What’s in a name?

Ring bracelets have been around for centuries, and have recently made a comeback on Pinterest boards and DIY jewelry sites. The actual term for these is “slave bracelet.” I have a few problems with this.

I looked all over, and it’s difficult to trace the historical roots of this term. Some of the articles I found do not attribute the name “slave bracelet” to actual slavery, but rather to the fact that the bracelet and ring are chained together, making them “slaves” to each other.

However, this literal interpretation does not change the connotations behind the word choice. The first time I saw it used on a website, I could not believe it was the contemporary term. I immediately started googling “slave bracelet” to confirm this was the proper reference, but still feel uncomfortable using it. I don’t think the word “slave” should be tossed around so casually, and using it to describe jewelry takes away its punch.

Some people may think this is view is too “sensitive” or “PC,” but I don’t agree. People defending the use of this term say black people are not offended by it so it shouldn’t matter. First, the feelings of an entire group of people should not be generalized by individual experiences. Second, this issue is not one purely of race, but also of gender and class. Calling a fashion accessory by the same name as a practice that oppressed (and still oppresses) a large number of people is wrong. Slavery is a powerful word and should not be whitewashed for the sake of fashion.

There’s a simple solution. Can’t we just say “ring bracelets?”

Giving DIY gifts

The best part about making things is giving them away. I don’t actually sell anything, mainly because I don’t want to spoil something I enjoy by making it work.

Have you seen the show Hoarders? It spotlights people who hoard random items, and whose houses are full of precarious stacks that could topple any moment. This is what my apartment would look like if I didn’t give jewelry away. No joke.

One of my dear friends visited recently, and I excitedly showed her all of the things I thrifted over the last few months–the bird charms, colored stones and white beads. Then I realized that she must think I’m crazy, and I wouldn’t blame her if she did. If you don’t make jewelry it would be hard to understand the enthusiasm toward old, rather junky-looking thrift store finds. But if any of my friends think I’m nuts, they don’t tell me… Maybe it’s because I give them things.

I used to be self conscious about giving jewelry to other people because it wasn’t “store quality” or I didn’t spend much money on it. But if a friend gave me something they made with their own two hands, I would appreciate it even if it wasn’t perfect. Keep that in mind the next time you give a DIY gift. It’s not about what you give, it’s about the intention behind it–the fact that you made it with that person in mind.

Thrifty Tuesday

I live in Arlington, Texas–home of many things, but not home to many decent thrift stores. If you are familiar with sub-par thrift stores, as I am, you probably know the struggle of finding something in good condition that has been priced way too high. You know the sort: Forever 21 dresses for a whopping $20, shoes from Target marked $10, or even worse, an entire section of items labeled “better clothing” and priced close to their original value.  

I went thrifting in Arlington today and found this to be my luck. But I am in need of chain and beads and I was determined to find them at a good price.

First up, I visited Thrift Town. They have one of those infamous “better clothing” sections and can be inconsistent with pricing. I found a few good options in the housewares aisle and the toys department:

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Housewares departments of thrift stores are full of knick-knacks. This could easily be taken apart for the seed beads

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A knick-knack with beads and reusable wire

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Bags of small toys like this would be perfect for crafting. They can be painted and used for magnets, necklace pendants, etc., and this bag was only $1.99.

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$8 for a necklace I’m going to take apart? No thank you!

I ultimately passed on buying anything here today. I guess I was too frustrated after visiting the jewelry section. Each item was priced between $5 and $15. Crazy, right? I don’t even pay that much for new jewelry unless it’s real silver or precious stone.

Next I visited Salvation Army, and here’s what I came away with:

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All of these were on sale. Total cost : $5.50

I can’t wait to tear them apart and experiment with the different pieces! Typically you can come away with a better deal than I got on these, but like I said, Arlington thrifting isn’t the best.

Copycatting

I firmly believe it’s okay to copy other people’s jewelry. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, am I right? Let me clarify by adding that I believe it is okay to copy if you do not plan to sell. It is one thing to practice jewelry making by copying pieces you like, it is another to make money off someone else’s designs.

