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 Saraswati Necklace
- The Pele Necklace
- The Haumea Necklace
- The Nomkhubulwane Necklace
- The Asintmah Ring
#55 – The Saraswati Necklace
Named after Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, speech, wisdom, and learning for OBVIOUS reasons (I know those aren’t Hindu characters hanging off the bottom but please, a little artistic license..)
In Vedic literature, Saraswati acquires the same significance for early Indians (states John Muir) as that accredited to the river Ganges by their modern descendants. In hymns of Book 10 of Rigveda, she is already declared to be the “possessor of knowledge”.
Her importance grows in Vedas composed after Rigveda and in Brahmanas, and the word evolves in its meaning from “waters that purify”, to “that which purifies”, to “vach (speech) that purifies”, to “knowledge that purifies”, and ultimately into a spiritual concept of a goddess that embodies knowledge, arts, music, melody, muse, language, rhetoric, eloquence, creative work and anything whose flow purifies the essence and self of a person.
In Upanishads and Dharma Sastras, Saraswati is invoked to remind the reader to meditate on virtue, virtuous emoluments, the meaning and the very essence of one’s activity, one’s action.
I had ideas to make it like this:
But then I settled on this version:
I even finished and baked it like this but it was simply hideous and not at all what I wanted to show off the stone. The clay around it was misshapen, and it looked terrible. So I broke it all apart, and redid the entire thing to make the clay more rounded around the stone:
I decided to make it a little different in terms of painting, and made patches of gold alternating around the green and blue.
I especially enjoy the letters hanging off the bottom. It by itself is a nice necklace, but I found it too boring to wear alone, now that I have so many other pieces.
#56 – The Pele Necklace
There was no question at all, that this necklace would be for Pele, the goddess of volcanoes and fire and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands. Often referred to as “Madame Pele” or “Tūtū Pele” as a sign of respect, she is a well-known deity within Hawaiian mythology and is notable for her contemporary presence and cultural influence as an enduring figure from ancient Hawaii. Epithets of the goddess include Pele-honua-mea (“Pele of the sacred land”) and Ka wahine ʻai honua (“The earth-eating woman”).
In different stories talking about the goddess Pele, she was born from the female spirit named Haumea. This spirit is important when talking about Hawaii’s gods as she descended from Papa, or Earth Mother, and Wakea, Sky Father, both descendants of the supreme beings. Pele is also known as “She who shapes the sacred land,” known to be said in ancient Hawaiian chants.
The stone fits her perfectly as a narrative (hello? volcanoes!?) and I decided to try and keep it very simple with a thin chain and a bar to hold it up. I had actually chosen another necklace for this but it ended up not being able to fit through the loop (*face palm*), but I settled on this plain rose gold bar necklace and prefer it.
I had originally thought I’d do something like this:
Then I scrapped the gold and it evolved to rose gold leanings:
Maybe mixed with more beads?
But ultimately I decided to keep it regal with some gold beads pressed into the clay (Little Bun helped decide on the design). Then I mixed black with some bright red and loved the swirl of shades of red that ended up being painted on here. It went from very dark burgundy to brighter reds because I didn’t mix the two colours completely:
And the final result was finished with touches of gold (I can’t help myself):
I also mixed two types of gold – a more antique one, and a lighter one, with some bronze:
I just need to figure out how to keep the bar centred on the loop but I have an idea for a hook of sorts…
#57 – The Haumea Necklace
Of course, after reading about Pele, I saw the name Haumea for the Earth Spirit the goddess of fertility and childbirth, and also incidentally, one of Little Bun’s favourite dwarf planets (also named Haumea!), and this “egg” stone of jasper had to be named Haumea.
I really wanted to use this jasper stone, but to preserve all of it’s beautiful yellow marks on the sides
It started off like this, thinking I could pick up the moss green in the stone, with the necklace, but the whole vibe was off. Too gothy.
Then I thought about this, with a Stella and Dot Alila necklace I had purchased a duplicate of and broken apart JUST for upcycling:
And this formation came to mind (perfect!)
The chain is also adjustable to different lengths (short or long):
And I kept the clay bit around the stone pure gold this time because it didn’t seem right to add so much colour as the stone was already so pretty.
#58 – The Nomkhubulwane Necklace
I know I say every necklace is my favourite, but this is definitely up there on the list. Named after Nomkhubulwane, the Zulu fertility goddess who presides over rainbows, agriculture, rain, harvests and beer (LOL), it fit her perfectly in my head.
Mbaba Mwana Waresa lived in the clouds, in a round hut made of rainbow arches. Her people loved this rain goddess, and whenever they heard the telltale sound of Her thunder drum, they knew that She would be pouring much-needed waters from Her heavenly home. She is the daughter of the sky god Umvelinqangi.
She is able to shapeshift Her appearance to that of an animal, hence Her other name, “Nomkhubulwane”, which means “She who chooses the state of an animal.
According to legend, She was unable to find a suitable husband in the heavens, so She scoured the lands of South Africa in search of a mortal husband, and then defied all of the other gods when She fell in love with a mortal man. In order to make sure he loved Her, She tested him by sending a beautiful bride in Her place while She disguised herself as an ugly hag. Her earthly lover was not fooled and recognized her immediately. They married and to this day, they live in her rainbow covered house in the sky.
I knew I needed a bold chain for this stone, and decided to twist it on its side instead of doing a conventional straight piece:
Then I worked for about half an hour trying to smooth out the sides to make them very straight and flat (this is difficult to maintain with soft clay!), and to not ruin it before it baked, while I put markings on the sides:
Came out pretty well! Not super sharp for the edges (I am very critical) but good enough:
I also did it all in yellow, then added purple in the grooves, but decided to make them a bright green instead, to give it some pop. I may repaint the whole thing again in yellow and redo the grooves to be sharper in colour, but for now, I like the messy look of the paint.
I especially love the hanging bit off the stone, in a ladder necklace. I bought the necklace specifically to upcycle it, knowing it was meant for a piece like this.
I have an affinity for hanging necklaces apparently.
#59 – The Asintmah Ring
Another favourite ring (unexpectedly favourite), is this one named for Asintmah, the Athabaskan (Indigenous) first woman. She was responsible for the birth of animal life on earth. There’s not much written about her, but this ring represents that for me.
A bold, striking piece.
Not much to say about it, I took the stone, wrapped clay around it, and made grooves, then painted it with unexpected bursts of colour because I wanted to make it interesting.
This is not a ring for the wallflower.
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.