A look at some of Michigan's funky jewelry makers

Bugs, bones, and beachparties

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Not every lady loves to frost herself with Swarovski crystals, platinum chains, and other objects that sparkle. Some prefer to adorn their bodies with things a little more macabre. Three Michigan-based jewelry makers are taking that into account. Stacy Dumas of Tooth and Nail crafts necklaces from the jawbones and skeletons of small woodland creatures, Tricia Kerns uses dried insects, spoons, and resin to make unique adornments, and the married couple behind Armageddon Beachparty uses found objects to make one-of-a-kind pieces. Here's a little more on each of these unique makers.

Tooth and Nail

Inside Stacy Dumas' Rust Belt Market booth you'll find any number of oddities, but perhaps the most unusual are the necklaces she fashions from the bones of varmints purchased from local hunters as well as those she finds on her own strolls through Michigan's woodlands. One jawbone might come from a coyote or a possum, while another comes from a fox or a raccoon. Some of her necklaces are made with deer antlers, others with the small bones or teeth of unknown animals. Some are whole spinal columns, others one large tooth. Another might feature rather cannibalistic looking stacks of bones.

To craft quality pieces and ensure that her customers are satisfied with the gruesome product she delivers (and that they don't go around dropping teeth and bits of animal bones around town), Dumas painstakingly glues in each tooth to its jawbone, then lacquers each piece entirely for a shiny, glossy finish.

While she also sells whole animal skulls inside her Rust Belt booth, she does craft adornments that are a little less gory. Thick strips of treated birch wood make for bohemian-feeling earrings and necklaces. If you can't make it to the Rust Belt Market, Dumas' creations are available at esty.com/shop/stacydumas.

Mere Accessories

By day Tricia Kerns works as a hairstylist, but mixing up dye and snipping sassy cuts doesn't fulfill her boundless creative energy.

Last October Kerns started crafting necklaces uses spoons and resin. She started purchasing dried, exotic insects from wholesale suppliers who import them from their country of origin, as well as those found by family, friends, and herself.

"I do have a lot of specimens that were found locally by my mother, who is the queen of all green thumbs," she says. "Or my mechanic friend who found a dead cicada in a box of parts imported to the Dearborn Belle Tire from Mexico. But, you'd be surprised what you can find if you keep an eye on the ground you're walking on."

Each piece takes Kerns around two weeks to finish, depending on the size of the specimen she's working with. She coats them 15 to 20 times with resin, leaving them to cure for 12 hours between each coat. Pieces range from $20 to $80.

Kerns draws inspiration from antique malls, noting she loves to make something new from something old. Her custom orders could have her working with anything from baby teeth to childhood trinkets, depending on her customer.

"A friend of mine picked out a spoon I had already put together and brought me her cat's ashes so I could border the spoon with them," she says of the sentimentality that often goes into her creations.

Kerns accepts custom orders to [email protected] and sells some of her pieces at V Male Vintage in Dearborn Heights.

Armageddon Beachparty

Objects found near train tracks, vintage pieces, and figurines purchased by exchange from dealers — any of these might become a piece of jewelry in Armageddon Beachparty's line. Though the fashion accessories aren't the main facets of the local company's offerings, they're certainly an interesting draw. Married couple Motu and Kozma use primarily copper to entwine these objects, giving these old or rustic foundlings a more modern feel.

"These are things we find throughout out travels as well as in Detroit," says Kozma. In a way, she says, they're helping clean up the city, all the while creating truly unique and one-of-a-kind pieces. One of their favorite places to glean from is the city's Lincoln Street Art Park. But their line isn't made up of just small, kitschy items. Some pieces cost upwards of $100.

A piece in Armageddon Beachparty's line might be a $20 copper-wrapped wooden parrot while another is a $50 bit of black, African horn shaped like a fish, another might be a tiny amputated doll arm. Another is a $70 metal pendant adorned with jewels.

For now, these pieces are available at Armageddon Beachparty's booth inside the Rust Belt Market and on armageddonbeachpartydetroit.com, but the couple hopes to open their own retail space soon. Kozma says they're looking at spaces in Midtown and New Center to house their brand of art, clothing, jewelry, and accessories.

About The Author

Alysa Zavala-Offman

Alysa Zavala-Offman is the managing editor of Detroit Metro Times. She lives in the downriver city of Wyandotte with her husband, toddler, mutt, and two orange cats.
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