Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Working the 3 R's into Your Jewelry

I'm always on the lookout for interesting beads, components and materials to work into my jewelry. If it's something that has been recycled or an old item can be reused, all the better! A couple of summers ago, I stopped at a sidewalk bead sale in a little seaside town in Oregon. A strand of tiny red disks caught my eye, and the saleswoman told me they were made from old vinyl (or vulcanite) LP material. . . phonograph record vinyl! They'd been upcycled into shiny beads that formed a sleek, snaky strand.

I bought them and brought them home. Just the thought of reusing a material that had likely been stockpiled in warehouses for decades excited me. Eventually, when bead supplier Happy Mango Beads held a recycle-themed beading contest, I came up with an idea for those fantastic beads. I strung them (hundreds? Thousands?) on memory wire and included a few silverplated beads for additional interest. I simply formed loops at the ends to close the bracelet and added a dangle to one end. (You can also glue on end beads specifically made for use with memory wire.)

I ran out of those recycled beads quickly because people loved that bracelet design. It took me a bit of searching to find more, but lo and behold, it was Happy Mango Beads that carried them. Turns out, these beads are made in Africa. When they arrived in the mail, they were bigger than I'd expected and pretty dusty. I just rinsed them under running water and let them dry on a towel before working with them. As I cleaned them, I thought about the folks who made them in Africa and wondered what their working conditions were.

Although the beads were much wider than the ones I'd initially used, I figured I could still make the same style of bracelet with them, but it would have a different look. I played around a bit and decided to go bigger. The result was a slinky, squirmy, voluptuous bracelet that begged to be played with. I used the same simple technique for both bracelets, adding end dangles with an African flare to this bracelet. The bracelet is fabulous and incorporates material that might have gone into a landfill if someone hadn't come up with the idea of turning it into beads. Yay!

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