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.
- Isis Ring
- Tomyris Necklace
- Ada Necklace
- Grace Necklace
- Artemisia Ring
#11 – The Isis Necklace
Little Bun insisted I name this an Egyptian name, and when I saw it, I knew it had to be called The Isis. He kept holding it like a sceptre so I knew it had to be a queenly sort of regal name (not Cleopatra, I am saving her name for another piece that screams it), and he loved how much fun it was.
Isis, Egyptian Aset or Eset, one of the most important goddesses of ancient Egypt. Her name is the Greek form of an ancient Egyptian word for “throne.”
Isis had strong links with Egyptian kingship, and she was most often represented as a beautiful woman wearing a sheath dress and either the hieroglyphic sign of the throne or a solar disk and cow’s horns on her head.
Occasionally she was represented as a scorpion, a bird, a sow, or a cow. There are no references to Isis before the 5th dynasty (2465–2325 BCE), but she is mentioned many times in the Pyramid Texts (c. 2350–c. 2100 BCE), in which she offers assistance to the dead king. Later, as ideas of the afterlife became more democratic, Isis was able to extend her help to all dead Egyptians.
It initially started like this. I took an old, hand-beaded necklace I have had since my early college years, and I had three stones off eBay that were rather dull in colour (not bright and fantastical) as promised, this is their listing:
…but I knew I wanted to use them in a long hanging piece, as they cannot stand on their own and need some pomp and flair:
It evolved to having the idea of a very large, regal sort of crown (?) of sorts with horns on the side for the main piece. I had Little Bun fashion a sand dollar which he then poked holes into (see the top part), but I later scrapped it because I ended up upcycling other pieces from old necklaces as the centerpiece:
I redid the front section to look like this, smooth, with grooves.
I played around with these old pieces from a necklace I did called The Mata Hari (you can see it here with its two sides as it is reversible as well), and initially thought about this as the hanging piece off the crown above:
Then I thought about doing it like this, a shorter item, instead of 3 stones, just two:
I semi-settled on this but wasn’t in love. I didn’t like the three pieces in between the last two items, it looked off… I felt like it would be better as a ‘skirt’ at the bottom to finish it off.
But then I came across this old labradorite ring I never wear:
I tried to upcycle that ring by itself in these variations but hated how it looked:
It’s too arts & crafts-y. with a juvenile look to them, so I removed all the clay and decided to use rings in between the three stones instead.
It evolved into this. A piece (off center!) in the middle, the three dull rocks in the middle, with two bright rings or ‘jewels’ of a crown in between with a gold border… and a skirt at the bottom:
I left the back unpainted with the gold rings showing because … well I wanted to. It looks interesting at the back as well.
And it all came together:
Little Bun insisted on helping me take photos, and he did a nice job. I ended up painting the sceptre in a wash of blue and gold streaks. It fits Isis perfectly as a namesake because of the verdant, lush green beads signifying her as a provider (she was a goddess of rain, which brings crops and food), and the whole royal deity bit is in the whole sceptre itself, as her name means “throne”.
She’s the one of 4 siblings (so she’s the head bead (?) at the top), and the last three beads at the bottom represent her siblings: Osiris, Set and Nephthys.
#12 – The Tomyris Necklace
This one is named after Tomyris, the fearless warrior queen who ruled over an Eastern Iranian tribe called the Massagetae in modern day Kazakhstan, a warrior tribe. Cyrus the Great proposed to her as a way to steal her land, and she rejected him so he set up a trap to set up a banquet attended by her warriors, whom he slaughtered. He stole her son Spargapises who killed himself once he was captured, which turned her into a furious warrior that resulted in Cyrus’ decapitation and crucifixion. They say she stuffed his head into a wine bag full of human blood and laughed: “I warned you that I would quench your thirst for blood and so I shall.”
It started with my wanting to use this necklace somehow, as a hanging piece.
I also thought this braided rope necklace from Stella and Dot which I never wear (it’s a lariat and I find them very weird, as I have discovered), and I thought about attaching these two together with a stone.
I ended up with something like this as an idea of what I’d like. I ended up not being able to wrap it around twice because then I’d have no way to slip it on over my head, but I did like the look of these items together with the peacock ore:
Then I took the stone and created a base in clay around the back so I can attach all the necklaces to it:
I ended up with this because I painted the blue clay with black and light metallic green mix that would match well with the brass necklace and blend in:
This is the final look, I wrapped the braided necklace around the back and covered it over in clay to hold it in. It’s long enough to just slip on over my head. The peacock ore is really beautiful, and gleams against the background.
Ada Lovelace, in full Ada King, countess of Lovelace, original name Augusta Ada Byron, Lady Byron, (born December 10, 1815, Piccadilly Terrace, Middlesex [now in London], England—died November 27, 1852, Marylebone, London), English mathematician, an associate of Charles Babbage, for whose prototype of a digital computer she created a program. She has been called the first computer programmer.
I saw this and knew it had to be named after Ada Lovelace because it just said her name to me. There’s something about the symmetry of the flowers on either side for the chain, and then the colours being very pastel and feminine (less warrior-like) that flows into a waterfall of chains that made me think of the first computer programmer. Like how the flowers are flowing into her brain (the stone), which turns into code (the waterfall of chains!)
