Walt Cottingham / Hawk Ridge FarmI have lived in the Southern Appalachians for most of my life, and have been creating craft pieces since childhood....
My passion for creating jewelry began in Atlanta where I studied art and jewelry design at Georgia State University. I turned my love for making jewelry into a second career after moving to Asheville, NC in 2001.
I fell in love with and began collecting vintage Bakelite jewelry a number of years ago. When I discovered "new old stock" Bakelite, I began carving and polishing it to use in the jewelry I create. It of course plays a significant role in my Bakelite jewelry. In the Ball-in-Cage and Nature collections, I use it as an accent to add color and variety. The Puffs and Cuffs work and the Disc Series do not incorporate Bakelite at all. Instead I use various metals to provide color variety.
More on Bakelite...
Turn back the calendar to the 1920s, 30s, and 40s... Coco Chanel made Bakelite jewelry, Elsa Schiaparelli made Bakelite buttons, and Cartier made Bakelite watch cases... Saks Fifth Avenue (New York), Harrod's (London), and Bon Marche (Paris) sold Bakelite jewelry and accessories... Josephine Baker commissioned Bakelite gifts for friends... Fred Astaire danced on Bakelite floors... and General Electric made Bakelite radio cases.
A revolutionary and versatile new plastic, Bakelite (aka "Catalin") was hailed as "the material of a thousand uses." Due to the development of less expensive methods of making plastics, production declined after WWII, and finally ceased in the 1960s, leaving behind factories and warehouses full of unused stock. This is the primary source of the Bakelite I use. Prime pieces of vintage Bakelite (e.g., jewelry, buttons, napkin rings, radios, even old unused stock) have now become highly sought-after collectibles.
Bakelite was produced in a multitude of opaque, solid, marbled, transparent, translucent and semi-translucent colors. Its colors are rich and deep or fresh and bright, and sometimes intense. It feels warm and is very durable. It can be cut, shaped, carved, and polished to a liquid finish. In some of my current work I combine old stock Bakelite with antiqued Sterling silver or gold to create what I call "contemporary heirlooms"... the designs are new, but the Bakelite adds a touch of nostalgia. I may have made a piece just yesterday, yet you can sense in it a bit of history... something old, something new.
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