When I first started playing with jewelry, I wanted to make things, bend things, create things. But everything I came up with, I didn’t want to wear. It was just a little… messy. So I started copying jewelry from blogs or Urban Outfitters or Instagram pictures. This made me really think about the final product before I began and analyze how I would have designed it differently. Now I waste less materials (mess-ups can be costly), and I actually wear what I make.

What type of jewelry do you buy?

Start there. If you always buy statement necklaces with colored beads, try finding one you like and copying it. You will be more likely to finish it and it won’t collect dust hanging in your closet.

Move on.

Spend some time copying, but follow your own impulses and ideas as well. I have recently become a fan of mood boards. I tend to be a little all over the place, and they help me focus to one idea. I look through magazines and tear out pictures of jewelry I like, current trends and things that have a retro or bohemian vibe. Sometimes it can be a font, color, pattern or photo that sparks an idea–throw those in there too. You can also make them digitally, but I like tangible ones that I can hang in my closet or above my desk.

I also use Evernote and drop in photos or blog posts that I stumble across.

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Scouring for supplies at thrift stores

Today let’s go on adventure. Not skydiving, no road trip, just a jaunt to the thrift store. As a college student and jewelry maker, the thrift store is my friend and should be yours, too. Say it with me, “The thrift store is my friend.” Walk up to that clear display case with confidence and look critically at its contents. There will be a lot of plain old junk. But if you’re lucky, you’ll find some usable chain, interesting pendants or beads you can reuse. Try not to judge pieces by what they look like now. The point is to rip them apart, after all. Some of my favorite pieces I’ve made have been crafted from old, tacky jewelry.

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This is probably my favorite thing I’ve ever made, and I created it out of an old charm bracelet.

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These earrings are also entirely made from jewelry I found at the thrift store.

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I love old buttons. Mainly because they make for a super easy afternoon project. I have about a million pairs of stud earrings that I made from vintage buttons.

You can save a lot of money finding supplies at the thrift store. And when I say a lot, I mean it. Most vintage or thrift stores sell old jewelry in bags, sometimes for as little as $1. There is literally nothing that cheap in the jewelry aisles of craft stores. Plus, thrift stores are fun. You never know what you’re going to find.

Frankie Says Macramé

When I was in elementary school, my mother came home one day with a bag of old cigar boxes. She went out to the garage, tapped a nail into the top of each and tossed beads and twine inside. Then she taught my sister and I how to macramé, tying the start of each bracelet to the nail and showing us how to tie the knots and slip on beads.

The cigar boxes are long gone, but I still macramé. In the same way that athletes warm up by stretching and writers by free writing, I use macramé to loosen up before playing with wire and chain. It isn’t too tedious, so I’m able to relax and make the knots without over-thinking it.

If you get frustrated while learning how to bead and wire wrap, take a step back and macramé. It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s cheap. Packs of cord cost around $5, and make about 1,000 bracelets (not literally, but they last a long time). 

Macramé bracelets are also incredibly easy to customize. You can change the type of beads, color of the string or the braiding patterns. Check out my next post for a super simple pattern to get you started!

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Create even if you aren’t creative

“That’s nice, but are you any good?”

I’ve heard this phrase many times when I tell people I make jewelry. The truth of it is that I use jewelry making to deal, not because I am good at it. The more I make, the more I feel relaxed and able to hack it.

In a world of Netflix and DVRs, it’s easy to get home and turn the TV on to feel released from the stress of the day. I admit it; I recently binge-watched all nine seasons of The Office. But studies have linked more time in front of the TV to higher odds of becoming depressed, with one study reporting rates of depression up to 8% higher in teens who watched more TV.

On the other hand, practicing some kind of creative outlet has shown to promote self-healing and even physical health. The important thing is to find something you want to do, and whether you’re good at it or not doesn’t matter.

I found jewelry making by accident. A friend—who shall remain nameless—gave me a necklace for my birthday one year and it was the gaudiest, tackiest gift I ever received. The “bones” of it were good, but the final product was terrible. I borrowed a pair of pliers and began tearing it apart, putting it back together, then tearing it apart again. I ended up with two new necklaces, a pair of earrings and a new hobby.

Not everything I make is a work of art, but the act of creating something with my own hands is worth the time and effort. The world would be a better place if more people found their creative outlet, so get out there and just do something. Carve a piece of wood. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Make a collage. Do whatever the hell you feel, and you will feel fantastic.