Copper in the Arts

October 2017

EcoManiac Sustainable Jewelry: Repurposing with Style

By Jennifer Hetrick

About 95 percent of Amy Pieroni’s jewelry-making supplies are repurposed from other lives and stories, giving new life to copper, brass and bronze through her unique line of jewelry.

mixed metal wrist cuffsFive mixed metal wrist cuffs all made from salvaged copper gutters: from left to right, an antique button, brass and jasper, vintage brass door hardware set with moonstones (two in a row) and cut steel vintage as a shoe clip set with imitation sapphire.

Photograph courtesy of Amy Pieroni.

In 2008, Pieroni opened EcoManiac Sustainable Jewelry. By 2010, she began experimenting with more found metals. Today, she calls her work wearable sculpture.

Her necklaces, earrings, bracelets, wrist cuffs, rings brooches, belts and hat ornaments are often boldly full of unexpected yet alluring shapes in design, popping with color pairings equally as eye-savvy.

“The first jewelry class I took involved making a bracelet out of recycled copper from a salvage yard,” Pieroni reflects. “The instructor told us where it was, and it was close to my house. I filed that info away, but it was several years before I made my first visit.”

She earned a BFA at the University of North Alabama, spent a summer studying painting with the late Helen Frankenthaler at the Santa Fe Art Institute and completed post-baccalaureate work at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

“When I was in college, my friends introduced me to thrift stores,” she adds. “The appeal was initially financial and finding unique items.”

As she shifted into deeper experimentation with her jewelry in recent years, she began using found metals to test out new techniques on cheaper metals versus precious metals.

“Using vintage antique and found objects allows me greater creative freedom because I'm not confined to pre-manufactured pieces and parts,” Pieroni admits. “The rich patinas and interesting patterns on the old pieces give it great texture. Most of the pieces are one-of-a-kind because of the inherent limitations of the amount of material. I think this makes them a little more special for me and for the collector.”

And three of her jewelry pieces were also just featured in the sixth episode of ABC’s new comedy Kevin (Probably) Saves the World.

Pieroni started teaching in the public arena in 2013.

“All of my classes are student-led, meaning I base the lessons on exactly what the individual students and group wants to learn,” she says. “It can be anything from basic introduction to soldering, stone-setting or cold connections.”

She gives her students a list of places to source materials and ideas for makeshift tools, like old chair legs and candleholders as dowels and shaping.

And she recommends becoming friends with plumbers.

“I've even had people hire me to go through their jewelry boxes and guide them on how to make a workable collection,” Pieroni explains.

One of her best-selling styles of work is a tri-bar ring. Each is crafted from a portion of a brass serving tray, bronze wire and an often pattern-rich gemstone. And they’re well-liked for wearing by women but also men, too.

She also recently created a beautiful pair of finger and wrist splints to help her sister-in-law better cope with a condition in the family of Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes. It took 14 prototypes until all moved as needed. “Each finger splint is independent and consists of six rings at cantilevered angles.”

Bronze ball accents are involved in the bronze and brass design.

“Brass mimics gold which makes it easy to sell,” Pieroni notes. “I love using it as a base for mixed metal pieces. It makes a great contrast to other metal colors.”

Thankfully, she never has to buy metals or other materials new because of her resourceful nature.

“I have an entire studio and additional storage shed full of vintage materials,” she adds.

“I love working with copper because it moves like butter when it's been annealed,” she says.

And Pieroni’s organic approach with design means she never draws out or plans anything ahead.

“I just pick up the pieces and start moving them around my studio until they tell me what they want to become,” she says.

To Pieroni, sustainability is just one facet of her overall belief system.

“I believe we are borrowing Mother Earth from our grandchildren, and we must be good stewards,” she says. “There is a lot of room for improvement.”

She is frequently asked what sustainable means when it comes to jewelry and elaborates that most of her materials are recycled, repurposed or found objects reworked into her pieces.

In addition to art-based shows around Atlanta, Pieroni sells her jewelry at Made Again and the beehive in Atlanta, Wild Oats & Billy Goats in its Decatur and Roswell, Georgia, locations, and in the gift shop of the nationally recognized Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

Resources:

EcoManiac Sustainable Jewelry, Mableton, GA

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