As a jewellery artist working in mixed media, I am naturally interested in how people have used unusual materials or combinations of materials in the past. An area I have been interested in for many years is Make do and Mend Jewellery from the 1940's. There is not very much recorded for this area and so it does have an air of mystery which appeals to me.
During WW2. Luxurious materials were in short supply for making "new" pieces of jewellery. Many people handmade their own jewellery and material choices were often very inventive. Scraps of plastic wire, textiles and leather as well as found objects such as fir cones and seeds were often used. Instructions for making your own jewellery were published in magazines.
One of the things I love about this kind of jewellery is how inclusive is it. Everyone could make it and it was very low tech. You didn't need any fancy pieces of equipment to produce it. There is something lovely about everyone being able to make their own from one set of instructions and them all being unique. I like to imagine who made them and how they might have looked on the garments of the time.
A while ago I found this brooch in an antiques shop in Rye. It is made with the plastic casing from electrical wire. Some sources say that women collected these scraps from the factory floor, although I did speak to someone who said that they could remember being able to purchase this wire from shops too. Some attribute the brooches to women making them at home for themselves and to sell, other say Italian prisioners of war made them. I have also heard and read accounts of them being sold in markets or outside the factories where the materials were collected.
I have been researching this area of jewellery in order to help me design and make my own series of brooches, using plastics,leather,felt,buttons,wool and household items. I will then be teaching others how to make them as part of the Making More project.