Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eco-Friendly Artist - Elise Bolduc - Marée Boréale

Labradorite has got to be the most fascinating stone - at first glance it's a semi-translucent grey stone and not much to look at but with a small change in perspective a sudden flash of iridescent blue-green! A veritable aurora borealis captured in stone.

Buying stone jewelry, precious or otherwise, is not usually associated with being 'green' so I was surprised to find an incredibly beautiful ring made from recycled copper and Labradorite not issued from mining. Artist Elise Bolduc "hand collected it on the banks of a river close to Labrador."

Her amazing ring below is the one I purchased a few months ago and it has never left my finger since!:

In her own words:
M A R É E   B O R É A L E

"My name is Elise Bolduc and I run a little jewelry shop called Marée Boréale. I live in what is likely the windiest spot in Québec, that is, in a little cottage sitting right on the beach by the St-Laurence river. That is where I spend winters with my lovely fiance who is very supportive and makes sure I absorb some food during those long hours I spend making jewelry. Hours during which I probably wouldn’t notice if our cottage would blow away in one of those crazy storms we often get. Oh how I love those thunderous waves and cold winds.

a view from my window

In the summer, when it gets a little warmer around here, I migrate north.  In fact, I love the boreal forest, the tundra, the cold. I love the North. My studies in biology –dealing with insects and spiders of the Arctic and how they cope with climate changes- have taken me on an isolated island in the Canadian Arctic for the last few summers. There’s no word to describe how it feels to stand alone in those barren grounds. It makes you feel tiny and yet so strong. It makes you feel you need to do all you can to preserve these places where time, traffic, and wall-mart do not exist.

on the Arctic island where I conduct my research

Whether I am walking in the tundra or on the beach, I constantly notice tiny pretty things from nature; bugs, stones, shells, lichen, drift wood…  I always feel an urge to capture the beauty of these things and bring it into a piece of art so I could hold on to it.

pendant made with copper wires and hand picked Labradorite

When I am in town for a while, the same thing happens with objects I come across in my everyday life: electric wire, vinyl records, buttons, glass, pieces of electronics, plastics. I strongly believe that it is possible to find sustainable alternatives to pretty much all the materials I may need.  The trick: to never stick to my first idea of what a piece should be.  Instead, I let the idea change as I meet fabrication challenges and find sustainable solutions to it."

Earrings and pendant made from seashells

Earrings made with recycled vinyl records

Shop at her store or request custom items at !

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pandas of the Sea

Coral is not a cute cuddly animal, which is probably why you don't have too many 'Save the Polyps!' T-shirts out there. But jewelry has a lot to do with the endangered status of the hard corals and thus we should try to think of them as we would...Pandas.

But before I get to that....
Coral - What the heck is it?

...And do they have feelings?

 Although only the outside tree-like structure is noticeable to us hard coral is actually composed of colonies of tiny animals called Polyps that feed on even tinier animals.

An artist's representation of a polyp.

Each little polyp is responsible for building and maintaining a little house made from calcium carbonate (like in antacids) leached from sea water. New houses get built on top of the older ones, following a unique pattern, giving each species its particular appearance. The accumulation of a gazillion layers of coral condominiums gives us coral reefs.

They probably don't have feelings but they do hold an entire ecosystem together. Coral reefs are the densest and most diverse ecosystems in the oceans. They hold 1/4 of all species in the sea!

Most corals form partnerships with a type of plant: algae. It's a win/win situation for both as the algae feeds on the polyps waste (poop and CO2) and the polyp feeds on some of the energy produced by the algae (through photosynthesis). How efficient! Imagine the energy we'd save if we had algae growing on our foreheads!
Because algae needs sunlight for photosynthesis these are the types of coral seen in shallower waters. There are however many coral species that live in deeper colder waters like the famous red coral:

Corallium species
Particularly sought after in jewelry red coral is considered an organic gem. The color ranges from pale pink to salmon to a rich dark red. Growing in deep cold water it is very slow growing making it a 'hardwood' among corals and especially vulnerable to over collection.

And therein lies the problem. 

Coral collection and mining was banned worldwide in 1992 but in 2007 the ban on red coral was reversed.
An organization called Too Precious to Wear has stepped in to promoted coral conservation and they have a pledge you can sign. But the only real solution now will be to stop funding the clear cutting of the oceans by choosing to not buy new coral.

Fortunately there's a ton of eco-friendly coral out there!

Post Earrings I made from coral colored vintage plastic cabochons

The good news is you can still enjoy coral without buying new! It is really easy to find real coral from vintage jewelry and loose beads at affordable prices. Vintage faux coral and coral colored items are also widely available and you may be surprised with their beauty and quality.

