custom order jewelry. The secret is in the frass..unique pore former ingredient which provides lightweight wear.
“Raindrops keep falling on my head…No wait, that's just caterpillar poop”! Caterpillars have exploded in population in the twin tiers region and are showering residents of the region with excretement. The invasive bug (Lymantria dispar dispar) is in a population boom and the insects are out in numbers not seen in over a decade, according to media reports and advisories from the Department of Environmental Conservation. The poop called frass, though harmless, is an annoyance to homeowners everywhere. I always try to find something good in a bad situation; when life gives you crap, grow flowers. Or in my case, make jewelry!
Jewelry has been an ever-present part of human civilization. Adorning oneself with jewelry has been consistent across space and time, religions and cultures, class and gender. Jewelry symbolizes birth, sex, marriage, wealth, mourning and so on. We employ them as language, so as to define our nature, or stature. Whether purchasing loops, dangely or stud earrings, the ideal weight of the earrings would be the weight your earlobes can carry most comfortably. Some people can comfortably keep on long and heavy earrings, while others cannot wear earrings more than a few grams. This comes down to personal preference but the lighter the better! There are options on the market such as polymer clay that offer a lightweight wear. But, even though it’s called polymer clay, the medium doesn’t actually contain any clay. The primary ingredient is PVC, this is mixed with plasticizers to give you polymer “clay”. In addition to the accumulation in the environment and possible toxicity of the additives, the incineration of PVC generates toxic products such as dioxins, due to high concentration of chlorine atoms present. Resin jewelry may offer lightweight attributes as well, but is typically synthesized into a polymeric material. Epoxy resins are normally produced with bisphenol A as one of the ingredients. It is an endocrine disruptor (it can mimic hormones). Some studies have shown toxicity, carcinogenic effects and possible neurotoxicity at low doses in animals. In the case of decomposition of the resin, the toxic monomer might be released into the environment. Ceramic jewelry however, is made from clay derived directly from the earth. When their use is over, they return to the earth. Ceramics use toxic free ingredients which are water-based and safe to use without releasing toxins into the air or land during disposal.
The caveat to using ceramic jewelry is weight. Pulling from my knowledge of using pore formers in ceramic materials to induce a desired microstructure, I viewed an opportunity laying on the ground before me! Pore former has been proven as an efficient method to increase porous microstructures that can assist in desirable properties of ceramic materials in automotive industries and the like. There are several types of poreformers that have been used such as corn starch, rice starch, graphite and carbon..
Observation: “The dry caterpillar poop-pellets are so free flowing, which make it ideal to pour into a slip-batch of clay”.
I set out to work collecting the scat (yep you read that right)! Using Mother Nature's gifts, I made samples to compare standard clay and clay infused with caterpillar pellets. Pore formers work because the firing temperature at which organic material burns away is lower than sintering temperature of the ceramic material. Void space is therefore created where the pellets previously were located in the green body. So don’t “dispar” because in the end, there is no frass matter left. Post firing, the samples were weighed and the average weight loss of the clay with the poreformer is 15% lighter than the clay without the poreformer. Using the pooh as a poreformer in the ceramic material allowed me to make the object of the same size but with lower mass.This caterpillar known by its common name “Gypsy” moth had a name change in March of 2022, and is now called the “Spongy” moth. This name seems appropriate to me because I’ve been able to make a porous ceramic with its contribution which indeed resembles a sponge.
To find out more about how you can purchase jewelry from the author's “gypsy rain line” visit www.bethanysheart.com. Shop small, Shop local.
 Thornton J (2002) Environmental impacts of polyvinyl chloride building materials. Healthy building network. http://www.healthybuilding.net/pvc/Thornton_Enviro_Impacts_of_PVC.pdf.Acesses 2012 May 25
 SvcottG (1999) Polymer and the environment. Cambridge: RSC Paperbacks. 132p
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