Woman transforms antique jewelry into Christmas trees
BRANFORD, Conn. (AP) — Kristin Abalan’s cozy home is decked with Christmas trees. Lots of Christmas trees. All with treetops glistening, boughs a plenty, that sparkle in the light, with accents of blue, red, purple, green and turquoise hues.
Far from traditional Christmas trees, these glittering trees are framed works of art that can be admired all year long. While they may not be evergreen trees, they are definitely ever-green. Vintage jewelry — gold and silver bits and tiny charms replace pine needles; rhinestones stand in for ornaments.
“My pact to myself is that everything was going to be upcycled,” she said. “If I was going to make something it was going to be from something else.”
So, Abalan collected antique brooches, colorful buttons, interesting earrings, multi-colored beads and small bows and tassels to create brooch collages. Each one is as unique as a single snowflake.
Bretta Buckingham was one of Abalan’s customers at her very first show at the recent Sip and Shop event at the Pine Orchard Yacht and Country Club.
“It’s clever, it’s smart,” said Buckingham. “She’s incredibly talented. My eyes just knew exactly where to go.
“I love this piece. I love that piece,” she recalled thinking as she perused Abalan’s display “It’s framed, it’s beautiful. It will be front and center in my Manhattan place.”
Buckingham, who grew up in the area and still has family and friends along the shoreline, was also impressed with the fact that all the materials are upcycled.
“It’s all recycled,” she says. “That’s how we have to be.”
Even the collage backing is recycled from pillow coverings, clothing and found materials, such as velvet, and the frames are all made from different materials, all discovered in her travels.
“I love mixing industrial with delicate,” Abalan said, holding up a metal frame around one of her sparkling, colorful collages.
“What I think when I put them together is how it looks together, aesthetically,” she said. “I try to mix colors and balance.”
Art is important to Abalan. Over the years she has dabbled in watercolor, wool felting, creative birdhouses and now, brooch collages. Back in the 1990s, she was an art teacher at the Creative Arts Workshop and the Guilford Art Center. The brooch pieces have been her main focus for the last couple of years.
Her art helps her relax after a busy day, commuting to a job with an audio-visual company in New York City.
“I have to have a creative outlet,” she said sitting in her living room turned into a studio. “It relaxes my brain. It keeps it from thinking about work. It keeps it from thinking of anything negative. I love color. I love texture.
She finds time in her busy schedule to do something creative every single day.
“So, I started making art out of old jewelry or old whatever,” she said. “I had old earrings. My mom gave me earrings that were my grandma’s that I would never wear — costume jewelry. They were cool, but they were things I would never wear, so I started making things.”
There were other sources of inspiration, as well.
“I was at Sarah’s Cupboard and I saw more and I had done a party for my daughter once,” she said. “It was a dress-up party with costume jewelry and I just started incorporating that.”
Originally made as gifts, Abalan now has an Etsy shop called GrandloveTreasures and would like to expand her business into personal creations for individuals who have jewelry they would like preserved into a work of art.
“I want people to come to me and say, ‘My grandma left me with all this jewelry. I’m never going to wear it, can you make something out of it, so I can remember her by, to hang in my house,’ ” the artist said.
One idea, percolating, is to make brooch collages in the shape of bouquets. She knows that adding brooches to bridal bouquets is popular and she envisions taking those pins, following the wedding, and creating an everlasting memento for brides.
Abalan’s mother, Barb Abalan, was the recipient of one of her daughter’s very first brooch collages, created from family heirlooms. The brooches, once worn by Barb Abalan’s mother and grandmother, now are forever preserved and hanging in her Portland, Ore. bedroom.
“My grandmother was a knitter and so she used to wear these beautiful knit suits and she always had brooches on when we would go over for holidays, and even just go over there during the day,” she said. “I think she cleaned her house in those things.”
This was in the early 1950s, when brooches were a real fashion statement and now Barb Abalan can reminisce through the collage.
“It brings back so many amazing memories,” she said. “I loved being with my grandmother. “I think of the wonderful memories that we had. I would sit at the bottom of her chair while she would be crocheting. It’s just such a wonderful piece of history.”
This is exactly the sentiment Abalan is hoping for when people see her artwork.
“It’s taking something old, and maybe not as aesthetically pleasing, and putting it into a new piece of art that has a new story,” she said. “Every brooch has a story.”
Information from: New Haven Register, http://www.nhregister.com