Recycle, Repurpose, or Upcycle?

by mary November 30, 2014

I've been thinking lately about whether the jewelry I make is recycled, repurposed or upcycled.  While all 3 terms are fairly similar, there seem to be slight nuances about what each means.

According to one website I saw, "recycled" jewelry involves using material that is no longer wanted or is destined for the trash, & reworking it into something beautiful.  It suggests an "eco-friendly" approach to jewelry-making.  I think that fits a lot of what I do, since much of what I use in my work is broken jewelry I've picked up at garage sales or flea markets, etc.  For example, I made this necklace out of a dress clip that the back was broken off of.

According to the Oxford dictionary, "repurpose" means to change something so it can be used for a different purpose.  To me, that suggests creating a piece jewelry out of something that wasn't jewelry before, which also fits a lot of my jewelry.  For example, I made this necklace out of an old brass cow tag!

And these earrings out of parts of fish lures!

"Upcycle", according to the Oxford Dictionary, means to reuse discarded objects or materials in a way to create a product of higher value or quality than the original.  I've heard some people complain, though, that upcycling sometimes involves actually ruining something that did have value, like taking a beautiful 1930's evening dress & adding appliques & shortening it into a mini-dress.  For that reason & because it sounds a little "trendy", I'm a little reluctant to use that term to describe my jewelry.

So . . . I think I'll stick with calling my jewelry repurposed or recycled for now . . . and to see more of my repurposed/recycled jewelry, check out my website at!


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What I Wore on Wednesday - November 26, 2014

by mary November 26, 2014

Today's Dorothea's Closet Vintage outfit is a super fun black & leopard/cheetah (faux) Neiman Marcus jacket!  (I actually have several leopard/cheetah jackets -- can't seem to resist them!)

Neiman Marcus was founded in 1907 as an luxury specialty department store.  In 1927, Neiman Marcus premiered the first weekly retail fashion show in the US.  According to William Schack, in 1936 Edna Woolman Chase (editor of Vogue, told the local press, "I dreamed all my life of the perfect store for women.  Then I saw Neiman Marcus, & my dream came true."  Neiman Marcus is also known for it's Christmas Catalog, which it began issuing in 1939, and which features unusual & extravagant gifts not sold in stores.

With the jacket, I wore 2 pieces of my jewelry -- the first is a necklace I made this summer that features a silver dragonfly & mookite (I think) gemstone pendant, as well as mookite, brown jasper & carnelian gemstones, & vintage silver chain & beads.

The second is a "Horsing Around" bracelet I made with Cracker Jack/gumball charms & picture jasper gemstones.

To see more of Dorothea's Closet Vintage clothing, check out the website at  To see more of my jewelry, go to


Filed Under: What I Wore on Wednesday

Chasing and Repousse'

by mary November 24, 2014

Today was the final day of my chasing and repousse' class at the Des Moines Art Center this semester; & I'm happy to say I was able to complete 2 pieces!

For those not familiar with chasing and repousse', both are metal-working techniques in which malleable metal is shaped by hammering.  Repousse' involves hammering from the back to raise the design, while chasing is used to refine the image on the front by sinking the metal.

The class was taught by Sheena Thomas, one of the owners of Elements Ltd. here in Des Moines & a great instructor.  It was absolutely one of my best classes I've taken, although I was a bit nervous about it at first.

The first piece I made was inspired by a trilobite fossile I saw at this fall's Gem, Mineral & Fossil show.  Here's a picture I took of the trilobite fossil . . .

and here's the pendant I created . . .

I used liver of sulpher to get the rich patina that you see -- I especially love the way it highlights the detail of the hammering!  I plan to hang it on leather cord -- either brown, black or blue -- I haven't decided which yet.

The 2nd piece was based on a gingko leaf . . . here's a picture of a gingko leaf I found on the internet . . .

and here's the pendant I created . . .

I used liver of sulpher again on this one to get the rich patina -- I'll hang this one from leather as well.

One of the things that really surprised me about chasing & repousse' was the number of times you had to hammer the front & back (& anneal the metal -- in this case, copper -- in-between) to get the design you're wanting.  It was challenging at times, too, figuring out just which chasing tool to use to get the effect you want. 

That's all for today . . . as always, thanks for reading and for supporting small businesses!



Filed Under: Classes & Favorite Books | Inspiration

What I Wore on Wednesday -- November 19, 2014

by mary November 19, 2014

Today's Dorothea's Closet Vintage outfit is a super fun "so-70s" jumpsuit from -- of course -- the 1970s! 

I love everything about this jumpsuit -- especially the colors & the gathered cuffs! 

This jumpsuit came to Dorothea's Closet (& me) via a friend, Karen Pagel Theys, whose mother wore it "back in the day"!  When Karen first showed it to me at Red's Pub & Grill (Algoma, Wisconsin), I had to try it on & I knew immediately that it had my name on it!  She has several pieces of her mother's that she wanted me to take to Angela for the shop, but I knew right away, this one was mine!

