Upcycling Project Overview
As a way to create my own jewellery because I admire so many bold pieces from the likes of artists like Adina Mills, I started creating my own items. I use old necklaces, rings and bangles I no longer wear or want, and change them into something new.
All of my items have names of strong women, historical, fictional or otherwise, and this is just a fun hobby for me, which I have started to grow very fond of.
- Godiva Necklace
- Khutulun Necklace
- Elsa Necklace
- Zetian Necklace
#21 – The Godiva Necklace
Named after Lady Godiva who seems to have a real reputation in pop culture. Lady Godiva, Old English Godgifu, (died between 1066 and 1086), Anglo-Saxon gentlewoman famous for her legendary ride while nude through Coventry, Warwickshire.
The earliest extant source for the story is the Chronica (under the year 1057) of Roger of Wendover (d. 1236). He recounts that her husband, in exasperation over her ceaseless imploring that he reduce Coventry’s heavy taxes, declared he would do so if she rode naked through the crowded marketplace. She did so, her hair covering all of her body except her legs.
You can read more here.
I started with this stone:
I made it simple, and an easy slip-over-the-head necklace, with clay wrapping around the top of it:
I decided to make it all gold. Just something simple, no other colours mixed:
It looks like molten gold moulded around a clear crystal obelisk:
It’s simpler than what I am used to in my big necklaces but it’s an office-appropriate piece for sure:
#22 – The Khutulun
Khutulun was the UNDEFEATED warrior, the granddaughter of Genghis Khan. Kaidu ruled over the Changatai Khanate in Xinjiang and Central Asia, and Khutulun was his favorite child. Her physical strength and skill in archery, horseback riding, and warfare made her the ideal right-hand companion during battle. She would ride by his side, taking captives on horseback.
Together, the two battled the armies of the Yuan Dynasty and kept their hold on western Mongolia and China. In addition to assisting in his military campaigns, Kaidu also relied heavily on Khutulun for military and political advice.
She was famed for her athletic prowess and refused to marry any suitor unless he was able to defeat her in a wrestling competition. She collected horses from any man who could not beat her, and she is said to have collected 10,000 horses from failed suitors, amassing a herd as big as the emperors.
Read more here.
I originally thought about doing this necklace, with hanging something off the necklace.
I had considered this white crystal stone, and I liked the look, but the stone took on another life of its own, and became the Thetis Necklace.
So I scrapped that, and happened to see these two colours together:
I added the two necklaces together, and then thought – A PENDANT! IT WOULD BE PERFECT…
I was playing around with how to add it to the necklaces:
And I had the perfect mix created:
It seemed to work together in some strange harmony
I settled for having the pendant be on the top string of the bead, hanging in the middle of the two. I almost want to attach the pendant to the red necklace somehow, but I am not sure yet. I don’t like doing it permanently because I may change it again.
#23 – The Elsa Necklace
I named this after Elsa Schiaparelli, famous designer. Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars. Starting with knitwear, Schiaparelli’s designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau. She was so original, and created brooches as buttons, matched zippers to the clothing, and had a magenta pink as her shocking house colour — which was unheard of in that day and age.
Read more about her here
The necklace fits her perfectly, as she always played with avant garde fashion, and statement pieces.
It originally started like this. The stone, and I thought about a mermaid scale loop which Little Bun helped me with:
Then it evolved to have a wider base for the stone to give it more impact. I thought about using this plastic necklace I already had and don’t wear often and then perhaps having the chains hang off the bottom again?
I scrapped the big necklace, and thought about this chain instead…
I still didn’t like it, so I re-did the entire base for the stone to make it sleeker and less circular, and pressed in gold beads, like with my other necklace, the Grace (after Grace O’Malley), and it started to take shape:
Then I found a multi-chain necklace, and thought it would look very cool hanging at the bottom surrounding the pendant, so I removed the gold beads, redid the whole structure of the stone, and added wings, so I could press in the necklace as it was, with the bars on either side as the wings:
Then I pressed the gold beads back in:
I made grooves in the clay, strengthened the wings (the clay kept drooping because the metal was too heavy for it before it was cured), and the end result was this, which I completely covered in rose gold paint to pick up the pink in the stone:
I love the necklace pressed into the wings to hang and flow, to give some animation:
Then I added the gold chain from before (I may take it out and reuse it as a hanging waterfall for another project but for now it’s good):
I like how it mimics the multi-chain look at the top and the bottom.
