We’re All Ears Design Challenge: Seed Pods

Seed pod-shaped beads

Polymer clay seed pod beads.

The theme for the November We’re All Ears earring design challenge was seed pods. Our hostess, Erin Prais-Hintz, shared botanical prints as inspiration.

The prints were mainly in black and white, which Erin hoped would lead us to be inspired by the form of the pods and use our imagination for the rest. My imagination got a little carried away. Not so much in a “whoa, what the heck is that” way. But in a “I ended up with a bumper crop of seed pod-inspired earrings” kind of way.

What is a seedpod, or seed pod?

Seed pods come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. But what exactly are these pods?

Noun. 1. seedpod – a several-seeded dehiscent fruit as e.g. of a leguminous plant. pod. legume – the fruit or seed of any of various bean or pea plants consisting of a case that splits along both sides when ripe and having the seeds attach to one side of the case.


1. (Botany) a carpel or pistil enclosing the seeds of a plant, esp a flowering plant

These definitions of a pod don’t specify the purpose of a pod. It turns out, the pods are multifunctional.

Pods play a key role in encapsulating the developing seeds and protecting them from pests and pathogens. In addition to this protective function, it has been shown that the photosynthetically active pod wall contributes assimilates and nutrients to fuel seed growth. Recent work has revealed that signals originating from the pod may also act to coordinate grain filling and regulate the reallocation of reserves from damaged seeds to those that have retained viability.  (Bennett EJ, Roberts JA, Wagstaff C., 2011)

The shape of seed pods also affects how the seeds are dispersed. Pods are a way to transport seeds (which are plant embryos) away from the parent plant, using some combination of gravity, animals, wind, water, or force.

Essentially, a seed pod is a way to protect, nourish, and disperse seeds. It’s the adult plant’s way of sending its baby plants out into the big bad world in hopes it will have/find what it needs to grow up into a big strong plant of its own.

Making Seed Pod Earrings

I could have made seed pod-esque earrings with any number of beads in my stash, including some awesome pod-ish art beads I’ve been hoarding. However, as often happens when I’m confronted with a design challenge, my initial thoughts are more literal. And so, I turned to polymer clay to sculpt some seed pods based on the prints that Erin shared and some ideas or memories of my own

All of my polymer clay pods were colored using soft pastels and sealed with matte polyurethane. I spent so much time playing with seed pod shapes that I left no time to make the fancy vine-shaped earwires I had planned. I improvised by making “organic” wire wraps and turning some copper and bronze head pins from this shop into ear wires. They’re not viney, but they are handmade.

To enhance the vine-effect, I also over-wrapped some of my organic wraps with darkened double ball-end head pins from this shop.  Yes, I know these things are “easy” to make at home.  I finally bought a torch head a couple weeks ago but haven’t worked up the courage to buy the gas and play with fire. In the meanwhile, I’ll be supporting these and other artisans by purchasing their handmade ball-end head pins.

Seed Pod head pins in vase

These are the first polymer clay head pins I’ve made. Do you see any little faces peeking out from the vase?

Some of my seed pods were shaped as beads, with holes at the tops.  For those, I used jump rings or wire wraps to attach the pods to the ear wires. I also branched out and made some seed pods as head pins, with lengths of copper wire embedded. I tend to stay away from decorative head pins because if I mess up the wire wrap (which happens even after all these years) the whole head pin is a loss. Knowing I could make more if needed made me brave enough to use them. This time.

Every pair of my seed pod earrings is asymmetric to some degree. No two pods are exactly the same shape, size, or color. And the total length of each earring in a pair is slightly different. Exactly as Nature would have made them.

Maple samara earrings

Maple seed pod earrings

Maple seed pod earrings. Polymer clay beads on blackened copper ear wires.

Last month I made a silicone mold of some maple samara, in addition to a small pile of polymer clay maple leaf pendants. I learned that botanical term – samara –  when trying to figure out what species of maple are in my neighborhood.  (I think at least some are sugar maple?)  It’s what the winged seed pods are called.

The wing parts of the actual seed pods used to make the mold are quite thin and papery. So, that part of the mold is rather shallow. I made the pods for my earrings slightly thicker by over-filling the mold and then trimming the edges.

