Friday, June 13, 2014

Repurposing: anguish and anticipation

( Warning: the contents of this post may be shocking to some. Beader discretion is advised. Please note: no beads were harmed in preparation for this post.) 

Last week in the ceramic studio a friend and colleague uttered the fateful words:"Jenny, I have something for you..." I was at once intrigued and cautiously optimistic. She described a necklace, large, a multi-strand that had fallen out of favor in her jewelry hierarchy. It never gets worn, she confessed. And she would hate to donate it to a charity... Perhaps you could use it, repurpose it somehow. My interest grows. She tells me its filled with little carved animals... Oh! Can it be? Carved fetish* beads? YES! I, no exaggeration, had a little prickle up my spine.
Before. In all its beauty..
A close up of the critters, the multi-strand component and the sterling cones/clasp. 

I offered to remake it for her, or to make her something in keeping with her current more casual style.  ( Because then I could adopt the left overs...) No, she said. Its all yours. I knew from her first mention that I was going to cut it apart. And yet. 

It was a lovely piece. 5 strands of fetish animal beads strung with horn heishi, I believe. Turquoise animals served as connectors, and a turquoise hawk focal. And there was NOTHING wrong with it. No loose threads, no broken clasp... I did have a moments pause. As if I was doing the unthinkable. Someone was going to catch me... But the anxiety was quickly over... 

 Oh heavens! The carnage... 
Stampede! No seriously - there are many foxes. Average length is 1". 
The materials sorted. One purple animal! Random... 
That'a a plentiful pile of animals, a plethora, a pack, a herd, a sloth (bears), a skulk (foxes), a rout (wolves)... Sorry. I digress. (Sidetracked at Oxford, with coffee.)

I look forward to using these pieces in mixed media necklaces, in bead embroidery... their small size inspires me to use them in combination with other diverse materials. To take them far from their original context. And I think I am compelled to make a piece for my friend. She may not even wear it, but its good karma, you know? 

I asked my team mates for a few "After" pix - things they had repurposed as I am still pondering and planning.

Lesley shares this necklace from a former Bead Soup Blog Party. The pendant is from a brooch that was her mother's. The clasp is a vintage piece, repurposed as well. 
Melissa loved this pearl, but not its original setting. So when the bezel broke... she was thrilled to design this piece. She wears it often!
Linda pulled this chain of a handbag! The bag - still in use as a clutch. It has a great patina.

Kristen did bead weaving ( bead wove?) these pearls from her mother into a bracelet. 

Keirsten took apart an imported metal necklace and showcased the pendant with pearls.  Adds the luscious pearl luster, and makes the pendant really a focal. 

Thanks to my team mates for the eye candy! I Know I am in good company repurposing a piece of jewelry. I would love to hear your tales, and I wonder - did anyone else feel a twinge of anxiety? Or just the beading anticipation? 

Until later! 


* Zuni fetishes are small animals carved from gemstones. They are associated with Zuni Pueblo in NM. Here are a few links if you are interested in more information: 


  1. Oh I take apart and put back pieces all the time - my only rule while cutting a piece apart is that I should atleast 85% of it in new pieces before putting the rest in my stash

  2. Wow what a great hoard from one piece - I look forward to seeing the elements find their way into your designs.

  3. What a perfect gift for you! And what a perfect project! I can picture you de-beading, bead swimming, bead sorting and writing it all up in a bead frenzy. I can just imagine the whirl of ideas in your fetish loving head! Awesome! Keep us all posted!!!

  4. I can't wait to see how you use those wonderful little fetish beads! It's fun to see what others have re-purposed too. I have several necklaces I got second hand that Ineed to do just that!

  5. Can't wait to see what you do with the critters! You could make a gazillion different pieces with those. What a treasure trove!

  6. I just love all the repurposed jewelry that everyone done. It reminds me that I need to sit down and pull apart some jewelry. I have just been tossing it all into a box for later.

    Be sure to show us what you make with all those totems. They are just so fun.

  7. Lucky you! I love fetish beads! I can't wait to see what you do with it!

  8. I love taking apart old things and redoing them to new things with new elements. Sometimes it's putting it all back together with just one new thing - like taking a 1960s butterscotch amber necklace and restringing it with silver heishe beads in between to bring more bling. Or bringing all my odd ball beads together on a double stranded bracelet with a ton of brass heise beads! Can't wait to see what you do with these beauties!

  9. I can imagine the little creatures as part of an earring and necklace set, with semi-precious and natural taugua nut beads. and earrings, lots of earrings.


We would love to hear what you have to say, please leave a comment.