Here's a pair of earrings i made from a vintage coral bead necklace:

Here are my picks for eco-friendly alternatives:

The cutest vintage plastic faux coral branch beads from Zivile

Vintage chunky red coral beads from vintagefabulous

Vintage faux coral glass beads from vintagecallgirl

Vintage genuine coral branch necklace from the twenties found at bonblu. You can wear as is or use the beads in your own creations!

This vintage 60's faux coral branch necklace from Karmalings looks even better than the real thing!

Want something seriously luxurious?Try these genuine coral items:
Carved coral beads from EurekaEureka
I can see these used for Spring wedding jewelry.

Incredible deep red vintage native American cuff bracelet from SouthwestSkyJewelry

The salmon color in this vintage coral necklace from VintageStarrBeads is spectacular!

If you sell jewelry or supplies you can help your clients make eco-friendly choices by promoting the fact that you don't sell or use new real coral - eco conscious fashion is trendy so it's also in your business' interest to make eco friendly choices!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Props to You

One of the most important things about selling online is great photography. Not only because online buyers rely on them to know exactly what they're buying but also because great eye candy gets people interested in seeing more.
I love using interesting compositions and props and I've found some super easy ways to make it eco-friendly and free!
Here are a few examples from my shop:


Is there anything you can't learn from a book?
The inside cover of a large coffee table book provided this awesome shade of retrotastic orange for my handmade brooch. No need to rip out the page, just prop open the book for an instant mini set!

As a bonus, the apple sticks were on loan (unused) from my pet rat but I'm sure there are many unsuspecting bits of interesting plant matter in your yard that would make great nature-inspired compositions...

Vintage Dishes

Shopping for vintage housewares is like a treasure hunt and sometimes you can hit the jackpot with items like this gorgeous milk glass compote bowl and olive green fish scale mug. Perfect for hanging earrings!


This rusty-orange is brought to you by some incredibly ugly vintage curtains with just the right silky texture and light for a close-up. You can find all kinds of interesting colors and textures looking through your closet - just don't tell anyone you used a pair of silk unmentionables for your great shots! :)

Discarded Gift Wrap

Awesome yellow gift wrap that came with my Easter Lily. The color and texture offset nicely the soft colors of the ring.

...A similar effect comes from crumple decorative tissue paper from birthday gifts.

What else is lying around your home or destined for the trash that could be transformed into something awesome?

Good Hunting!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Art of Faking It

The idea of wearing jewelry made with fake gems used to make me cringe.
What is tackier than plastic turquoise!?

But then I started using vintage beads and far from looking cheap I found some amazing high quality materials. Vintage costume jewelry manufacturers were wizards of chemistry! The invention of plastics beginning in the late 1800s (celluloid, Bakelite, Lucite) also allowed us women folk of average means the possibility to wear expensive-looking jewelry.

Beyond imitation, these plastic (and some glass) gems have a unique quality all their own.

If you still hold dear to the notion that it's tacky you might want to drop your mouse and slowly walk away because you might change your mind after looking at some of my favorites:)

Wood Rose Beads

These babies are from rare vintage bead supplier EurekaEureka. I have used these Lucite beads in some of my jewelry and they really do look and feel like hand-carved wood!

Faux Turquoise cabochons

Tiny plastic faceted cabs from Brassgoldbeads that I am wearing at this very moment in the form of stud earrings. Some of the best faux turquoise coloring I've seen - they would cost a fortune if they were real turquoise!

 Faux Elephant Ivory Beads

From vintage bead supplier DestashWalrus these beautiful celluloid beads have incredible veining like that of real ivory!

Faux Jade Cabochons

The color in these cabochons from vintage bead supplier yummytreasures are mouth watering! They have subtle color washes that you'd find in real Jade. Made of glass but made to look like carved Jade.

Faux Amber

These Lucite beads from Vintagebeadnut are amazing! What's even more interesting is that they have more in common with real amber than do other faux stones with their counterparts: Amber comes from ancient plant material that has been spared the decomposition process like petroleum (hey it's organic!) from which plastics like Lucite are made.
Amber is even warm to the touch like plastic!

Faux verdigris

I purchased these beads from blacksheepbeads and I can attest to their similarity in color and texture to a natural verdigris patina on metal but they have the added advantage of being much lighter!

Faux Rutilated Quartz

How awesome are these!? These gorgeous cabochons from stdymphnasupplies have tiny lengths of metallic thread embedded in clear Lucite. Beautiful!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Chosen one

Ok here it is....
My first giveaway!
Made entirely of vintage materials and one-of-a-kind. Lots of fresh greens, pinks and reds. Glass and plastic beads. Vintage copper and brass chains. Asymmetrical.

