Upcycled Jewelry: Alice Sprintzen Shares her Style, Design Aesthetic, and How-To

Alice Sprintzen - jewelry artist Jewelry artist, Alice Sprintzen, has spent her life reclaiming objects then designing with them to create beautiful upcycled jewelry. If you’re searching for inspiration, Sprintzen answers a few questions help you find your upcycling way. Then, check out Upcycled Jewelry: 8 DIY Jewelry Projects from Recycled Materials—Using Hardware Store and Flea Market Finds and More to make new creations from old treasures!

“I have always enjoyed the hunt,” says Sprintzen. “There is something around every corner that cries out for fresh consideration—a new context in which to reinvent the ordinary, making it extraordinary.” As a child, Sprintzen developed an appreciation for found objects by combing beaches with her parents, searching for tossed-aside treasures. A self-proclaimed “technique junkie,” she incorporates a wide variety of creative methods into each of her pieces.

Q: What inspires you?

A: The found objects that I collect are my greatest inspiration. They come readymade with color, texture, form, and a past life. We see glimpses of our own history in them. I enjoy the element of humor, which often presents itself in the juxtaposing of diverse elements, to create abstract as well as representational pieces.

Alice Sprintzen Upcycled Jewelry designs

Winged Victory designed by Alice Sprintzen.

Q: Where do you find your materials?

A: There is no scarcity of materials for the found-object jeweler. My eyes are automatically drawn to the tossed-away and mostly overlooked. Find treasures easily at garage sales, flea markets, antique stores. I have a scout team of friends who augment my supply. They delight in seeing one of their finds in a completed work.

Q: How do you think beadwork enhances your found-object jewelry?

A: I rely heavily on the emotional impact of color, and beadwork affords the opportunity to echo the colors and patterns in the materials that I use. In addition, the supple nature of beaded rope makes for a comfortable means of hanging pendants.

Alice Sprintzen Upcycled Jewelry designs

Once Upon a Button designed by Alice Sprintzen.

Q: What makes found-object jewelry special?

A: My jewelry is, by its nature, a statement about society. It is, by implication, pro-reuse and anti-consumption. It elevates ordinary materials to diamond status—at least that is the challenge. It’s about finding beauty and humor in the ordinary.

Q: You have an entire collection of pieces made with upcycled car parts. What attracted you to these materials?

A: I first encountered broken brake lights while biking in my neighborhood. I live in the suburbs of New York City, and there is no scarcity of this material on the streets. The colors are limited to red, amber, and clear, but the many textures and patterns are there to be exploited. I also enjoy the material’s transparent quality and its light weight. Although extremely strong, car plastic is easy to saw with a jeweler’s saw (I saw through masking tape to keep the cut line from re-fusing when the friction from sawing creates heat) and finish with files and emery paper. I usually dull the shiny surface with fine steel wool because I prefer this softer look. It is an amazingly user-friendly material, which can be obtained at any car-repair shop.

Alice Sprintzen Upcycled Jewelry designs

Not by Accident II designed by Alice Sprintzen.

Photos courtesy of Doug Foulke.

This article was originally published in the February/March 2014 issue of Beadwork magazine.

For more inspiration for upcycled jewelry, visit the Interweave Store.


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