Mahogany tree, or cocoa pod earrings

Cocoa seed pod earrings

Cocoa seed pod earrings. Polymer clay head pins on darkened bronze wires.

One of the prints in Erin’s inspiration post was for a mahogany tree. I didn’t consciously set out to replicate the shape of that tree’s seed pod: I didn’t have the page in front of me as I was working. But it was apparently in my subconscious when I made the small brown pod head pins for these earrings. Or maybe I was remembering the shape of cocoa pods, of which these could be miniature versions. The color makes me think “nutmeg” which also comes in a seed pod. And looks a little like these. If you tilt your head and squint.

Mesquite seed pod, or some kind of legume pod earrings

Mesquite seed pod earrings

Mesquite seed pod earrings. Polymer clay beads on darkened copper wires.

These earrings resemble some kind of legume, pea, or bean seed pod. I like to think they are from a mesquite tree, because those remind me of home in the desert. The seed pods on mesquite trees start out green, then turn hard and golden as they ripen. The pods on these earrings are nearly ripe and ready for harvest. Did you know you can make a rather tasty gluten-free flour from mesquite seed pods? Or that the seeds are sweet and contain more protein than soybeans? I wonder if Trader Joe’s carries them?

Chili red seed pod earrings

Chili red seed pod earrings

Chili red seed pod earrings. Polymer clay beads on darkened copper wires.

I don’t know if any plants produce seed pods that look like the ones in these earrings. I wanted to make some red seed pod earrings. I was probably thinking “chili pepper” at the time. But peppers, which are technically berries, are indehiscent fruits: they don’t form seed pods. Regardless, I think these red pods make a spicy pair of earrings.

Milkweed seed pod earrings

Milkweed seed pod earrings

Milkweed seed pod earrings. Polymer clay beads on darkened copper wires.

These green pod earrings were also based on a figment of my imagination, or more likely, of my subconscious rememberings. They’re sort of “fuzzy” or as fuzzy as polymer clay can be made to feel without incorporating actual fibers. And they’re rather similar to milkweed seed pods. They started out as okra seed pods (which I remember most fondly as being sliced, breaded, and fried). But these pods took a turn when I couldn’t get the ridges to look the way I wanted and began to crumple them up to start over.

Silk tree seed pod earrings

Silk tree seed pod earrings

Silk tree seed pod earrings. Polymer clay beads on darkened bronze wires.

Some seed pods I saw during an image search were so paper thin, the seeds inside were visible. They came in assorted earthy colors, including a beigey-pinkish. After I made these earrings, I went back and searched images for “long paper thin seed pods” and the closest match I found to my pods were from the silk tree. If I were to make more seed pod earrings, I think I would use some tinted translucent clay over some opaque “seeds” for a more realistic effect. These pod earrings are more the essence of that thin flat shape than a realistic representation of the actual pods.

Purple seed pod earrings

Purple seed pod earrings

Purple seed pod earrings. Polymer clay head pins on darkened bronze wires.

The pods in these earrings started out to be sweet gum cherry seed pods. After I poked a bunch of holes, I decided I liked them as is and didn’t add all the spiky bits. (It wasn’t because I was feeling lazy. I really did like them without the spikes.) I have no idea if these resemble any actual seed pods. They do sort of remind me of the seed pods on sycamore trees. But those are not purple. They’re brown. I wanted to make purple pods. So I did.

Poppy seed pod earrings

Poppy seed pod earrings

Poppy seed pod earrings. Polymer clay head pins on darkened bronze wires

I have some pages from a botanical calendar framed as art over my bed. The calendar had photos of plants on white backgrounds and it was too pretty to recycle when the year ended. One of those pages is a photo of poppy seed pods. The head pins for these earrings were the most challenging shape to make.

Or rather, it was coloring them that resulted in some deformation of the flower-shaped bits on the ends. Some “petals” broke off as I was brushing on the pastels. I tried to stick them back in place. One of them ended up looking like the mouthparts of the alien in the Predator movies. I didn’t use that one for these earrings. I’ll save it for when Erin chooses “alien invaders” as the theme for a future challenge.

Snapdragon seed pod earrings

Snapdragon seed pod earrings

Snapdragon seed pod earrings. Polymer clay head pins on darkened bronze wires.

