but it’s a good place to start. I can’t imagine using it in its glittering raw state for much of anything. But transforming these pieces is a metal adventure.
Above are bits and pieces in the process of destruction. It’s messy and sometimes stinks like rotten eggs. It’s incredibly unpredictable, which is both a frustration and a huge part of the allure. Without knowing the exact composition of the metal you are trying to distress (copper? brass? nickel? steel?)… it’s impossible to predict which chemical might have an effect, and just what that effect will be. There is a lot of scrubbing and soaking, wiping/sanding and re-soaking to achieve a great patina (the professional term for grunged out metal).
I use chemicals made by a company called Jax. They are hazmat so I order up a few bottles have them all shipped at once. It’s hard not to think of the chemicals as precious, so when I start patina-ing, I run around my studio throwing everything in sight into the soup. Jax makes many different solutions for many different metals… I stock about 4-5 of these and use them interchangeably, sloppily, and without any prescription or recipe.
I’m really loving the verdigris patina lately. After a long while of this not seeming to work, I’ve got it DOWN, getting awesome results. Again, not predictable, with verything from pale blues to deep turquoise, to weird shades of green appearing randomly.
Brass bits are cheaply procured, but I think most of these pieces use very old dies. Using patina brings out the original workmanship, missing entirely from a glaring gold surface. Just look at those tiny swags… SO CUTE! But they just look crappy in gold.
Not to be contradictory about the gold, I sometimes throw gold leaf into these designs, furthering the look of a decayed gilded age. These Belle Epoch earrings also have RAW ruby dangles… raw stones are grunge, tumbled are not! So yes, I’m removing gold, then adding it back in. Seems insane, but is really just so much fun.
So, back to grunge. Since the 80’s, I’ve never stopped loving tartan; this is a dress I made last summer from the softest flannel and a daisy chain of feedsack fabric yo-yo’s (30’s-40’s).
And I’ll admit, I loved the Jacobs collection in the 90’s; I didn’t resent the elevation of streetwear to high fashion. It’s what always happens and sometimes the results are truly great. Above is another dress I made this summer… the delicate very sheer plaid voile fabric is by Marc Jacobs, a self-referential nod, don’t you think? Plaid looks great with florals and lace.
The September earrings would look so good with that dress! Should I keep them? The bead caps on these things are RIDICULOUS. Very medieval or something. And yep, they were super shiny gold, now covered with crusty soot. The beads are palest blue lace agate and Picasso-finished Czech glass beads.
This bangle stack was made for a client this summer, a gift to someone special. I do these mostly by commission, so email me if you’re interested. They feature tarnished bangles from India, reclaimed sari silk, and lots of other beads and elements. Grungy, bohemian cool.
Here’s a recent photo I’m very taken with. Bratty children can be extremely grunge. Their hands sticky, their hair chopped. Their ragged mismatched clothing. The colors above are my palette of teal, rose, gold. You can find images like this over on my Pinterest boards.
I’ll be rocking my grungy jewelry in massive layers this fall. I’ll wear too many necklaces (including this one that features a destroyed Cadillac hood ornament! The other is an old Afghani treasure that was falling apart and I sort of patched it back together), WITH earrings AND bracelets. Yeah, grunge was a thing. I’m glad it still is.
I never (ever) let people into the jewelry studio. If you’ve been inside (and you know who you are) consider yourself mightily privileged. It’s not that there are secrets, but it is just a crazy mess of supplies, with ideas crowding out the space and threatening to use up all the available oxygen. I’m afraid if you see it, you’ll know just how insane I really am. And with that, Our Lady of Beads welcomes you to this rare peek.
With detours into many techniques and stylistic persuasions, in the end it’s all about the beads. A sick sort of addiction to beads.
Areas of the studio are covered with random weird shit that may or may not make it into a project and that I find simultaneously stimulating and at times completely suffocating. Like… WHERE’s THE WHITE SPACE??? There simply isn’t any.
Anything here is likely making it into the most recent work… sort of in development and getting closer to actually becoming wearable.
Area devoted to patina. It’s filthy, gross and wonderful. And stinky.
Gold leaf station and minor-league soldering. Crossstitch in the background by Julie Jackson of Subversive Crossstitch.
It’s not all chaos; the vast majority of beads are filed into fishing tackle boxes. Now numbering about 80 (boxes) each with 30 +/- compartments, and pretty much full to capacity. Two baker’s shelves hold the boxes and although I don’t have anything resembling a photographic memory, I can put my hands on any of the specific beads, charms and findings herein. Really.
Work surface where the tiniest of beads won’t go rockin’ and rollin’ onto the floor. I admit to being crazy-jealous of the beautiful studios pictured on Etsy, but you know, in the final analysis I’ve accepted that in order for me to create anything–jewelry, sewing, a life–things just gonna get MESSY! And that’s… Ok. Isn’t it?
Tools. I do like tools.
And finally, when an actual piece of jewelry emerges from this chaotic mess, it will be photographed here in my super fancy high-end photography studio, where I just pray for decent lighting and take my best shot. Harhar, get it??
So yeah. Pretty stuff does come out of all this. Pictured above, Everlasting earrings. I love the verdigris I achieved on these, combined with all those precious beads and rough rubies. Find these and the rest of the fruits of my labor over at So Charmed.
Would you share your studio spaces with the world? Go on, I dare you! Comments welcome…