Frequently Asked

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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 WORKING WITH THE BARK?

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 but 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 have friends in Central and Midcoast Maine who let me roam their woods and collect the small amounts that I need from the downed birches. Occasionally, I even peel it off of their firewood.

ARE THE TREES HARMED WHEN YOU REMOVE THE BARK?

I never touch any living birch trees. Wherever birch grows, there are always quite a few down on the ground, since birch is not the longest-living tree in the forest. The only bark I have ever harvested is from birch trees that have fallen due to natural causes like storm damage. The trick is to find the ones where the bark has not deteriorated too much. Fortunately, I love the "hunt!"