Art Jewelry Elements Summertime Design Challenge

cicada brooch made from polymer clay

The song of cicadas is a fond summertime memory.

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.

cicada on tree bark brooch

The faux tree bark beneath the cicada was a happy accident as I was experimenting with a polymer clay crackle technique. This is not the texture I was expecting based on the tutorial I had read, but it turned out even more bark-like than I thought. I wonder if I can recreate the effect predictably?

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.

June bug dangle earrings with copper background

While I don’t necessarily want to be surrounded by a swarm of them, I do think June bugs are pretty. These earring dangles are polymer clay colored with pastels and mica pigments. They hang on Vintaj brass ear wires.

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.

June bug earring with purple backgroun

I made two versions of my June bug dangle earrings. I’m not sure which background color is my favorite: this pair with the purple background or the first pair with the coppery background.

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.

three dragonfly pendants

These three dragonfly pendants were formed in polymer clay from a silicone mold. They have a faux ceramic finish in shades of green, red, and blue.

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.

metallic dragonfly pendants

I used metallic pigments on these two dragonfly pendants. It doesn’t show well in the photo, but they shimmer and change color a bit as you move them. I think they’d look nice with matte black or gunmetal chain and findings. And maybe some iris or oil slick finish Czech glass beads.

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.

AJE team

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

Rosantia Petkova
Melissa Trudinger
Alice Peterson
Tammy Adams – you are here!
Shaiha’s Ramblings
Betony Maiden

28 thoughts on “Art Jewelry Elements Summertime Design Challenge

  1. Rosantia Petkova

    Ha, you don’t like the hot sun and I don’t like the bugs any season. But the golden wing bugs are so beautiful and it was a treat for me to see dragonflies because they are found mostly around rivers and lakes and we used to go to the seaside. I was so fascinated with them! I love the purple background pendants and the bright colored dragonflies. It was interesting to read about your dislike of summer and being inspired by it anyway 🙂

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Rosantia. I do enjoy a good design challenge and knew this would be tougher than some. It ended up being quite fun.

  2. Divya Narasimhan

    Oh I hate the sun sweltering sun, humidity, and mosquitoes and love dragonflies too!! Btu then I associate bugs more with monsoon. Even a short spell would bring hoards of them into my house

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      We had summer monsoons where I grew up. And there were always insects and spiders and other crawly critters getting into our house. One year we were even overrun by teeny tiny frogs from a nearby pond. It drove my mom nuts. but the family cats were never bored for something to chase.

  3. Jenny

    OMG Bugs! And humidity! You are so right… yet you made the least favorite aspects of summer fun, humorous in your telling and really attractive. The bark texture is fab. The june bugs are pretty cute. but the dragonflies are my favorites! Thanks for joining us!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Jenny. These seasonal challenges are such fun and I’m so hoping you will continue them.

  4. Melissa Trudinger

    I’m lucky that I’ve never lived in a particularly humid climate because I think my feelings about summer would be very different. I do like bugs though, and yours are very cute!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Melissa. Moving from an arid climate to a humid one most definitely colored by view of summer.

  5. Shaiha

    Oh I know what you mean about humidity. I am a child of the desert and as such, I hate humidity myself. Probably why I always hang out near the water now I live in a humid area. I just love how you turned bugs into memories. Can’t wait to see what you do with the dragonflies.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Shaiha. I think I’ve finally decided on what to do with the dragonflies but it’s been so darned hot I haven’t felt inspired to complete anything.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Leslie. I wonder how many people would wear a life-sized insect-themed brooch? 😉

  6. niky

    What beautiful pieces you created, I love the bark texture on your first piece but I adore the dragonflies, just wonderful!!!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Niky. I have to experiment with the bark more. Hopefully, I can reproduce the effect.

  7. Veralynne Malone

    I live in Fl and know what the humidity is like! We just got back from CA visiting my daughter and the difference is night and day, so I can understand about summer. I really liked the Cicada piece as that is a sign summer is coming so get ready. And I remember picking up their shells after they molted to scare my sister…Great pieces and thanks for the memories.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Veralynne. I might feel a little guilty for having terrorized my brother with the cicada shells, but he never lacked for ways to annoy his big sister so we’re probably even on balance.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Caroline. Some insects have spectacularly beautiful wings and things. But then, there are all those legs. 😉

  8. Ann Schroeder

    I think your variety of bugs came out great! I hate the humidity too, and I don’t remember it from my childhood summers. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not. I have to admit, I’m a bit phobic about bugs. Even looking at these made me tense up a little. Except there are some bugs that are exempt; I don’t know why. Dragonflies are one. I especially like the metallic ones because they really do shimmer in real life!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Ann. I think dragonflies get a pass on the “creepy crawly” effect from most people – because of the shimmery wings. It’s a good thing no one looks too closely at their mouths. They’re fierce predators.

  9. Sarajo Wentling

    Lol. Your post cracked me up! I grew up in the South and despise the heat and humidity. Ok, I’m not terribly fond of a “dry heat” either but it’s marginally better! I love your june bug earrings… so cute and colorful. And I had no idea that there was any other kind other than the green ones I grew up with. As for your dragonflies, I offer up the advice my husband always gives me. Do some of both! 🙂

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Sarajo. I always like it when my humor is well-received. Sometimes, I’m the only one I crack up. 🙂
      And that’s good advice for the dragonfly necklaces.

  10. Susan Kennedy

    Tammy, you are hilarious! I find the older I get the more I can’t stand the heat either! Love your work, they are all perfectly summer! Dragonflies are gorgeous! thanks for playing along!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Susan. I truly enjoyed the challenge. And I fear there may be no place cold enough for me to retire to if my dislike of heat increases as I age further.

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