Many of my new bronze pieces are infused with the history of my family that is rooted in making and creating. These are pieces with a story; cast in bronze from vintage buttons and keys that belonged to my great grandparents.
My great grandmother had a love of sewing and fashion, and I inherited a huuuuge jar of buttons from my mom (that she got from my grandma), containing hundreds of vintage goodies. I used some of them on my very first designs.
Each button was so cool, and I always explained their history and said a little goodbye to them (in my head, like I'm not a crazy person!!) when they went home with their new owners. I had collected a few favourites that I knew I could never part with, like the moon button made of black jet pictured below.
Fast forward a couple years and my biz had grown a bit, and I had begun casting, which is the process of replicating items using wax blanks replaced with molten metal (my first actual collection of cast pieces was the Beachcomber Collection of found shells that I released last spring). I'd established a relationship with a small-batch foundry that I trusted to be careful with these heirlooms, and finally realized, "hey, I can cast those little guys I'm so in love with and finally share them around!"
But a couple of buttons does not a collection make (as many a jeweller has said throughout history, lol?), so I needed to round things out. Enter my great grandfather who was a cabinet-maker, and whose set of wooden drawers sits on my workbench, and whose tools sit on my dad's workbench, and whose love of working with his hands has meandered down through my mom's side of the family to me.
I've kept some of his wayward cabinet keys in my studio (along with the jar of buttons) since I started my little biz back in 2009. I've moved three times, brought the whole sideshow along with me every time, including these keys and buttons. This larger key was the perfect addition, and I loved its clean lines and art deco feel.
There's a few steps to making this particular necklace. The bronze is lovely and shiny when it comes back from the foundry, but it needs some vintage depth, so I oxidize it using a solution called liver of sulpher in hot water. Trust me, it smells as gross as it sounds. It gives the metal a deep black patina, which I then remove using a few grades of sandpaper so the recessed areas keep the dark colour and the high areas are back to their brighter selves. The buttons go through the same process, and I also drill holes in them. The metal sometimes gets so hot while I do this that I've singed the wood bench I work on. And I go through A LOT of drill bits. You can see the three finishing stages in the button on the left.
Everything gets tumbled for hours to bring the shine back up to blinding level, then I use labradorite beads and blackened wire to hand-make the wire-wrapped rosary chain that sits above the button, and assemble the whole shebang with some aquamarine, apatite and pearl beads that I put on headpins and attach to the finished necklace. I'm having a moment while writing this just staring at the blue stones in the photo; they're SO PRETTY, right??!
After I made the first one, I fell in love immediately! I've been wearing mine constantly, it looks so cute with a white t-shirt and jeans, and has enough sparkle to brighten up a dressier look too.
If you need this piece in your life to remind yourself to remember your history, to reinforce that you are the key to your own heart, or just because you think it's lovely and you heart supporting local artists, I'm offering you 25% off this special necklace for a limited time with code KEYTOMYHEART at checkout. Don't forget that Mother's Day is coming soon! You can find it on the website here.
Got a question about my process? Curious about how I make other stuff? Have an idea for a blog post you'd like to see? Ask me in the comments section below and I'll answer, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! xo
Photo: Kaja Photo, Model: Janice Sousa, MUA & Hair: Anthonia Bejide, Styling & Art Direction: Strut Jewelry