For These Jewelry Designers, All That Glitters Isn’t Gold

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Whilst metals, gemstones and pearls have been the staples of jewellery structure for generations, some makers are now finding inspiration in more unconventional products, this kind of as glass, horn and wooden. Even soda cans.

“Disposable cans and plastics have been regarded as insufficient for jewellery,” claimed Eunseok Han, a jewelry artist dependent in Seoul. “However, I imagined we could make beautiful jewelry with these discarded non-treasured materials.”

In this article are the stories of Ms. Han and four other designers who are doing work to elevate unconventional components to jewellery artwork.

Seoul, South Korea

“I started off producing jewellery with recycled cans in 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic commenced,” Ms. Han, 49, stated in a online video job interview from her atelier in the Korean capital. She observed that she had been thinking about doing the job with discarded objects for some time, but the environmental advancements that transpired through the early lockdowns — like the world wide decline in greenhouse gases — encouraged her to start experimenting, crafting pieces out of aluminum soda and beer cans.

Mates and loved ones now present her with cans, and she collects some others from recycling bins — separating them by coloration and lettering type — then chopping each individual can into pieces and working with adhesives to glue the pieces alongside one another. The closing element of the approach includes employing polylactic acid, a renewable plastic commonly identified as PLA, to affix the aluminum items all around a core in the condition that she needs to develop.

“I choose vibrant colours,” Ms. Han said, introducing that she sees this eye-catching palette as a way of focusing awareness on the lively colours of corals that are disappearing mainly because of pollution and international warming. Her collection contains earrings, rings, brooches and necklaces, with more compact items starting up at $300 and additional intricate types likely for $1,500.

Ms. Han commenced creating jewelry in 2000 right after earning a Master of Great Arts in metalcraft from Dongduk Women’s University in Seoul. In the beginning, she made classic Korean kinds in gold and silver she then started incorporating gems, wooden, plastic and enamel into her pieces for a lot more range. She sells her do the job via her Instagram account and as a result of galleries these kinds of as the Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Mass. Charon Kransen Arts in New York City and Bini Gallery in Melbourne, Australia.

“As we move the Covid-19 era, we recognize once more the value of character and the require for initiatives to sustain it,” Ms. Han stated. “As an artist, I’m earning jewelry out of recycled cans in a little exertion to do my part.”

Los Angeles

Ms. Wheeler, 37, mentioned she believed that there’s a thing about wood, in unique, that created for exclusive jewelry. “I feel it brings a genuine grounding, earthy aspect to it. It’s so dense and darkish,” she mentioned in a video clip job interview from her property in Los Angeles.

A short while ago the designer has been functioning with ebony. Due to the fact the Intercontinental Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the substance as endangered, she experienced to uncover an moral way to acquire it. “It ended up currently being a sculptor who had bought a huge log in the ’80s and had some still left around,” she claimed. For her Belle earrings and cuff set, ($119,000 for the earrings and $116,000 for the cuff), Ms. Wheeler paired the darkish wooden with diamonds, white enamel and gentle pink morganite. “I have always appreciated to merge matte carved content with much more conventional faceted gemstones,” she claimed.

The designer, who is self-taught, released her wonderful jewellery assortment in 2016. She now is effective with a sustainability mentor to be certain that her models are designed of recycled gold and responsibly sourced gems, and she ordinarily employs nearby artisans in the United States to craft her patterns, in buy to minimize squander and lower the carbon impression of her perform. “Nothing we make is mass produced,” she claimed. “We seem at the specific piece and assume: ‘Who is the greatest man or woman to make this piece?’”

This summer season, Ms. Wheeler released a new selection, named Bernadette, in honor of her daughter, who was born in April. The styles, which pair vivid hues with comfortable pastels, are a nod to 1960s assertion parts. “These have petrified wood on the exterior,” she explained, referring to the Painted Desert earrings. ($50,000) “This distinct piece I found in Tucson, and it was just so colorful and stunning.”

Ms. Wheeler’s jewellery is sold on her site and by Net-a-Porter, as nicely as in stores, which includes Harrods in London and boutiques this sort of as Elyse Walker in California and Marissa Collections in Naples, Fla.

Yamanashi, Japan

Glass is the only material made use of by Bubun, the jewellery line made by the spouse-and-husband crew of Megumi Jin, 38, and Nobuyuki Jin, 43. In Japanese, bubun is the phrase for “part” — the couple selected it for their model due to the fact they imagine jewelry gets to be “part of a man or woman, both of those in the actual physical perception and in the non secular sense,” Ms. Jin wrote in an email from their household and workshop in Yamanashi, Japan.

The pair met about 10 several years back even though they have been performing for a leather-based items company they remaining in 2016 to start off Bubun. “Nobuyuki saw a pair of glass earrings that I had been earning and mentioned he needed to develop a collection centered on them,” Ms. Jin reported, incorporating that she initial became fascinated with glass as a teen.

“Over the several years, I have occur to come to feel that glass is a medium that can specific an inner emotion that is tricky to specific in phrases by yourself,” she claimed. “It’s not a common materials for jewellery, and when compared to important metals and precious stones, the material itself has tiny worth. But its price is developed by the depth of expression of its idea, condition, technique and handwork.”

The couple craft their jewelry from glass that has been designed for professional use — plate glass, glass rods and glass pipes built in Japan, Germany and China. They slash and shape the glass, functioning the glass at a quite minimal temperature, then wrap a clear thread around each piece and sew those parts alongside one another.

Every piece in the Organ series, which the few based mostly on their interpretation of human body tissue, is manufactured of dozens of circular pieces. “We truly feel that clear, mild-permeable glass is a material that, when worn, visually blurs the boundary among the entire body and its atmosphere and loosely backlinks them with each other,” Ms. Jin said.

The pieces, which are handmade by the Jins them selves, are priced between 20,000 and 50,000 yen ($148-$370). The designers sell the pieces from their on line store, and they have stockists the two in Japan and close to the world.

Nanyuki, Kenya

Writing from her house in Nanyuki, on the northwestern slopes of Mount Kenya, Ms. Dejak discussed that her jewelry and accessories are about “capturing the spirit of Africa — her prosperity, her character, her tradition — and bringing many others into this working experience.”

Just one product that the designer works by using are horns from Ankole cows, which she obtains from reclaimed horn suppliers in neighboring Uganda. Ms. Dejak then has nearby artisans method the extended, upward-curving horns, which the team at her Nairobi atelier in turn style into earrings, pendants and bracelets. (She now employs 12 entire-time employees, far less than the 40 she used prior to weathering financial issues.)

The designer notes that she also employs other environmentally friendly products, these kinds of as recycled fridges, doorknobs and motor vehicle engines, along with “recycled metals sourced at scrap marketplaces and sold for every kilo.” Her brass jewelry retails for $40 to $510, even though the luggage designed of cowhide with Ankole horn fittings run $80 to $910. The two the jewelry and the bags are offered on the web and at merchants about the planet.

Ms. Dejak was born in Kano, Nigeria. “Ever given that I was youthful, I admired my mother and grandmother’s design. They wore bold, lively adornments, and they impressed my enjoy for African, handmade add-ons,” she stated. She graduated with a legislation diploma from Middlesex University in England, but then made the decision to study typographical design and style at the London School of Communication.

As a self-taught designer, she started the brand beneath the title Magik Grace and rebranded in 2009 underneath her individual title. “My collections are seriously affected by Kenyan tribes,” she reported. “The Turkana, Samburu and the Masai overall body adornments and culture have had a large impression.”

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