Firefly Art Jewelry Design Challenge

Firefly Swarm necklaceThe designers at Art Jewelry Elements chose “fireflies” as the theme for the summer art jewelry design challenge.  The challenge was to create jewelry, or jewelry components, inspired by fireflies.

I remember watching fireflies, or lightning bugs as some call them, flash at night in the summer. While the cicadas sang. They’ve been symbols of summer to me for as long as I can remember.

When I was very young, I thought seeing lightning bugs flash meant it was going to rain.  I later learned those flashes of bioluminescence are actually booty calls. Literally. Fireflies light up their lower abdomens to attract mates. Different species have different patterns of flashes, so they can keep track of who’s who.

Not all species of firefly display bioluminescence. But in those that do, even the larval fireflies can flash. We called those “glow worms.”  Like in the song of the same name, by the Mills Brothers.

Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer
Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer
Lead us lest too far we wander
Love’s sweet voice is callin’ yonder
Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer
Hey, there don’t get dimmer, dimmer
Light the path below, above
And lead us on to love

I haven’t seen fireflies since moving to an urban jungle.  It’s hot and humid enough here for them, but every place they might have been is paved over.  If a field where fireflies live gets destroyed, they don’t migrate. They just disappear. That, and light pollution, are two suspected causes of firefly declines.

The Jewelry Designs

The first thing I thought to create was a firefly pendant. I have a tendency to be very literal when initially interpreting a design challenge. I haven’t quite gotten into the habit of “seeing” the inspiration for all it can be right out of the gate. I’m a work in progress.

Lightning Bug brooch

This firefly brooch is modeled from polymer clay. The lower abdomen doesn’t quite glow in the dark, but it is fairly flourescent.

While I had fun making a larger than life and very literal interpretation of the firefly theme out of polymer clay, it didn’t quite work as a pendant. I put a locking pin back on it and turned it into a brooch. Ta-da!

Realizing I hadn’t exactly brought my A-game to the challenge yet, I got back to work. This time I looked at images of firefly swarms, and some artist renderings, and decided to use polymer clay to create a summer night sky pendant and coordinating beads.

Firefly pendant and beads

The pendant and beads are made from polymer clay. There are some golden yellow flat-back Swarovski crystals embedded in the pendant.

I initially planned to string the pendant and coordinating beads, so I put a tube bail on the back when I was making it. Later, when I was assembling the necklace, I decided to go with beaded links and chain. Adding some wire to the bail to connect to the chain was tricky. But in the end, the necklace lays and hangs perfectly.

Firefly Necklace on display stand

The final necklace didn’t follow my original design idea. In the end, using matte black chain links worked better than stringing.

I painted a handful of brass beetle charms and connectors, intending to use them as dangles or something on the necklace. I did add one of the connectors to the end of the chain extender on the necklace. The rest, I used in some earrings.

two pair of firefly earrings

The beetle charms on these earrings are brass that I painted with Vintaj Patinas (opaque inks) to resemble fireflies. They are paired with Czech glass moon face beads.

This challenge theme was a lot of fun. And it reminded me how much I miss seeing fireflies light up the summer night. This bit of lyrics from Long Hard Road by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band often runs through my head in the summers here.

‘Cause those city lights ain’t all that bright, compared to what its like
To see lightning bugs go dancin’ in the rain.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my firefly designs. Please be sure to hop over to the contributors’ and other guest designers’ blogs to see what they have created for this wonderful summer theme.

Guest Designers:

Melissa Trudinger –
Mary Detray –

Keren Panthaki –
Tammy Adams –  (That’s me!)
Veralynne Malone – www.veradesigns.blogspot .com
Terri Del Signore –
Heather Powers –
Susan Delphine Delaney –

AJE Team:

Jenny Davies-Reazor –
Lesley Watt –
Niky Sayers –
Caroline Dewison –
Jen Cameron –

40 thoughts on “Firefly Art Jewelry Design Challenge

  1. Jeanette B

    I love this especially the pendant. I also grew up where fireflies were abundant then moved away. I miss their beautiful field glittery light show.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Jeanette. Summer isn’t the same without fireflies. Much less magical than I remember from childhood.

