I love antique stores, flea markets, and junk sales. There’s something wonderful about wandering through the jumble of stuff, waiting for some abandoned, lonely little object to call out to me for its chance at a new life.
However, because I have three (adorable) little kids, I can’t always find the time or energy to complete the transformations I imagine for the treasures I find. I am, therefore, completely inspired when I come across somebody like Christine Terrell. Christine hunts around for old decorative tins and then she deconstructs them into whimsical, colorful jewelry pieces. You can see her work at her Etsy store, Adaptive ReUse.
Here’s how Christine describes herself:
I love tins. No, I mean I reallyreallyreally love tins. I love them so much that I have thousands of them sitting in my garage in various stages of deconstruction. Each is waiting for it’s chance to be transformed and reborn.
I have a BFA in Graphic Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. After over a decade of designing for a range of corporate clients in New York City and Austin, I needed a change. Fortuitously, the opportunity to take welding and smithing classes at Austin Community College materialized. It was love at first strike.
Though I don’t currently use any soldering techniques in my work, that bit of formal education has lead to years of personal exploration in the art and craft of metalworking. My work has also inspired a deeper exploration of a longstanding interest in the use and reuse of materials, which I now regularly blog about. I’m also a self-confessed technique junkie, which means I spend too much time finding and trying new things in my work. If you know of a technique I might be unfamiliar with, don’t tell me–I’m trying to quit!
Christine and I chatted about her work and here’s what she had to share:
Molly Therese Bell: How would you describe your work? How has it evolved/developed over time?
Christine Terrell: Though I make jewelry, that’s really only an excuse to play with and explore the possibilities of the material. Most people who work with tin focus on the plethora of available surface patterns and that is also what first caught my attention. I do still love the endless colors and patterns, but over time I’ve become much more intrigued by the limits of the metal itself. Can I bend it? Form it? Twist it? Marry it to other materials? Distress it? I’m most engaged when I’m pushing on those boundaries.
MTB: I love the way your jewelry elevates the humble decorative tin and makes it something more special! I have lovely memories of my mom and granny storing their embroidery floss and buttons in colorful tins. I wonder if you’ve been inspired by the positive associations that YOU have with decorative tins?
CT: It’s actually really ironic—I am the complete opposite of nostalgic. I do appreciate vintage tins and love that they were routinely used and repurposed for a variety of things, but what really excites me is that they are available in thrift stores for $1. I’m most jazzed by tins with bright colors and interesting patterns or unusual color combinations. I do have a collection of pricier vintage tins but those are lovely already and I’m always a bit hesitant to cut them up. I also have a thing for Fossil tins, but I often feel like I’m cheating when I use them. Like vintage tins, they are already beautifully designed, so I don’t really have to do much to make a lovely something out of them. I’m most inspired by tins completely lacking in value to others. It’s easy to value a lovely, flowery vintage tin, but takes more effort to see the beauty in yet another bright red Christmas tin. I think my work reminds folks to think a bit more deeply about the “stuff” around them.
MTB: It’s so exciting that you’re creating lovely objects from dusty old things that others walk right past. Tell me about a favorite piece available in your store. What do you love about it?
CT: I really love my reversible constructed pendants. It’s a format I’ve been playing with from the very beginning. Which, as I look back, seems insane. I had zero experience making jewelry and the metalworking I had done to that point was on the welding/blacksmithing end of the spectrum. These little pendants are complex. They involve multiple circles of tin riveted together and then sandwiched with a center of wood with more rivets and a tin bail. It’s not a beginner project. I guess that’s the beauty of working on your own and figuring things out for yourself. There’s no one around to tell you what you can’t do! I love that each collage is it’s own little composition and that both sides are related either by color or theme. The bail is a nice, literal tie in between them. The latest iterations of these pieces feature lots of hand etching and distressing of the metal. Manipulating the surface and mark-making pushes the process towards something almost painterly for me.
MTB: I notice that you use riveting and other cold connection techniques. The materials you’ve chosen don’t necessarily lend themselves to soldering but have you thought about how other techniques (like soldering) might change the outcome of your work?
CT: I’ve had an internal conversation about cold/hot connections since before I even picked up my first tin at the thrift store. I love the strength and endless possibilities of soldered work, but I’ve never found a way to solder tin without the intense heat marring the surface. I’ve seen it done with bottle cap beads available commercially, so I know something must be possible, but I’m just not motivated enough to follow up. Also, I don’t want to get sidetracked with virgin materials. I try very hard to keep my process and business practices as local and green as possible, and I’m already frustrated by all the findings that I order from foreign countries. Clearly, soldering could open up whole new aspects to my work, but I still have plenty of unexplored ideas that don’t require heat, so for now I’m sticking with what I know!
MTB: Tell us what your favorite Rio product is and why.
CT: Hands down it’s the Swanstrom disc cutter (though I have an older version). I know it’s meant for soft metals, but I’ve cut thousands of tin circles and plan to cut many thousands more. I’ve used it to teach metalsmithing to kids, for demos at the Maker Faire Austin and had it on hand each year during our annual East Austin Studio Tour. It immediately grabs everyone’s attention, and the reactions, once they try it themselves, never disappoint. It is technically a hand tool, but this circle makin’ machine is a power tool–or maybe I should say an EMpower tool. People always ask where to get one of their own, so I know I’m personally responsible for most of the disc cutters you’ve sold to folks in Austin!