Student hobby combines sustainability and creativity

Aditya Thiyag | The Chronicle

Teenage artisans are stringing together a new pastime.

A hobby that dates back centuries and transcends cultural barriers, the art of jewelry-making is not a new one. A piece of jewelry is defined as any collection of ornaments threaded or shaped together into a wearable object, and jewelry-making is the minutiae of crafting said objects. In a world where sharing thoughts and ideas is near-instantaneous through social media, the ability for creativity within the crafting of jewelry has opened the practice up to a larger audience that has quickly taken over the internet.

Freshman Gina Marra said that she began to pursue jewelry-making as a byproduct of the initial pandemic lockdown in March 2020. She said that the extended time spent in isolation inspired her to pick up a new hobby and she began experimenting with making jewelry, mainly using household items and objects she found lying around. 

“I started to gain an interest in wearing more jewelry, but [I] was unable to buy it [during lockdown],” Marra said. “So I just thought, ‘what if I made it myself?’ I was also bored and just [started] experimenting a bit and to make some things based on the materials I had.”

In order to “get the feel of” making jewelry, Marra said that she mostly relied on “imitating things [she] had seen before”, a practice that is fairly common among other aspiring jewelry makers looking to start crafting pieces. Senior Miriam Shrivastava said that she relied on the internet to teach her jewelry making. She said that watching a TikTok content creator with the username “funkierthanthou” create non-traditional jewelry helped Shrivastava develop her own style after her original foray into the hobby. 

“My pieces don’t resemble clothing, since I design more extensive pieces that aren’t [worn] just around the neck or wrist,” Shrivastava said. “A lot of my projects are based on the use of chain spools and jump rings, which connect pieces of chain together and connect chains to clasps.”

According to Shrivastava, the “incredibly intricate” pieces done by the internet star and seeing other content creators repurpose their jewelry to craft new ones inspired her to craft unorthodox pieces of jewelry instead of the necklaces, rings and bracelets that most jewelry consists of. The re-utilization of parts from other pieces to make new jewelry is a process commonly known as upcycling, something that Shrivastava said taught her how to be versatile in crafting new pieces as well as fixing old ones. 

“In a lot of my earlier projects, I upcycled broken jewelry I’ve found on the side of the road, and I’ve continued to revamp and rethink the possibilities of what jewelry can be,” Shrivastava said. “I spent days thinking about how I could fix the broken plastic clasp on my favorite leotard until I realized that I could thread in chains and add a new metal clasp to make it wearable.”

Upcycling is something that Marra said she relied on due to her lack of parts during the lockdown. The lack of a stable supply source and constant repurposing is something she said heavily influenced her approach to jewelry-making. 

“In the beginning, making things was a lot of trial and error,” Marra said. “Sometimes I’d make things I didn’t like, but it’s quite easy to take it apart and retry. Since I didn’t have many supplies, I just started with some scissors instead of pliers and some old beads I had lying around to create something I enjoy.”

The trial and error mindset is one that Shrivastava said that she shared as well. She said that this was a part of the reason that the hobby required such a large time commitment and why her love for jewelry making is something that she is keeping as a hobby rather than a potential source of income.

“I will sit in front of a mirror for five hours [to] re-measure and reference concept sketches,” Shrivastava said. “I always make sure to sit in front of a mirror so I can try it on and see how the jewelry will actually drape and lay on a person. I [also] do not think I would be able to maintain this focus [for long enough] to be able to sell anything.”

Despite the hobby taking several hours to even get into and several more to perfect, Marra said that this potential effort should not be something that should turn one off to jewelry-making and that she does not regret the hard work put into her craft, believing that anyone can get into it.

“Be resourceful, and don’t be afraid to try new things,” Marra said, “ Look for things that inspire you, and even if you don’t have a lot of supplies on hand, use what you have or even old jewelry to create something new. ”

Photo by Aditya Thiyag