Florentine Thayat actually created the first jumpsuit back in 1919 -- they were originally worn in aviation, parachuting & race-car driving.  Later, in 1930, Elsa Schiaperelli designed silk jumpsuits.  They became trendy again in the 1950's as part of the pin-up look, & again in the late 60s/70s as part of the psychodelic hippie movement.  They were also seen on the stage in the 60's & 70's -- worn by performers including Elvis Presley, David Bowie & Mick Jagger.  For some reason, this jumpsuit always makes me think of Cher.

With this outfit, I wore a couple of pieces of jewelry that I've made, beginning with this necklace made with amethyst & tiger eye gemstones & watch fob chain.  I especially like the texure of the watch fob chain, & the way the gemstones complement the gold class bead in the watch fob.  The other thing that's fun about this necklace is that the gold class bead slides on the chain, so you can adjust the length of the necklace to fit the outfit you're wearing!

I also wore this pair of earrings -- also made with amethyst & tiger eye gemstones.

I like the way the amethyst & tiger eye gemstones pick up the colors in the jumpsuit!

To see more of Dorothea's Closet Vintage clothing, check out the shop's website at  To see more of my jewelry, go to

And, as always, thanks for reading & supporting small businesses.


Filed Under: What I Wore on Wednesday

Body Guards by Desmond Morris

by mary November 16, 2014

This is another one of my favorite books -- "Body Guards: Protective Amulets & Charms" by Desmond Morris.

Like "Charmed Bracelets", I was introduced to this book by Carrie Herndon, one of my instructors at the Art Center.  "Body Guards" explores the history of lucky charms, noting that the form these charms take varies from country to country & culture to culture.

Chapters cover body guards from zoological to mineral to botanical to religious to words, body parts & gestures.  It was interesting to see the range of bodyguards designed to ward off bad luck & encourage good luck.  I was also surprised to see the number of charms that have stood the test of time & are still popular today.

This book has been especially helpful when I am making charm bracelets in which the individual charms & gemstones need to have specific meaning -- like this Good Luck themed charm bracelet. 

According to Morris, the pearl, for example protects against "a bewildering array of misfortunes", including female depression, insanity, jaundice, guarantee a safe journey, immunize against animal bites, & protect agains sharks for a diver, etc.  And the horseshoe, although its primary purpose has been to serve as a House Guard, has also often been made as a "portable" amulet to be worn on the body as a lucky charm.

It's also been helpful when I'm sure about the meaning of a charm I come across, like this one that I picked up awhile ago.

After looking through Morris' book, I learned that this is the "Fig-Sign" -- described as an obscene signal that provides a sexual symbolism.  I also learned that in some countries, however, the fig-sign sends a protective message based on the idea of countering the Evil Eye.  In fact, Morris suggested that in many countries such amulets have outlived their magical, sexual beginnings & are sold simply as "lucky charms".

In his final chapter, Morris makes an interesting point about how today science has replaced superstitious beliefs in many of these amulets; and that while we enjoy many benefits as a result, we have also lost the "old comforts of believing in magical protection."

While the internet can be a great source of information about the symbolic meanings of various gemstones & charms, I'm still old-fashioned & enjoy a real book & am very glad I learned about his one!

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!  And, to see more of my charm bracelets with symbolic meaning, check out my website at


Filed Under: Classes & Favorite Books

What I Wore on Wednesday - November 12, 2014

by mary November 12, 2014

Today's Dorothea's Closet Vintage outfit is a red & white pleated maxi from the 1970's that I got at the shop a year or so ago.

Maxis were initially embraced by the hippies in the 1960s as an alternative to the popular mini-skirts & ever-decreasing hemlines.  In 1967, the "Summer of Love" marked a cultural shift to the counter-culture & the hippie look became more mainstream.  Oscar De La Renta is credited with popularizing the mini, while Doctor Zhivago also brought attention to the style.  By the late 1970s & 1980's, the maxi was replaced by shoulder pads & "power dressing".  More recently, maxis have again gained popularity.

With today's outfit, I wore several pieces of jewelry that I've made in silver & pearls, starting with this necklace made of scalloped ball & rope chain & pearls.

I also wore one of my "A Woman Can't Have Too Many Shoes" charm bracelets, made with Cracker Jack/gumball shoe charms, silver hearts, crystal beads & pearls.

And finally, I wore a pair of earrings I made yesterday of pearls & silvertone rings.

To see more of Dorothea's Closet Vintage clothing, check out the shop's website at  To see more of my jewelry, go to

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses.


Filed Under: What I Wore on Wednesday

Art on the Prairie -- 2014

by mary November 9, 2014

On November 8 & 9, 2014, I had the opportunity to participate in the 5th annual Art on the Prairie, a 2-day celebration of the arts in Perry, Iowa.  Art on the Prairie showcases more than 100 artists, musicians & poets in 7 buildings in the downtown cultural & historic district.  This was my first year at the festival.

I was in the Town Craft building, next to the Hotel Pattee -- where there were artists on both the 1st & 2nd floors . . . including several artists showing jewelry, textiles, photography, stained glass & woodworking. 