It started out like this where I really wanted to use this necklace, the Geneve Bib necklace in silver flowery lace by Stella and Dot. I like the necklace but not together. I find it a bit strange to have the two flowers hanging off the chain, and it feels unfinished to me. It’s pretty but not … my style YET. I love the pattern though!
Wanting this stone as the feature:
And I came up with this and removed the ‘leaves’ on the side as a chain, and took the flowers out of the middle.
And then scrapped the stone at the end and the two flowers (it seemed to be a bit too much… for everything), and came up with this as the main part of the necklace, but it felt like it was missing something at the bottom…
So I grabbed a necklace with lots of very thin chains, and loved the idea of it hanging from the back of the stone as a waterfall, and I pressed in the clay into the stone, and forced the necklaces to be DEEP in the clay so it holds (the stone is quite heavy)…
This is me holding it up to see what it would look like with a waterfall of chains cascading down:
Satisfied, I created a clay base, moulded it, and then pressed the chains into the back as much as I could to make it a real waterfall:
After I baked it, I considered just leaving it all grey with a wash of silver or something, but before I did that, I knew I had to do something about the chains. It’s a necklace, so they’re all joined, so I decided to snip the ends to make it flow and dance.
I was ECSTATIC with the result. Little Bun loved combing it like hair…
I considered leaving it completely grey, but decided to pick up the colours of grey, blue and lavender and this is what I came up with. I like how soft it is. I normally don’t do pastels – I am into jewel tones and dark moody colours, so this is out of my comfort zone but exactly perfect for the floral nature of this necklace:
I love it!
The final result, is just a stunning piece. One of my favourites, truly.
I love how fun and fringe-y the bottom is too. I need more of these waterfall necklaces so I can keep adding them to my future necklaces.
#14 – The Grace Necklace
This is named after Grace O’Malley, the pirate QUEEN of the Connacht. She inherited her piracy business and fortune from her parents all to evade the English taking over Irish territory. She was fast, agile, and able to disappear into the mist because she understood the isle so well.
Legend has it, Grace married her second husband Richard Burke (Iron Richard) only to expand her property as she took over Rockfleet Castle (perfect hiding spot for pirates) and when he left for a trip and returned before the year was up, she locked the gates to his home and annulled the marriage, keeping the castle (and she still remained allies with him.)
She also negotiated with Queen Elizabeth in 1593, something that was UNHEARD OF at the time, two powerful ruling female leaders, meeting.
So you can see just why the necklace screamed Grace to me right? The whole pirate/sea thing, in the colours, and the floating lilypad/lotus (Okay, so we are a bit far from that part of the world, but it still fits), goes with the water theme, the satin braided rope for the necklace because of the ships she controlled, and the watery nature of the vibe of this necklace, makes me think of her. Plus she had flaming red hair by all accounts, and would have looked amazing with this necklace on.
It started like this, throwing these three fluorite rainbow stones together (I wanted 3).
I added the lotus piece at the bottom (an old handmade item from years ago that I never wear as often), because I wanted to make a sort of sea-themed/water nymph sort of vibe for it:
By deciding the first (as per usual) had to be a statement crown of sorts, I did it, and then enlisted Little Bun to roll out little mini pancakes, which I padded on there in a mermaid style.
It all came together like this:
The chain I wanted to avoid having an actual chain, and it dawned on me to take some old rope I had, and braid it to mimic the ropes you tie when you sail, and I came up with this on the fly:
I made a loop on one end, and a knot on the other:
And they fit into each other perfectly as a necklace.
Last minute, I pressed gold beads into the mermaid scales which made me fall in love with it even more, and then painted the entire thing with a wash of greens, blues, and gold, for a more watery nature given to the look.
I also alternated the stones to have purple on the left, then on the right, then left, so it wouldn’t look too matchy-matchy.
I like the rope necklace. It gives a different look to the necklace.
A close up on the painting job I did and the pressed in gold beads:
And that lotus flower hanging off the end. I may replace it with something else in the future if I want to snag it for another project but I like it there for now. What I like is I can unhook things like that lotus flower for other necklaces, if need be and it wouldn’t ruin the necklace.
I feel like I may need to tighten the necklace a bit more to hang slightly higher (the braided necklace is a tiny bit too long), but I like the look.
#15 – The Artemisia Necklace
The inspiration: I bought a lot of these rainbow fluorite stones, so I made one of them that looked the best into a ring. The minute I made it, I knew it had to have Artemisia Gentileschi’s name. She’s the first successful professional female painter, and this is so painterly!
She was an Italian Baroque painter who made a name for herself by painting strong mythical females in position of power. (!!) They thought her father (an established Renaissance artist), so they rejected her from art academies and her father had his friend Agostino Tassi tutor her, but he took advantage of her and her father pressed charges. That traumatic event totally changed her painting style (she became way more aggressive in her depictions), and she was the first woman accepted into Florence’s Academy of Design (Accademia delle Arti del Disgeno).
It was super easy to make – just a clay base around a ring I never wore:
Then I cleaned it up a bit and removed a lot of the clay to make it less bulky (it’s not heavy at all).
I did paint the side with a wash of gold, but it was just to finish it, not to really show it off.
It’s so comfortable as a real ring rather than a moulded clay ring.
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.