Flower & Spice Jewellery Collection, Handcrafted Pendant Necklaces using Dried Exotic Indian Spices - The Making Story...
Hello! Hola! Ni-hao!
I am so glad to have you here and extremely excited to take you with me on my making journey for this unique handcrafted 'Flower& Spice' handcrafted Pendant Necklace collection, using dried exotic Indian spices and herbs. Hope you get as immersed reading this, as I did while making it...
Bon Voyage :)
PS. Long read ahead... Grab a cup of tea (...or coffee, if you belong to the coffee-tribe), some snacks... Sit back and enjoy your read!
( Also, because I value your time just as much as mine, it is important to mention- this post is the story about my making journey for the Flower & Spice collection... not a resin art tutorial per-say :-).
However, if at all you happen to be a practicing resin artist or an aspiring one, you surely will have at least 3-4 useful resin-art tips up your sleeve, after reading this post :-) .....
Shall we begin then?
FLOWER & SPICE - Inception...
Let me start with a little back story that led to this incredibly challenging, though creatively hugely satisfying jewelry project...
As an abstract fluid-artist and an artisanal jewellery designer and maker, my brain is constantly conjuring up unique concepts and ideas that can be translated into one-off creations. On an otherwise ordinary day in 2019, that started with a usual, bright & busy morning; while preparing breakfast; 'Sautéed Mushroom Toast' to be specific; the sizzling aroma of carom and sesame, I am dead sure, went straight to my head !!
Almost instantly my brain was 'intoxicated' with the probability of encasing dried spices using Epoxy, which is the staple medium in my art practice. The intoxication was so potent, that I remember almost hallucinating, (exaggerating justttt a taddd bit :D ), about the endless creative possibilities that could be explored using the rich repertoire of exotic Indian spices, with their beautiful earthy colours, unique shapes, and textures.
While the sautéing was still on.. my dazed brain started recollecting the names of all kinds of probable spices that I had ever seen, used, known, read, or heard of! I remember as a child; long before the mighty 'Google' was born... my parents had got me several of those 'world picture books', the kinds that have beautiful illustrations of all kinds of exotic fruits, veggies, animals, costumes etc.
I had always been fascinated with these even as a 5-year-old, primarily I guess for two key reasons; one, the beautiful detailing in those illustrations was quite eye-catching to a kid's fancy, and the other being; in those days, and I am talking about the 1995 era; there were only certain 'regular' kinds of fruits and veggies available in the local markets in Lucknow that were frequented by my family.
Broccoli, purple cabbage, zucchini, grapefruits, cantaloupes, red pears, and kiwi, were practically unseen and unheard of, only to be found in the 'famed fruit & vegetable charts' or in my case, in these picture books. I distinctly remember asking my parents if these were even real and if they had ever had these :D. Poor things :), in their attempt to not leave their child disappointed, used to say, "Shayad foreign countries mein milta hoga.. Yahan agar milega toh laa denge" (Maybe these are available abroad.. if we find these here, we will get these for you)... Sweet indeed...
Anyway, returning from my reverie, back in the present times,... That day, I started visualizing the spreads from one such book, the one with illustrations of spices from around the world. Thanks to my fairly decent eidetic memory, to my utter delight, I could successfully recollect quite a bit. I was beyond impressed... (so much so that I almost gave an imaginary pat to myself...yeah, whatever... But it was pat-worthy after all... Don't you agree ?..)!
SPICE HUNT - Gathering...
Well, the next step had me rummaging my kitchen shelves and my spice box, picking a few bits from whatever spice (or spice-like ) things I had at hand... and... just to let you guys know... I was mighty pleased with my collection. I have an intense palate when it comes to seasoning and tempering, and all thanks to that trait, I had quite an assortment for the first go.
Let me list down what all I found, just to give you an idea about the array.. cumin, fenugreek, cinnamon, peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves, mustard, star-anise (yesss, this too), fennel, caraway (Kalonji.. yess this as well), sesame, chili-flakes, carom, flax seeds, mace (Javitri .. yes..yess...).... and of course the regulars like turmeric, red chili, oregano and coriander powder..... (Well... I don't know about you guys, but I was truly proud of my chest-of-spices)
This was way more than what I had anticipated to find at home, and for those who are just getting to know me, I lead quite a hermity-life aka in the modern-day lingo, 'Socially-distanced'; long before 'Social-Distancing' became a nouveau global trend (no thanks to Covid though)...
I have been like this since I was born you see... I rarely step out of my home, unless none of my exclusion principles work and it truly is the last resort left indeed !! And before you start judging me as well,... Let me tell you, I have been jeered at a fair bit for this, by quite a few :). ( Okay, so now, please don't judge me anymore... :-)
MY 'CHEST - OF - SPICES' - Sorting...