One of the things that is really fun about this show is that the booths are set up in these historical buildings -- making the spaces both somewhat challenging & intriguing!  Here are a few shots from the first floor of our building . . . in these first 2, the artists had large open spaces . . .

In this next one, the artist's space was a long hall -- I thought he made great use of it!

On the 2nd floor, there were 2 large rooms on either side of the hall, with space for 5 artists in one room . . .

and 8 on our side.  Here's a couple of views from my booth looking out at some of the other booths . . .

Our room also was the setting for one of the musician areas -- both days, we had different musicians coming in hourly which made for a great atmosphere . . .

Here's a shot of my booth before the show opened . . . we had to adapt a bit from our earlier set-up, but I was pleased with the result none-the-less!

And one that one of my neighbors was kind enough to take of my in my booth . . .

I indulged myself one purchase -- a hand-woven tinsel (I can't wear wool) scarf/shawl from the woman across from me, who was spinning yarn throughout the entire 2 days!

The organizers of Art on the Prairie do an amazing job of publisizing & organizing the event!  The staff & volunteers were super helpful & really made us feel valued & pampered -- they even have an artists' reception with food & music on Saturday night in the old post office, which has been restored & is really quite lovely! 

It was an absolutely great show!  I super-enjoyed visiting with all the people that came through our area & getting to know the artists that were set up close to my booth.  I was especially grateful to one of the artists in the room across the hall who helped me get Square working on the first day, when I was totally stuck!

My only regrets are that I wasn't able to go to all the other buildings to see what the artists there had to offer, & that my husband & I didn't stay Saturday night at the Hotel Pattee. 

And, I do hope to do it again next year!


Filed Under: Shows

What I Wore on Wednesday - November 5, 2014

by mary November 5, 2014

Today's Dorothea's Closet Vintage outfit is a Carlye "New Look" dress from the late 1940s.

According to the Fashion Guild, Carlye Dress Corporation was formed in 1938 in St. Louis, Missouri; & was one of the great junior dress houses located in the city.  Sometime before 1967, Carlye was bought by Leslie Fay & merged into their existing lines.

The "New Look" was coined when Christian Dior launched his fashion collection for Spring-Summer on February 12, 1947 after the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar exlaimed, "It's such a New Look!"  The New Look was characterized by the small, nipped-in waist & full skirt.  The New Look was welcomed as a refreshing antidote to the austerity of wartime & de-feminizing uniforms.

With this lovely dress, I chose to wear several of my newest pieces of jewelry, including this "Key to the Future" necklace made with pages from a poem by James Russell Lowell & silver filigree, as well as black crystal rosary . . .

As well as this fun "A Woman Can't Have Too Many Shoes" charm bracelet . . .

And these black & pink crystal bead & rosary earrings . . .

I'll be taking all 3 of these pieces, as well as several other new pieces, to Art on the Prairie this weekend!

To see more of Dorothea's Closet Vintage clothing, check out the shop's website at  To see more of my jewelry, stop by my booth at Art on the Prairie this weekend, or go to my website at

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!


Filed Under: What I Wore on Wednesday

Treasure Hunting in Boone, Iowa & November Fairgrounds Flea Market

by mary November 2, 2014

Another good week of treasure hunting!

Earlier this week, we rode the Boone Valley & Scenic Railroad train for one of its last rides this summer.  The day was so nice, we rode in the open car, which I would highly recommend!  The views were great & we were the only passengers that opted for the open air!  Although we were too late for the beautiful fall foliage, we had great unobstructed views since many of the trees had already lost their leaves.

Before boarding the train, we checked out some of the local antique shops, & had lunch at a really cute cafe -- The Whistle Stop Cafe.

Steve spotted these really cool coloring books at the first shop we stopped at . . .

I thought they would make great backgrounds for pictures for earrings . . .

and necklaces . . .

I also found a couple of nice tintypes . . .

At the next shop, an antique mall, I found some vintage snaps, as well as a lovely amethyst pendant . . .

Next, we checked out a combination vintage/consignment shop, & I found an old fur clip, pin & pendant . . .

We hadn't been to Boone for at least a couple of years, so it was fun checking out the vintage shops & even more fun taking the train ride on a beautiful fall day!

On Saturday, we started out the day with a visit to the monthly flea market at the state fairgrounds.  I missed out on a bag of old dog tags, but did find a few interesting fish lures & other odds & ends at one of the booths . . .

And, the couple was there that has lots of vintage/secondary market jewelry, so we picked up 2 large bags of chain . . . (my little helper is Belle, our 5 yr. old beagle!)

I'm looking forward to a nice snowy day to sort through all the chain (& other things) I've accumlated this summer & fall!

As always, thanks for reading & supporting small businesses!  And, to see more of my jewelry, check out my website at!


Filed Under: Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

About the author

Pauline's Jewelry Box was founded by Mary Nelson in 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa.  I chose the name Pauline's Jewelry Box because my mother's name was Pauline & I have many fond memories of looking through jewelry box & playing with her jewelry

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