Designer Tawny Reynolds of SunDrop Jewelry talks about her unusual process, and building success.
ABI: What makes your process and materials so special?
TR: Sundrop Jewelry is handmade from recycled bottles and stained glass, and melted with sunshine and a giant magnifying lens! My Fresnel lens, measuring 2.5 by 3.5 ft, was originally designed for lighthouses. The larger the lens, the more light can be concentrated, and mine can reach up to 3000 degrees F – but only on a clear day!
I find the glass-melting process very Zen. Sitting outdoors working under the magnifying glass is calming and repetitious, as I watch for subtle signs indicating the glass is starting to melt, and judging the right moment to pull out of the hot spot. Until a cloud comes along to block the sun!
Concern for the environmental impact of Sundrop Jewelry has been a mainstay since the beginning. Though my original partners left to form an environmental non-profit, our shared vision of sustainability and creative re-use continues. I use recycled materials whenever possible, using reclaimed sterling silver findings, packaging with recycled content, and minimizing and recycling the inevitable business paperwork. And, of course, using glass bottles otherwise destined for the trash or recycling bin! Since the color palette of glass bottles is generally limited to blues, greens, and browns, I fill in the rest of the rainbow with stained glass.
I am inspired by colors, and I love the way translucent glass glows in the light. A new bottle color, a sheet of glass or millefiori rods in the glass shop – I want to try them all! And I am always excited when I find a bottle in a new color!
ABI: What do you feel is most appealing about your jewelry?
TR: My pieces have a bit of a bohemian feeling with the simplicity of the natural, freeform droplet shape. Anyone who has fallen in love with sunlight through a stained glass window will recognize the same vibrant, glowing translucency in much of my jewelry. So many people are immediately attracted to the colors of recycled glass, even before realizing they were made from their favorite liquor bottles!
I’ve never met someone who, on hearing how my jewelry is made, didn’t say, “What?! You’re kidding!” I think the story appeals to the inner science geek in us all. Who can resist a chance to tell their friends, “Oh, these new earrings? They’re made from Skyy Vodka bottles melted with sunshine and a giant magnifying glass!”
ABI: How do you sell your work? What are your future plans?
TR: My work can be found online in my shop, sundropjewelry.com, and I occasionally sell at craft fairs in the Bay Area, but my largest market is wholesale. I’m currently in 80 boutiques and science museum gift shops around the United States, including the Mauna Kea Observatory and MIT Museum. I’m always looking for more shops that focus on earth friendly products!
I’ve spent this year pruning some older colors and styles, expanding my line with new designs, and overhauling my website. For the future… I’m starting to think trade show thoughts.