Well, anyway, once I had all these samples laid out in front of me, I was tempted to add in a few pulses, seeds and grains as well, to make the palette more aesthetically composite and holistic. I took about a teaspoon each, of all the variants that I wanted to combine, taking care to avoid as much surplus as I possibly could. I then grouped these together on small palm-leaf dishes, so that the entire gamut was spread out all at once. Since incorporating dried flowers in my design aesthetic forms a signature element in most of my creations, accessories, in particular, I decided to add these as accents whilst the actual crafting process, as and where deemed essential.
ALL THEM SPICES - Planning & Ideating...
Led by raw, organic forms of the spices, I decided to craft abstract shaped free-form pendants with spice inclusions, in a mould-less technique. To offer a little more shape options, later on, I did go ahead and added a few regular moulded forms to the collection as well. So now the actual 'making process' started that lasted for an entire week. an additional of two more days, if you add in the hardware and cord attachment.
So these 20 odd-pieces took a total of 9 days to get made.
GET - SET - GO - The Making...
The first step then was to create abstract border containments for the desired shapes that I wanted. I sketched these out using a permanent marker on a vinyl sheet. Then I overlined these using silicone caulking to create about 1cm thick borders. Meanwhile they dried, I started hand-picking each grain and each strand from the spice archives that I had laid out before me and started arranging these in pattern and design formations according to their forms, textures, and colours.
Once, I had a certain understanding of the pattern formations, I was all set to begin with the actual process.
Now, onto the most exciting and the most challenging part of the entire process...
I mixed my epoxy and poured into these containments one at a time, till approximately a third of the border depth. Then treating each granule with respect and gratitude, I handpicked every grain and precisely hand-placed it into the poured epoxy as per the design plan in patterns that complimented their natural colours and organic forms...
Hmm... Sounds easy... Doesn't it?
Well, I wish it was as naive and as simple as the sound of it...
( I really do... because what came after this, quite literally challenged every ounce of patience and perseverance I have ever known myself to possess... you'll see.... )
The spice grains being almost featherweight started floating in the viscous medium, once they got wetted. And that...., was without a doubt, the most arduous patience test I have ever faced. I had to quite literally sit there, maneuvering each of these grain granules back into their place using a couple of toothpicks.... for..... about_______ ( take a guess, how many hours !! )
5 hours straight!
(and about 20-30 mins additionally to be extra precise...)
Yes... I remember distinctly, because I had started the pour just a little after lunch, about 1:30 ish in the afternoon, and was glued to my stool until at least 7 pm, (..with the exception of a few trips to you know where...), the time when my husband usually gets back from work...
Hmm.., didn't this change a perception or two ;)...
( I 'd like to feel it did... please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments... I would love to hear your views... )
So once this layer was all cured, by the 2nd day, it was time to fill the remaining depth with a layer of epoxy to level out the textures. After the previous day's experience, this was a cakewalk :D. By the third day, it was time to pop these out. This wasn't too tricky, although, did take about a fair bit of time.
The next step was the most dreaded (...yes, even more than the 5hour maneuvering:// ) filing & sanding ( I wish you could see the expression on my face as I am typing this bit ).
Well, so... even though this by far is a hugely challenging task compared to all other making & finishing stages involved, I cannot emphasize enough, as to how integral it is to this entire process. I can easily go to the extent to tell you that this step is truly the maker or breaker of a piece. The precision with which it is done is the key that determines how fine, flawless, and neat, will the bauble look once finished. Additionally, not to mention that this is both, messy as well as mess-making, procedure too.
But... what's got to be done, is got to be done...
Once popped, these had to be set aside for 24 hours to enable these to reach optimal hardness for the sanding and filing process to begin. This brings us to the 5th day of our making process. Usually when de-molded, (take a look at the image above for reference) the edges usually come out quite sharp and jagged, so the first step in sanding involves smoothening these out with dry-sanding, one piece at a time, followed by wet-sanding that refines the finish a bit more.
Once this was in place, it was time for another absolutely crucial, but an almost nightmarish phase, in our technical terms called 'Doming'. Few makers consider this as an optional/non-essential step in the finishing process. However, for the makers, who start incorporating this in their practice, it becomes so addictive, (and I am totally guilty of that), because of the gorgeous premium finish that it imparts, especially for jewelry creations (Well, my addiction is to the level, where I cannot stop myself from doming my decor creations as well, in fact, unless domed, none of my pieces make it to my catalog... yeah, I forgive you for calling me insane....).
There is another process as well, called 'Polishing' that is more commonly used by makers who combine wood and epoxy. That is cumbersome too but imparts a beautiful, smooth finish to the end product. The polishing technique gives a shiny flat finish, whereas, doming imparts a glossy rounded finish, that kind of has a refractive quality to it, which makes it so dreamy. Both the finishes are equally labor-intensive. Eventually it is up to the maker, to incorporate whichever technique they deem compliments their practice, the best.