#24 – The Zetian Necklace
Named for the Empress Wu Zetian (also known as Empress Consort Wu, Wu Hou, Wu Mei Niang, Mei-Niang, and Wu Zhao, 624-705 CE, r. 690-704 CE) was the only female emperor in the history of China. She reigned during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) and was one of the most effective and controversial monarchs in China’s history. She improved the education system, reformed the military, established a direct line between her and her people… she’s fascinating, if controversial, the way she took power (but what man isn’t when he becomes that powerful)?
Read more here.
I saw this and knew it was an Empress Wu Zetian piece. The middle pendant is reminiscent of ancient times (to me), with the hammered metal piece, and the rose gold starburst around the outside (another necklace I upcycled), are the changes she made to reform and revolutionize China for years to come as he made serious, important changes.
It all began when I wanted to use this necklace. It’s nice, I love the large pendant but it’s boring because.. it’s so simple, and I don’t wear simple.
I started playing around with the idea of a gold necklace, with some beads in order, and maybe this kind of style with the pendant hanging?
I even tried doing the beads below to see if it would speak to me.
And I flipped the beads the other way, as per Little Bun’s request because he wanted to see if it would help me decide what to do.
I tried adding some gold U-shaped findings I took off two necklaces as interesting additions to the look.
This one spoke to me, I sort of liked the way it looked like the findings were holding the beads together:
Ultimately, I settled on this, because I decided a row of beads, the gold on top, and then I found another rose gold necklace in a stick bib style, would fit it perfectly because the rose gold picked up the pink in the stones:
So I started creating the clay bits on the back to hold it all together:
Which created this row of beads, purely held together by clay to give it a minimalist look (the holes drilled into the beads go the other way, so they’d be horizontal not vertical in this case):
I attached the necklace in a fan shape around the back of the pendant, and arranged each piece as best I could to give it stability but also a graduated effect of some being higher and lower, like waves:
You can see the clay I pressed in the back to press the necklace into them, which I also painted out in rose gold…
A close up on the necklace of the beads held together not just by clay, but I made it with a chain pressed into the backs of the beads with spots of clay.
Here’s the back look of it, and I painted it out in rose gold even though I didn’t have to (well, Little Bun did it)…
Empress Wu Zetian!
It looks great against pink as well.
STUFF I USED
I used this because I researched everywhere, and it seems like the Professional version is the most versatile of all of them. They have other versions like Soft, and so on, and another brand called Sculpey, but I wanted something that wouldn’t crumble, be strong, and stay solid, and this one seems to hit all of those points based on what I read.
I picked up black, navy blue and champagne for my next round, as colours for clay. I can always change the colours afterwards, but it is better to have a background that is already coloured rather than white, to make my life easier. It’s also easier to have a gold wash on the clay for colour and styling it.
These paints are great. I use them for everything, and I have a whole range of colours. I need more metallic paint however, I am seeing that I will use more of it in future projects.
I also have vintage and old thrifted chains to upcycle that I added to the necklaces and so on.
Statement stones and so on
I hunted a few on eBay and Etsy, and looked for items 3″ – 4″ because I wanted a really BIG statement rock for my pieces but they are quite… expensive, around $30 – $60 per stone, as people use them for healing/chakras, and tend to pay a lot.
The smaller rocks are okay, but you need to add way more clay to make it a bigger statement piece as a result. I am trying a few suppliers but haven’t found any that is “cheap” and of high quality yet. I will share when I do. I have been disappointed in a lot of them so far.
“Are the pieces heavy?“
No. It’s mostly clay you see which is super light. What’s heavy is if the stone is large or if the chains are heavy.
“You’ve ruined the stone with so much plaster“
To each their own. You say ‘ruined’, I say ‘made into art’.
(I literally got this in a comment on the video I did). Also, how do you expect me to put the stone on a chain without plaster to hold it in? I mean.. it’s just not possible.
The chain needs to be on there with a lot of plaster or else it snaps off because there isn’t enough support to hold it on to the stone. Basic jewellery making 101.
“Are you going to sell any of them?“
They’re all kind of like my babies at this point. I mean, I’ve worked hard on them, I’ve painted them, I’ve named them. I don’t know how people sell their creations.
I guess I could make MORE of the same ones that are easy to find in the same stones (simple shapes in quartz), but each one is in the end, quite unique as even some of the chains are vintage or out of stock, or just old pieces from thrifting hunts, or artisans who are no longer selling their work.