The Art Jewelry Elements team chose ‘Summertime’ as the theme for their June design challenge. I signed up to participate, even as I was thinking “How I am going to get inspired by my least favorite season?” Initially I planned to design jewelry that represented what first comes to my mind when I think of summer. But how would I translate “sweltering” into jewelry?
I don’t know precisely when I came to dread the end of spring and loathe the idea of summer. I think I enjoyed summer as much as any other child in my home town. I’m fairly certain I have always preferred winter and cooler weather in general. But hate summer? I don’t remember when that happened. I do know why. In a word: humidity.
I grew up in the desert southwest. Yes, it could get hotter than fried hell during the day. But the nights and early mornings were always cooler. And it was a dry heat. That makes a difference in comfort level every bit as much as a strong wind can make a cold day feel even colder. I was blissfully unaware of the effect of relative humidity, and what it meant to swelter, until my grandparents moved to east Texas and my family spent summer vacations with them.
I live in the mid-Atlantic now and the sweltering continues. I probably could have come up with a jewelry design that conveyed the idea of being uncomfortably hot if I thought about it long enough. Instead, I tried to remember what summers were like when I was a child, before I experienced the misery that is 98oF with 91% relative humidity.
One of the first things I thought of was, oddly enough, from those summers at my grandparents’ house. I remembered cicadas. Listening to them in the evenings. Finding their empty nymph shells on tree trunks and chasing my younger brother with one in each hand. So I set out to make a brooch that looked like a cicada on a piece of tree bark.
I was happy with how the tree bark turned out, but not so thrilled with the colors I chose for my cicada. I scrapped the idea of a do-over with a different color because the overall design seemed too large to be a brooch. It might make a fun focal on a statement necklace. But instead of spending time trying to work out the design kinks, I moved on to another summer memory.
This one is also from Texas, but not my childhood. I lived in Texas for a while when I was working on my Ph.D. One morning I was swarmed by June bugs when I walked into the laundry room at my apartment complex. They were everywhere: in the washing machines and clothes dryers, clinging to the walls, crawling on the floor, bumping into the light fixtures, and buzzing here and there across the room. I didn’t quite run screaming, but I did walk away very quickly and wait a few days to do laundry.
I made a silicone mold of a small brass beetle charm and used it to create focals for earrings. The June bugs that swarmed me were of the reddish brown variety. I chose to make my earrings based on the green variant. The focals are over an inch diameter, but very light because they’re polymer clay. They could just as easily have been smallish pendants. But I wasn’t in a necklace mood.
Another summer memory was of being covered in itchy red welts from mosquito bites. That didn’t inspire any ideas for jewelry. But thinking about mosquitoes got me thinking about what eats them: dragonflies. I adore dragonflies. They are one of my totem animals and I feel a teensy bit better about any summer day on which I see one in flight.
I made a batch of dragonfly pendants from polymer clay. I had planned to turn all of these dragonfly pendants into necklaces in time for this reveal. I simply wasn’t able to settle on how I wanted to use them. I was, and am, torn between keeping it as simple as a pendant on a chain, which I hear some people like, or going all out with a beaded neckline, which I like.
As a result of trying to find jewelry design inspiration in my least favorite season, I relived some fond, if humid, summertime memories. My thanks to the AJE Team. This design challenge is also a blog hop so be sure to visit the other jewelry designers and component artists to see their summertime-inspired creations.