To begin doming, I taped off the edges of each of the pendants, propped these on small ping-pong glasses, and poured over the resin. And because even the tiniest dust particle can ruin a smooth flawless surface finish, once poured, it is vital to shield these with a dust cover. I had a make-shift dust cover using a cardboard box.
By the 6th day, it was cured enough to dome the other side as well.
(Yes...you got it right on point... yet again, this is my personal 'fetish' with this technique. Most artists dome only one side... well.. what can I say... I have never known absolutely any other addiction besides this.. and I mean every word of it... I am a teetotaller and a non-smoker and a non-weeder..... so you see what I mean.....)
I insanely adore not only the look but also the hand-feel whilst holding a double domed piece in hand. It is as if you are holding a piece of glass bauble.... with the added benefit that epoxy bauble is way more resilient to breakage and not as fragile as glass.
By the 7th day, I had the pieces ready with double doming, the following bit was to coat a thin layer of resin over the edges to refine them a tad bit more since the tape peeling can sometimes leave slight abrasions (not significantly visible though, but.. you know, why to leave out a tiny bit when we have come this far... right ?)
Also, I do not remember the exact pieces for which I had to, but I do know there were a few pieces that needed the doming process to be repeated over. And I promise you, this wasn't because I am hopelessly insane, it was only because even after taking as much care as possible, a tiny speck of dust might have settled on top or while propping these on glasses, there could have been slight un-leveling, which might have caused the epoxy layer to drip-off, thereby giving an uneven finish. (So you do agree now.. it was absolutely essential :) Don't you ?...)
Once the side coating cured, the following day (8th is it ?), it was time to attach the hardware and findings, ie. the metal fixtures, eye-pins, etc. through which the cording/chain would be threaded. Placing these pendants on a flat surface and at times, observing them in-front of the mirror, holding these against my neckline, I selected the most appealing pendant orientation for attaching the findings. Once ready, I marked off the points using a fine-tipped marker, ensuring they would drape as well as they could, once threaded through. Using a fine bit manual drill, I drilled off the points creating approximately 2mm holes, for inserting the eye-pins. I prefer screwing in threaded eye-pins mostly, for a firmer grip.
As an additional step, to ensure the joinery is as robust as possible, I add a drop of either industrial quality jewellery adhesive (like Contact Cement, E-6000, etc, ) or epoxy, which once cured, makes the fastening almost impossible to fall out. Epoxy joinery method is my most trusted bet by far for this, and the one I end up using the most, unless, there is a huge time crunch.
(you could check www.itsybitsy.in for a few of these supplies, in India).
Well, so now we're onto the 9th, and the final day, where the neckpieces eventually start coming together. For the Flower & Spice Necklace Collection, I used durable waxed cotton cords with pre-attached end fastenings (lobster clasps) to thread most of my pendants. There were a few designs that were showered with a little extra love because I just felt their patterns called out for that special macrame (braided) cording. I hand braided these using vanilla coloured natural raffia cord, accented with brightly hued wooden and acrylic crystal beads here and there. For the macrame cords, I mostly used a drawstring fastening mechanism for versatility in necklace lengths as desired by the wearer.
I crafted pendants with regular forms in this collection alongside the free-form ones using store-bought silicone moulds in the intervals in-between while waiting for these to cure just before the sanding process. The sanding and filing are a bit less challenging for these moulded forms comparatively. However, the double doming remains just as scary :D
If you've managed to survive through my rant and come this far, I am truly humbled by the gesture... and I would like to feel that you did enjoy your time reading this and that we did bond in some ways :) I am so so thankful...
In hindsight, this was quite a challenging project, but once everything came together, the beautiful vibe that this collection generated, was well worth all the time, patience, perseverance, and effort. Very soon I am planning to do a follow-up range to Flower Spices, that would have earrings, rings, and maybe bracelets too...
Here are a few raw images from the intermediary making stages of this collection and a few with us having fun with these.
I hope you enjoy browsing through. And if this story has inspired you to create something similar to this, I would be delighted to see your versions in case you decide to have a go at it... (Be sure to tag me on Instagram and share your versions. I would love to share it across on my Stories. Or you could reach me via email or DM over Instagram)
Also, be sure to check out the Flower & Spice section in my online shop to collect your favourite keepsake memoir from this limited edition range. I am sure you will find the narrative vibe of each of these pieces connecting with you in your own eccentric way.
If you have an occasion coming up, I am sure my online shop with a handcrafted artisanal range of products, will have a thoughtful handmade unique gift option for you to mesmerize your loved one with.
Eager to hear what you guys have to say about your experience, re-living this making journey with us. Please feel free to share your views in the comments here...
Will be back soon,
Loads of Love, Laughter & Cheers,
Aalie & Devanshu