I will be giving this baby away on November 1st.

To be eligible all you have to do is 'follow' my blog! I will ship free worldwide.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

November 1st giveaway!

My store is currently being scrutinized by THOUSANDS of people over at Etsy Forums for the bestest thing I have for sale....

Actually it's looking pretty empty in there right now.....

No sweat! I will be selected something scrumptious to give away for free this November 1st !
All you must do is becoming a 'follower' of my blog so i can see a your little icon in that box over there, ---->

Ah, a little bit lower.........that box.

Right now the odds are looking good for you two over in that box since my boyfriend is the third icon hiding in there:)    I know for a fact he would never wear my jewelry!!

The right stuff

When I first started toying with the idea of using vintage and recycled materials I often ran into problems due to my lack of fluency in the vocabulary used to describe the materials. Properly describing my jewelry also came with linguistic challenges when I started my online store.

Whether it's using the right terms in Etsy or Ebays search engines or finding the right tags for your jewelry listings it helps to know a bit of terminology so here's what I have retained so far:

Vintage: An item that is 20+ years old. This does not include items made FROM vintage materials but only items that have not been manipulated. For example, on Etsy it would not be appropriate for me to list my items in the 'Vintage' category. Instead I list them in 'Handmade' and use the word 'Vintage' in my tags (provided the materials are vintage).

An item that is 50 + years old:

 David Attenborough - definitely an antique (bless his heart:)

Antiqued: This one got me a few times when buying what I thought to be antique materials! It actually describes a faux patina given to new materials to give the impression of being many years old. There is a difference in the look and feel from actual natural patina as I noticed from buying both kinds of materials.

In these earrings the ear wires are antiqued copper but the round beads are naturaly aged vintage copper.

Vintage style:
 Jewelry or supplies that have the look of vintage but are not necessarily made from vintage materials. Something that is 'antiqued' would be described as 'vintage style'.

Incredible new vintage style rings I bought from Mermaids Dowry

Eye candy! ====> Vintage Style Jewelry Flickr Group.

Complications can occur with items that are new but made with vintage tooling and molds such as metal stampings and molded cabochons. They might still be labeled as vintage even though I would not consider them as such.
If you sell jewelry made with these it is more accurate to label the materials as new but 'made with vintage tooling'.

If you sell jewelry or jewelry supplies it is very important to properly describe your items. It can be very frustrating to search for a particular item and have to sort through all the mislabeled listings to find the right thing.

Etsy Forums are a great place to find out from more seasoned sellers and buyers the info you need to list and find what you need. The Critiques section is great for sellers who need help describing and tagging their product.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I told you I was Green

If the word vintage conjures up odd vomity green colors and weird odors think again! I intend to prove that you can find and make amazing things with vintage and recycled materials.

I will entice you with:

-Monthly jewelry giveaways!

-Regular features of amazing jewelry artists that will make your mouth water!

-Fun trends in eco-friendly jewelry like 'kitsch'  (say what?, oh yeah!)

-Amazing suppliers for materials to make your own adornments.

-Eco friendly practices to enhance your existing business or start you off on the right foot.

-Discussions on material composition (wtf is Lucite and coral: plant or an animal?!) and green alternatives to popular materials.

-Eye candy with great product photography!

 If I have extra time after the essentials like bathing and eating I might even attempt to translate the whole thing into French!

A Painfully Green Blog Bud is Born

A normaly timid mammal has decided to explore the surrounding habitat, partly out of curiosity and partly out of necessity.
 The curiosity part includes:
-Getting to know Eco-conscious crafty folk.
-Getting better in depth knowledge of the vintage materials I use.

The necessity part includes:
- Getting the word out that Reducing, Reusing and Recycling can have amazing results!
-Promoting Natural History Vintage Jewelry; my barely surviving store of handmade jewelry made from vintage and recycled parts.
-Exercising my flabby writing muscles dormant since college.

And thus a blog is born.

To begin I should start by explaining what my ideal of Eco-friendly jewelry is:

 For me the epitome of eco-friendly jewelry is the stuff that is already in existence. Second-hand, vintage and antique jewelry. There is a lot of amazing jewelry out there and the only resources/energy necessary are the ones needed to pass it from one owner to the next.

The next best is the kind made from second-hand, vintage and antique jewelry, unused vintage materials (like in most of my work), recycled materials not normally used for jewelry (paper, fabric, hardware, etc), recycled metals melted from other jewelry and metals, etc.

The emphasis I want to make is on using what is already available - like writing on the back of a piece of paper instead of using a fresh piece that is 100% recycled. I would still use the 100% recycled paper over un-recycled but I'd like to see what I can do with what I've already got:)