‘Vinyl record jewelry … wait what!?’
That is the most common reaction I get from people who stop to look at my work. I’ve been designing and handcrafting upcycled jewelry from vinyl records since 2010.
That spontaneous response comes in all languages in the summertime where I sell my jewelry at my little stall in Sneem, a lovely little village located on the touristy Ring of Kerry, between the ocean and the hills in Ireland.
‘How did you get that idea?’ is usually the question that comes after the initial reaction. People seem genuinely intrigued as I get it all the time. Now is time I sit down to write that post I’ve been meaning to write for aaage, about the process that took me to where I am today in my creative journey and about how the idea came. There is a little story behind it all after all.
A lil’ background is always useful
Like a lot of designer-makers, I was always creative and liked making things. Cliché but oh so true. I studied fine arts for 2 years in college which I thought, at 17, was the best thing ever, along with living the apartment life with my friends for the first time of course. A few years later I went on to study international studies in university which, I guess, helped me develop some critical thinking. No it wasn’t done for nothing. Huh… who am I trying to convince here!?
Back then I was already making beaded jewelry out of stones and I was taking part in little markets here and there. The interest for making was there but was never taken to a serious level. Below are just a few examples of designs I made during that time. I had to dig deep to find these photos; sorry about the low quality. I find it pretty humbling to look at these now, it just feels like so long ago.
I finally did a 2 year technical program in jewelry making in Quebec, where I’m from, oui oui! It was quite challenging to say the least as there was a real emphasis on the technical side of things which makes sense I know; you don’t want your wedding ring to be all crooked and looking like it’s been down a drain. Oh, I also now know what a tenth of a millimeter looks like.
Below are a few of the more creative projects I’ve accomplished during the program. The flamboyant necklace got me the first prize for creativity in my year. Isn’t it a sweet little piece of artillery? If you look closely you can even spot some sweat and tears.
On the side, along with the jewelry program, I started designing and making my own designs from silver combined to wood which were sold in shops in Quebec.
I was also part of an artists coop as well as managing an outdoors boutique promoting artisans’ crafts where I learned a lot about the business side of things. Being surrounded by so much creativity and craftspeople who made things and art as a living was beyond stimulating.
All that happened in the space of about 10 years where I always took time to travel the world and also work. I believe that my background in fine arts combined to the technical jewelry making skills I had achieved were the perfect combination for that creative BOOM to happen.
Off to New Zealand
The creative spark happened in New Zealand. After graduating from the jewelry making program in 2009 and working the whole summer, I packed my bags and off I went to beautiful New Zealand. I can’t believe it’s nearly 10 years ago! I had 6 months and my plan was to buy a car and travel both islands and do a lot of hiking. And so I did and had an absolute epic time; below are just a few photos. I have such a massive crush on New Zealand that it’s just an excuse to go through my photos again really and share some with you. Please will you excuse me please thank you (see, I really am Canadian).
Are you still with me? Hang in there it’s coming.
See that blurry photo of a photo of a vinyl record bowl?
THAT IS IT. That is the moment.
It was taken at a recycling center somewhere on the south island near Fox Glacier. There were images of various upcycled objects on the wall and that one particularly grabbed my attention. I remember thinking “Oh cool!” as I had never seen a bowl made from a vinyl record before although I now know they had been around for some time at that point. I was intrigued that old records could be stripped off of their initial purpose and used as a material. There was so much potential out there for all these old unwanted records just sitting in attics gathering dust. That image stuck in my head and I promised myself on that day that I would experiment with records on my way back to Québec. Oh and I did.
Aaand the vinyl adventure began
The excitement was real when coming back to Quebec. ‘All the possibilities!’ I thought. I couldn’t wait to pick up my tools again and my first idea was to look up all the variations for “vinyl record jewelry” online to see what was out there. My head was buzzing with ideas and I wanted to develop my own thing, something different. I saw designs in black, made from the black part of the vinyl but nothing like what I had in mind. The record labels were going to be put to good use and I had plans to combine it to different materials. I felt challenged at the beginning and then motivated to be able to come up with my own original designs that looked like nothing I had ever seen before. Oh I had ideas.
My first attempts were to combine record to silver, a material I was familiar with. It became a collection that was in a similar spirit to the wood and silver collection. It isn’t part of my current
production but could always make a comeback because … aren’t silver and vinyl so pretty together? And later it was aluminium, a more eco-friendly metal that has other interesting qualities. The vinyl and aluminium collection is still in production although not listed online -another thing to put on the to-do list!
Don’t worry friends; the labels of the records were also put to good use. They really brought that colorful funky vibe to the jewelry and there you had it, the ‘Funky!’ collection was born. The resin really gave the jewelry its very distinctive look and it quickly became my original distinctive signature. “I’ve never seen anything like this!” is another comment I get all the time.
I started selling online in 2011 when I opened my first Etsy shop and I remember vividly the day my first sale came in; it was going to Paris! PARIS y’all! Below are a few current designs from the ‘Funky!’ collection, all one of a kind. That collection can be found here.
The use of resin slowly led the way for new ideas amongst them the incorporation of metallic details against the black of the vinyl. The ‘A Hint of Metallic’ collection landed online in 2014 when my second Etsy shop was opened. After using mostly recycled black vinyl record for my designs, mint green and white vinyl also became staples of the bold -yet stylish- metallic collection. Below is a selection from the metallic collection which can be found here.
From mint green and white, the range of colors of the ‘Funky!’ collection was also expanded.
Over the years, my designs were really ‘admired’; so much so that the signature concept I had developed was copied as well as the designs. With original ideas come copycats. Oh boy do I remember the first time it happened. It came from Hong Kong. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; it was like looking at my own work where everything was copied exactly, even the photo styling. They not only copied the concept but also the exact same designs. That was my first taste of people blatantly taking the creative idea I had worked so hard to organically grow from scratch and try to make it their own. Huh… hello integrity?! It really felt like I was taken a part of my soul and it still does when it happens.
Being self employed -and my own boss- is so very precious and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s just what works for me and I’m so grateful that I found my thing. Yup it does take a lot of discipline and there can be some serious procrastination episodes but HEY it’s all part of being your own boss innit? I guess loving what you do is key here. It keeps you going and productive. And happy.
My head is always buzzing with ideas and the sketchbook is never too far. 2019 should bring some exciting new designs that I can’t wait to share with you.
Find my two unique vinyl record jewellery collections, all designed and handcrafted in Ireland right here:
‘Funky!’ collection: www.lescreationsdana.etsy.com
‘A Hint of Metallic’ collection: www.danajewellery.etsy.com
Hey, thanks for stopping by ❤