Monday, July 21, 2008

Reclaimed/Recycled Materials in Jewelry Course at Metalwerx

Photo: necklace study using reclaimed packaging materials

My recent jewelry explorations reflect my growing concerns about global, local and personal environmental issues and how I can change my impact on them. I already recycle much of my household and studio waste, buy local and organic food as much as possible and buy local handmade gifts when I don't have the time to make something myself. My attention is now focusing on my jewelry and studio practices. As you have seen in the past few blog entries I have started making work with reclaimed/recycled materials using techniques that use less chemicals and the torch to reduce health hazards.

This new approach to jewelry has inspired me to offer a new 6 week course at Metalwerx in Waltham, Massachusetts this autumn titled, 'Reclaimed/Recycled Materials in Jewelry'. The course description is as follows:

As environmental awareness grows into a more urgent concern for our society, we are examining our impact on the natural environment as well as the impact on our health and personal environment more and more. As a result we are beginning to rethink how we approach everything we do in our lives to make our impact less wasteful, more sustainable and healthy. Our jewelry making practices should not be excluded.

Join Heather in an exciting six-week exploration joining reclaimed/recycled materials to create jewelry that is surprising, insightful, inspiring to lessen our impact on the environment. Let your imagination run wild and create daring jewelry with materials found either at home, at work, from walks in the woods or by the sea. Anything goes: packaging material from wine corks to plastic, worn out toys, twigs, bones, gun shells, wire from used spiral bound notebooks, twist ties from trash bags or drinking straws. The materials at your fingertips are endless! The next time you throw something away just ask yourself, "Can this be made into jewelry?"

Though much emphasis will be placed upon using reclaimed/recycled materials, using metal will not be discouraged but using scraps from your scrap box should be considered. We will discuss using a variety of handmade joining techniques such as rivets and jump rings as well as making bezels to frame unique found objects.

And at the end of the class students will have a bold new piece of jewelery that will generate much discussion about the importance of creativity in a time when creative thinking is needed most to save the environment.

For more information about Metalwerx and how to register for this class please visit their website.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

No Dirty Gold Campaign + Ethical Metalsmiths

The No Dirty Gold campaign was started by EARTHWORKS, "a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the destructive impacts of mineral development, in the U.S. and worldwide. EARTHWORKS stands for clean water, healthy communities and corporate accountability. We're working for solutions that protect the earth's resources and communities."

The No Dirty Gold
campaign has been established to raise awareness among consumers, retailers and makers of jewelry about the health and environmental impacts of mining metals used in all industries- tin (food cans), aluminum (soda cans), gold and silver (jewelry + electronics) etc.

Quick facts from the No Dirty Gold campaign website:

About Mining:

  • A single gold ring leaves in its wake at least 20 tons of mine waste.
  • Open-pit gold mines essentially obliterate the landscape, opening up vast craters, flattening or even inverting mountaintops, and producing 8 to 10 times more waste than underground mining.
  • Cyanide is used by large mining operations to separate gold from ore. Cyanide pollution is a major concern. A rice-grain sized dose of cyanide can be fatal to humans; concentrations of 1 microgram (one-millionth of a gram) per liter of water can be fatal to fish.
  • Metals mining employs just 0.09 percent of the global workforce but consumes as much as 10 percent of world energy.
  • Between 1995 and 2015, approximately half the gold produced worldwide has or will come from indigenous peoples' lands.
  • Metals mining is the number one toxic polluter in the United States, responsible for 89% of arsenic releases, 85% of mercury releases, and 84% of lead releases in 2004.
  • The world's largest open pit, the Bingham Canyon mine in Utah, is visible to astronauts from outer space. It measures 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) deep and 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) across.
  • 120,000 tons of toxic waste spilled from the Baia Mare gold mine in Romania in 2000, contaminating the drinking water of 2.5 million people and killing 1,200 tons of fish.

About the U.S. Jewelry Market:

  • More than 80 percent of gold in the U.S. is used to make jewelry.
  • U.S. gold jewelry sales were an estimated $19 billion in 2006, accounting for 31 percent of the $62 billion U.S. jewelry market.
  • Nearly half of all people surveyed by the Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council call jewelry their favorite Valentine's Day gift.
  • Jewelry is among the most popular Valentine's Day gifts, following cards and candy. 28 percent of shoppers gave a gift of jewelry last Valentine's Day.
  • Eight of the top ten U.S. jewelry retail companies (by sales) have endorsed the No Dirty Gold campaign's Golden Rules. These companies are: Wal-Mart, Sterling, Zale Corp., QVC, Tiffany & Co., Helzberg Diamonds, and Fred Meyer Jewelers and J.C. Penney.
  • The companies who have endorsed the Golden Rules represent about $14.5 billion in jewelry sales, or 23 percent of the U.S. jewelry market.

Please visit the No Dirty Gold and EARTHWORKS website to read the valuable information you need to know before you make your next jewelry purchase, jewelry supply purchase or even open your next tin of food. Also please sign their campaign pledge. Everyone knows about blood diamonds we should now be asking what we can do and how to help our jewelers to obtain metal more responsibly.

More info:

Ethical Metalsmiths was started by metalsmiths and Society of North American Goldsmith members Susan Kingley and Christina Tatiana Miller. Ethical Metalsmiths have organised jewelry exhibitions such as 'Composting Good and Evil' and projects such as 'Radical Jewelry Makeover' to raise awareness about mining practices and their impact on our environment.

Please show your support - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Monday, July 14, 2008

'Vicious Circle' (reclaimed toys in jewelry)

In another experiment in recycled/reclaimed materials I've used some toy army men and linked them together with silver jump rings to create this bracelet called "Vicious Circle". I'm vehemently opposed to the US war/occupation in Iraq and found this piece to make a great anti-war statement.

Jewelry really is such a wonderful medium for self-expression. It can be a statement about politics, beauty, wealth, poverty, the environment, sexuality...the possibilities are endless! Plus it isn't just something you hang on the wall but something you can wear anywhere at anytime.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Recycled Materials in Jewellery Study #1

It's time for a new direction.
With environmental issues in our homes, at our work, in our studios and in the world at large becoming more and more urgent we must take a closer look at our environment and ask if we are dong enough for the health and safety of ourselves, our family and the global community.

I've decided to take a new approach to my work and begin exploring materials and techniques that reduce my impact on the environment and my personal health. I've started doing this by considering recycled and reclaimed materials much more and using less chemicals in the process of making my jewellery.

This bracelet is one of the first pieces I made recently while embarking in this new direction. It is constructed of black plastic hair curlers that I have linked together with oxidized copper jump rings. To create a seamless/continuous design that isn't disrupted by an obvious catch for opening and closing the bracelet; I used the female parts of the curlers and used only one male barrel curler part to enable the bracelet to be opened and closed. I really enjoyed the challenge of making this bracelet and very excited the result was architectural in style.

The next few blog entries coming up this week will feature a few pieces I have
recently made with reclaimed or recycled materials. I will also talk in more depth about the No Dirty Gold campaign which advocates responsible mining as well as my upcoming class at Metalwerx in the autumn, "Reclaimed and Recycled Materials in Jewelry". I hope you will join in on discussions.

I hope everyone is having a great summer so far!