Use Curiosity and Reframe Jewelry

“We romanticize the curiosity of children because we love their innocence. But creativity doesn’t happen in a void. Successful innovators and artists amass vast stores of knowledge which they can then draw on unthinkingly. Having mastered the rules of their domain, they can concentrate on rewriting them. They mix and remix ideas and themes, making new analogies and spotting unusual patterns, until a creative breakthrough is achieved.”

– Sir Ken Robinson, from TED video, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”

The reframe of a necklace excites me. Mixing and remixing beads creates different looks, new ideas and new possibilities. Rewriting the rules has always appealed to me. After several years of beadwork, my eye has improved, my skills faster and my willingness to take risks stronger.

Many of my custom projects include revisions to treasures one already possesses. Why not? We change. We prefer bigger, or smaller, or merely different. Revising a favorite necklace is akin to updating a wardrobe. In studio terms, some refer to up-cycling or repurposing. I like the term reframe because it refers to perspective. 

A customer called me about the possibility of making several necklaces from one large one which she had purchased in Salt Lake City several years earlier. Although she had worn the designer piece often, it now seemed overdone, too heavy and inappropriate for her daily self-presentation.

We agreed to meet over coffee. As is my practice, I asked questions about favorites: color, best necklace length, types of clothing, activities, pet peeves, and more. Questions, questions, questions. Ours was a long and rambling conversation over a latte. I left with a paper bag that held her treasure and a promise to be in touch after my most immediate deadline had passed.

Once in the studio, I eagerly laid the beautiful number on the table and took a photo.

© 2020, Mary Ellen Merrigan–“Before” Treasure

Next, I cut the necklace apart, separating the beads by color and type. I measured, weighed and inventoried the component parts and then set everything aside. Reframe necklaces aren’t new to my repertoire. Read more about Before and After, A Treasure Necklace Story.

One of my first designs (the warm up piece) from this effort was an easy t-shirt or tunic necklace created from leather. (NOTE: The length of the leather necklace makes it easy to use it as a layering item, in a fashion that is much enjoyed currently.)

© 2020, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Leather Pop Tunic Necklace

Then, I created a number of charms from textured cross-shaped beads to which I added turquoise rounds and enameled headpins for additional detail. (I recalled making those headpins and loving the process and the extra texture they could add.) When attached, the necklace invited movement and curiosity. It was full, but not overwhelming.

© 2020, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Sterling Silver enamel headpin charms
© 2020, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Necklace of carnelian with ME’s handmade charms

Each one of my assemblages had a charm detail at its closing. All but one (which used the clasp that had been on the original necklace) featured one of my handmade sterling silver clasps and extender chains. Another necklace had three strands in the front. 

© 2020, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Carnelian and turquoise three strands

With the remaining beads, I created a fourth necklace.

© 2020, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Carnelian and turquoise #4

For fun, I layered two together in a turquoise and carnelian story and felt creatively refreshed from a good afternoon’s work.

What piece of jewelry have you been wanting to reframe? Why not now?

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