What my customers like to know!
WHAT IS YOUR DESIGN PROCESS LIKE?
It starts with small, choice bits of birch bark that I collect from fallen trees. From long experience, I have become highly selective because I understand what characteristics make for the best jewelry, both visually and structurally. Back in my studio, I allow the bark to dry for a few weeks. Then begins the process of creating, which is very hands-on for me. It also involves a lot of intense looking, finding the most intriguing parts of the bark, and imagining what they can become.
ARE THERE CERTAIN CHALLENGES IN WORKING WITH SUCH AN UNUSUAL MATERIAL?
Birch bark is a very tricky material! The first year or more when I started out, I had to basically invent my own techniques to achieve what I envisioned. But the challenges are also what makes it special. Working with a natural material like birch bark does not lend itself to standardized production, nor would I want to make work like that, because it would not hold my interest. I make choices every step of the way, because the markings, quirks, and colors of the bark are always different, even when it comes from the same tree. I am constantly deriving inspiration from the bark as to the shape and design of each piece. Because of this process, many pieces I make are one-of-a-kind, especially the larger ones. Even among the more defined styles, no two are truly alike because of natural variations in the markings and coloration.
HOW DO YOU PROTECT THE BARK SO THE JEWELRY WILL BE LASTING?
I seal the bark on the front with a clear matte varnish, so it still looks natural and won't peel. I also apply a layer of silver or gold-colored resin to the back for strength and durability.
ARE THEY HEAVY?
Not at all! When I meet people at shows, one of the most frequent things they comment on is how light they are. Birch bark is thin and light to begin with, and the finishes do not add much weight at all.
WHAT METALS DO YOU USE FOR THE GOLD AND SILVER COMPONENTS?
The wirework and earwires are tarnish-resistant Argentium Sterling Silver, or 12k Gold Filled, also tarnish resistant. All metals are permanently attached through the bark and embedded in the resin backing. Chains are 18” with lobster style clasp, in Gold-filled or Sterling Silver. Ear posts are surgical steel with titanium backs.
WHERE DO YOU GET THE BIRCH BARK?
I gather it myself in the Maine woods. I specially select each little bit for specific colors and markings that I've found makes the most beautiful jewelry. Where birch grows, there are plenty of birch trees to be found on the ground, but I pass by most of them because I have learned to look for very specific qualities. Bark that meets my criteria is not easy to come by: I hike about 3 miles on average, just to find a few small, top quality pieces that fit into my little knapsack. But I do love the woods, and the bark hunt is one of my favorite parts of the process!
ARE ANY TREES HARMED IN THE PROCESS?
Not a bit! I never touch any living birch trees, nor is there any need. The only bark harvested is from birch trees that have fallen due to natural causes like storm damage. Wherever birch grows, there are always some on the ground. The hard part is to find the ones where the bark has not already deteriorated too much.
HOW SHOULD I CARE FOR MY BIRCH BARK JEWELRY?
There are three simple things you can do to make sure it stays looking good and lasts you a very long time. #1 tip to keep it looking fresh: place it alone in its box when not being worn, to avoid friction with other jewelry or objects. #2 tip is do not immerse in water or other liquid; do not swim or shower with it on. And #3, you can clean the metal components gently if needed with a polishing cloth, but be careful not to rub the bark or the metallic edging with the cloth. For every piece I sell, I always include care instructions in the box.