Category Archives: jewelry

The bling thing


Being a child art therapist and an arts & crafts counselor has involved a fair amount of jewelry-making over the years. There are a lot of things to recommend jewelry-making as an activity in both situations.

  • This activity is festive and fun, like playing dress-up or getting ready for Halloween.
  • Hand-made jewelry tends to become a symbol of identity that is proudly worn.
  • Jewelry styles are so diverse that anything goes, and kids can forget about the creativity-crushing idea of right and wrong.
  • Materials are cheap or free and easy to come by. Whatever materials you have around are enough to come up with some kind of jewelry project.
  • Stringing beads and objects is meditative and calming and promotes easy companionship.
  • Because this activity involves many small items, there is usually a sharing of materials in a group. These shared elements connect the varied finished pieces, a nice metaphor for group connectedness.
  • Kids love to make presents for friends and family, and in our culture a gift of jewelry is associated with love.

Pretty much anything you have on hand for stringing works fine. Ribbon, telephone wire, lanyard, or shoelaces are good bets. The ball chains pictured were donated for camp arts & crafts, and I can personally guarantee that they are universally loved, no matter the age or gender. You can buy them here.

What to put on the strings? Beads, buttons, decorated cardboard pendants, wooden spools, styrofoam peanuts, paper, found objects, anything. Sculpey and Model Magic are great for making beads. And remember: you can make a bead out of anything you can punch a hole in. Paint and decorate freely!

Below are some examples of materials and of jewelry created in art therapy sessions, in the camp arts & crafts room, and in my very own basement studio.

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This was a big week for deaths. Pete Seeger, one of my lifetime inspirations. The brilliant actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. And…my dog Gus. Like Seeger, Gus was an old man (thirteen), but was in great shape for an old guy.  So the suddenness was a shock. And if you love a pet, you know why the loss brought heartbreak. The real Day of the Dead happened a couple of months ago, but at my house, a little Día de Muertos art/music therapy is in order right now.

I’ve spent many years and many miles walking with Gus in Central Park. Since I’m a scavenger, I have collected hundreds of rusty wires that I’ve found on my walks. They’re double loop rebar ties that were used to tie wire fencing to the posts (now they use a heavy duty plastic type). The wires are lying around all over the park, although I may be the only person who considers them treasures. Those that were dropped and are intact have a loop on each end, have wonderful shapes, and are great for making mobiles and all kinds of other things. The twisted and broken finds are also great for flower stems, picture hangers, jewelry, all kinds of things.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis necklace documents our mornings spent together: years worth of Gus’s worn dog tags, rusty wires, and other found objects. The yin/yang dog tag at the center was an unusually great park find, and I think it belongs here, since life and death cannot exist without each other. I made this a bunch of years ago, and as we’ve grown older together, I’ve had more dog tags to add.


Here’s my all-time favorite dog song, by one of my favorite artists. A tribute to Gus and to all our beautiful dogs out there. The Dog Song by Nellie McKay.