  2. Jennifer Cameron

    WOW! You really ran with the theme. I love your literal, as well as the more interpretive versions. The pendant with the swarovskis is so pretty with all the variations of swirling blues.

    Thanks for participating this month and for reading AJE!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Jennifer. And thanks for choosing such an enchanting theme.

  3. Beth Petricoin

    Wonderful variations on the theme! The brooch is darling. I love the pendant necklace, reminds me of Van Gogh’s Starry Night! And I adore the earrings are wonderful, I am especially loving the moons at the tops of them, brilliant! 🙂

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Beth. That little brooch was the beginning of a small obsession with making beetle brooches. The pendant did turn out rather “starry night” and I thought about adding some “trees” or “grass” for more of a forest or field look, but in the end, I liked it as is. Those little moon beads are quite fun. I bought them for something else but they just fit with the fireflies so well.

  4. Mary

    Wow! I’m amazed! This is so pretty, and I love that you made all your own beads. And it also reminds me of the famous start night sky painting, which I love! Amazing work!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Mary. I have been having lots of fun making my own beads and things. I guess if people didn’t know the necklace was inspired by fireflies, I could market it as inspired by Starry Night. 😉

  5. Heather

    Your night sky beads and pendant are beautiful and perfect for the challenge! Painting those charms to look like fireflies was a very clever idea. I didn’t realize fireflies just disappear instead of moving on, that’s kinda sad.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Heather. And yes it is sad that fireflies are one of many things we’ve sacrificed in the name of “progress.”

  6. Lesley Watt

    Tammy you PC pieces are lovely and so well crafted and the way you’ve treated the brass charms is fabulous – such fun earrings.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you so much, Lesley. After dabbling in polymer clay for years, I’m finally trying to focus on technique.

  7. Jenny

    I love the abstracted quality of this. I think it captures the feeling as the starlit sky, speckled with lightening bugs to a tee! Infinitely wearable!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Jenny. Blues are always a very wearable color in my book. 😉

  8. Ema Kilroy

    Wow! I love all your pieces. Your replica brooch is perfect and I love the blues in the necklace accented with crystals in the pendant. The earrings are icing on the cake. All great pieces.

  9. Lee

    Ah, Tammy, so inspired! Loving all the designs but particularly drawn to the pendant with the matching beads. Just gorgeous! And totally right with the beaded links!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Lee. When designs come together like that, and they weren’t how I planned them initially, I don’t feel so bad that I can’t make a decent sketch to work from.

  10. Mona Arnott

    Your pieces are wonderful and diverse. I think the necklace appeals to me the most. It brought back memories of chasing fireflies under starlight

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Mona. Sometimes I’m a little all-over-the-place when I work from an inspiration theme. It’s fun to explore the possibilities.

  11. Terri Del Signore

    Tammy I love all your ideas!! Love the way you added crystals in the clay as the fireflies! Very creative stuff here!! Enjoyed your post too – the poem and the song!!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Terri. I don’t know why, but those lyrics are never far from the front of my mind. Very fond childhood memories, I guess.

  12. Melissa Trudinger

    Oh these are great Tammy. I love the blue pendant and beads, really looks like some of the photos and pics I’ve seen as I browsed online for my own inspiration. And the little earrings are so cute!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Melissa. Thank goodness for the interweb and search engines that can pull up dozens of photos in an instant when you’re in search of inspiration.

  13. niky sayers

    What lovely designs, the brooch is very cool but that necklace is a show stopper! I love your beads, the colours are just fab and the dark metal you used just makes it even more night like!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you so much, Niky. The beads were a bit of a pain in the neck to make, but I do love how they turned out.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Caroline. I very recently discovered brass stampings and the many ways they can be altered. So much fun.

  14. Veralynne

    Love the bug! I tend to be very literal too when trying to interpret a challenge. I love your trip down memory lane, I too miss seeing them in the night sky, but I too live in an area that isn’t conducive to them…Great job!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Veralynne. I hope some day I can move back to a place with fields or forests full of fireflies.

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