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.
- The Zhenyi Necklace
- The Longmu Necklace
- The Chang’e Necklace
- The Benzaiten Ring
- The Tiamat Necklace
#The Zhenyi Necklace
Named for Wang Zhenyi, a scientist from the Qing dynasty. She went against the feudal customs of the time, which hindered women’s rights, by working to educate herself in subjects such as astronomy, mathematics, geography, and medicine. She was well known for her contributions in astronomy, mathematics, and poetry. She was an acclaimed scholar: “An extraordinary woman of 18th century China.”
She was even the one who insisted the world was round, like a ball.
One of her experiments to study a lunar eclipse included placing a round table in a garden pavilion, acting as a globe; she hung a crystal lamp on a cord from the ceiling beams, representing the sun. Then on one side of the table she had a round mirror as the moon. She moved these three objects as if they were the sun, earth, and moon according to astronomical principles.
Read more about her here.
So clearly, peacock ore = earth/galaxy/astronomy, and I hung some silver findings at the bottom to represent the weight of being a woman going against the customs of the time when women weren’t taken seriously.
I started with just “I want to use this peacock ore”. I thought about the dragon chains with them, and beads at the bottom..?
Then maybe just gold chain?
I almost settled on this with little triangles as fangs …
But then I ended up with dragon chains and more chains and removed the fangs, but added a row of hanging beads. I painted most of it quite dark, with a lot of grey and greens:
I initially painted it very dark as you can see – it wasn’t at all matching up to the colours, and very dull. It didn’t seem right.
So I repainted it with much more blue and added way more gold …
It’s hard to see, but now the sides are less dull/grey, and more bright blue just like the stone itself:
Now you can see the gold pop up on one side to really showcase the stone.
#The Longmu Necklace
Named for LongMu who is the Mother of Dragons in the Chinese Pantheon. LongMu was deified as a goddess after raising five dragons. They developed a strong bond for each other and become a great example of filial devotion (respect for one’s elders, parents, and ancestors) and parental love, an important virtue in Chinese culture. She is a patron goddess of parents and children and remains a popular deity through out China. She is invoked to instil feelings of loyalty and responsibility between those who love each other, whether it’s blood related or even same species.
So.. obviously – dragons for the Mother of Dragons!
This is a beautiful smoky quartz and I really didn’t want to put a clay top on it at all, or cover it. I tried to keep it as simple and as natural as possible.
I knew I wanted to do something like this:
But I didn’t want to ruin the points.. so I decided on a bar at the top instead:
I added a gold ‘bar’ across the top and scored it to look like the dragons were holding a bar of gold in a sense. I am not entirely pleased with the way I scored it, maybe I should have done it more like a sleek bar of gold (not too late to fix it), but this is the style I wanted.
It looked like this before and it was too messy. It didn’t look nice to me…
Update: I DID fix it. It needed to be a gold bar so it looked better. I am critical again that it isn’t a PERFECT gold bar… but I also don’t mind that it isn’t so perfect either. I’m torn.
I see that I will need to repaint the top again in another layer of gold actually. Little Bun did it in a darker closet so…
#The Chang’e Necklace
Named after Chang’e the Chinese goddess of the moon, best known for stealing an elixir of immortality from her husband, Hou Yi. Her story is celebrated as part of the annual Mid-Autumn Festival.
It started with a big white heart drusy and from there it evolved into adding a necklace behind it to fan out like spikes or the rays of the sun.
I really wanted to keep the heart shape at the top, so the only way this could work was if the clay was put at the bottom to hold the stone rather than the top.
So I started with this necklace, and put pieces of clay to hold the panels in place so they don’t shift:
Then as I added the clay, I realized how cool it would be to have another necklace hanging off the side as a twist:
And it ended up being this:
I decided to paint the necklace and the clay in a gradient of sorts. At first, I was going to blend the paint a bit more to make it all seamless but in the end, I prefer having swathes of paint daubs in a row from the clay down into the rays of the sun, to really make it like a graphic ‘rays of sun’ motif. Or like a bird’s feathers…
I am especially pleased with the way I upcycled another necklace off to the side so that it looks like it is hanging with the words: A Token of Love.
I love how big and bold the necklace is and absolutely a statement piece. You can’t miss it, and I love the graphic words off the side.
#The Benzaiten Ring
Named after the Japanese goddess Benzaiten is one of the major goddesses in Buddhism. Also called Benten, she is revered as a goddess of music, the arts, knowledge, speech, and wealth.
Benzaiten is also a protectress of the Japanese people. These qualities led to her inclusion among the Seven Lucky Gods that exemplified both virtue and blessings.
She is also revered in Shinto. As one of that religion’s many spirits, she has shrines that recognize her as the goddess of music and knowledge.
Read more about her here.
The ring is so perfect. The stone is a rutilidated quartz that I formed a ring around, with a great brush of gold over the blue and green.
It’s one of my immediate favourites.
#The Tiamat Necklace
Named after the Queen of Dragons, Tiamat. Tiamat was a unique chromatic dragon, who had one head for each primary colour of the most common species of chromatics (black, blue, green, red, white). Each head was able to operate entirely independently of each other and had the powers of a member of the respective race of dragonkind Her body also had traits in common with a wyvern, including a long tail tipped with a poisonous stinger.
Being a multi-headed dragon, popularized by the game Dungeons and Dragons, I took their interpretation of Tiamat and made a necklace with 3 heads.
The first two dragons holding up a gorgeous labradorite stone with a blue and green flash, and one hanging off the bottom as like a tail of sorts:
I also tried to keep it really dark and moody to match the stone, with a flash of gold to match the stone as well:
I also decided that it looked too plain without the tail having SOMETHING, so I added a flower pendant I was going to upcycle, a piece by an artisan here in Québec who goes up into the fields to look for flowers in the field, and she does a wax process on the petals themselves, coating them, while “losing” the flower (lost wax process), to get the shape. So each pendant is unique, and I think perfect for the tail.
I like how the dragon at the bottom snakes down the shirt, as it adds interest.
I also added some flashes of yellow and gold on the sides of the clay:
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.
“How do you make them“
I also have a video on it here:
“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.