These are by far my favorite pair of seed pod earrings. My mom grew snapdragon flowers in a bed along our driveway. The blooms were beautiful. But I was more enchanted by the faces on the seed pods. Some people think they look like shrunken heads or skulls. I see dragon faces.

Close up of faces in snapdragon seed pod earrings

Tiny faces in the snapdragon seed pod earrings. Be sure to check out some actual snapdragon seed pods to see these little dragons for yourself.

You can’t see much of the little faces on these earrings when they’re being worn, because they hang downward. So only you’ll know there are little “dragon skulls” peeking from the leaves.

More seed pod earrings

That’s it for my seed pod earrings. For now. There are so many more shapes to explore with this theme. Maybe one day I will make those spiky sweet gum tree pods. Or some translucent legume pods. Some clammy ground cherry seed pods – they look like miniature paper lanterns. Possibly some devil’s claw / ram’s horn pods? Those things were all over the place where I grew up. Definitely more snapdragon pods. I might even get crazy and make some less literal interpretations. With the viney earwires I envisioned.

Seed pod earrings collection

My collection of rustic, organic seed pod-inspired earrings.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks to Erin for another fun inspiration. Be sure to hop over to the Earrings Everyday blog to see and read about what she made. And then visit the links at the bottom of her post to see more pod-inspired earrings.

Btw, the mechanism for dispersal of my seed pod earrings will be through my online shop. I’ll be adding these to the inventory in my earring section.  And if you want to keep track of my creative journey, including all my newest jewelry designs, be sure to follow me on Facebook or on Twitter.  Or both.  You can also subscribe to this blog via email, to get notifications of new posts. See the link in the right sidebar.

27 thoughts on “We’re All Ears Design Challenge: Seed Pods

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Fiona. I did have quite a bit of fun with this challenge. So many possibilities.

  1. Kathy Lindemer

    What an amazing collection of earrings! The Cocoa seed pod earrings are my very favorite, Did I mention I adore chocolate?

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      LOL, Kathy. I love dark chocolate and am fascinated by the history of how people discovered cocoa and have used it in food and drink.

  2. Mary Redman

    These are so cool! Even my husband was amazed at what a great job you did with these earrings. Great ideas and great job!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Mary. And thanks to your husband too. It’s always nice to get the male perspective.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Oksana. I need to work at being less literal in interpreting design challenges. But this one was too much fun to do otherwise.

  3. Erin Prais-Hintz

    Holy, mother of all seed pods! Miss Tammy, you have blown me away! You were certainly inspired by this challenge, and that is what I was hoping for. I also love the instruction you gave on the mechanism of the seed pods. I didn’t get that far in my research, just focusing on the cool alien shapes that are so prevalent in nature that I completely overlook! (And speaking of ‘alien invaders’ that is something I will tuck away in my subconscious for a future challenge. Thanks!) I am just blown away by the variety you have. I love them all! Those silk pods are great, and I was hoping to make something with some translucency (save that for another day). But those maple ‘helicopters’ (as we called them) are by far my favorite. Thanks for joining in the challenge with me! Enjoy the day! Erin

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Erin. I hope we both find time to keep exploring this theme. It’s got endless possibilities. And I am so there for the alien invaders challenge. 😉

  4. Teresa Schurter

    This was a fascinating look into your design process and I love how close to real nature you made these. Wonderful work. Creation is so varied I don’t think I’d ever tire of trying to imitate nature.

  5. Sarajo Wentling

    Wow! You were super inspired by this challenge! I love how many types of seed pods you explored… they are all really fun. I think my favorite pair is the snapdragon set. So adorable that they have little hidden dragon faces!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Sarajo. Those little faces always made me smile when I saw them in the garden.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Katherine. I hope you’re feeling better now and for the next challenge.

  6. Terry Ricioli

    What an amazing collection! Such concentration and perseverance in design (I tend to be scattered, so I appreciate those attributes!) I love the maple samaras and the cocoa pods. The cocoa pods have such a natural coloration.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Terry. I tend to be all over the place with my designs too. I did a 3-month design challenge earlier this year that helped me learn to stay focused. At least for short periods of time. 😉

  7. Deb

    Love your collection of seed pods, especially the silk tree ones and the snapdragons. I garden each year so I will definitely be looking for “dragon skulls” ; )

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Deb. I wish I had a place for a garden. Snapdragons would be among the first things planted.

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