Category Archives: Behind the Jewelry

Bronze Turtle Guiding Word Pendant: a guest post

DaVine Jewelry, Turtle Guiding Word Pendant in Bronze Patina

Working with my clients to create sentimental custom pieces is one of the most enjoyable parts of my work. Not only do I get a creative challenge, it also offers up a new way for me to connect with clients and learn more about the meaningful parts in their lives. Recently I had the opportunity to work with Joanna Read, a friend of mine and an amazing artist (check out her work here!), and to create a pendant for her. She was kind enough to share the story behind it in her own words:

“The inspiration for commissioning this beautiful bronze turtle shell was sparked by a very special meeting of the minds that occurred right around the winter solstice. My dear friend and life coach Carole Ann Penney led a Choose Your Guiding Word workshop along with another lovely new friend, Patsy Culp. It was one of the most powerful days of the year for me; to reflect and share vulnerably with a thoughtful and sensitive group of women in a supportive environment, and to listen compassionately to others as they shared their hopes and intentions for the year to come. I already knew going into the workshop what my Guiding Word for the coming year needed to be, but the group discussion helped me realize the power in having a physical reminder of my word that I could carry close to my heart. It spawned the idea for this commission, and I couldn’t have been more excited to partner on this with Danielle, a fellow Lady Project member and dear friend.

My guiding word for this year is Listen – from an intuitive standpoint, as well as in how I relate to the external world. I’ve been working closely with animal symbology in my artwork, and for my physical reminder of the word, I wanted to choose an animal that represented this intention. The turtle immediately spoke to me on many levels:

“The turtle totem wisdom teaches us about walking our path in peace and sticking to it with determination and serenity. Slow moving on earth, yet also incredibly fast and agile in water, those who have the turtle as totem or spirit animal may be encouraged to take a break in their busy lives and look around or within themselves for more grounded, long-lasting solutions. Traditionally, the turtle is symbolic of the way of peace, whether it’s inviting us to cultivate peace of mind or a peaceful relationship with our environment. The turtle totem symbolizes our peaceful walk on this earth. It represents the path we take as we embark on our journey through life. In contrast to emotional or spiritual development occurring in bursts, the way of the turtle anchors our personal unfolding in a slow, more grounded series of steps and longer cycles of transformation.

The wisdom of the turtle totem teaches us about determination and staying strong despite obstacles or distractions. This animal encourages those who have it as totem to listen deeply to their guidance and trust their path no matter what.” (

I also wanted to be very intentional about the materials used. I learned that bronze as an alloy, when touched, can bring deep calmness and insight.

It’s been incredibly empowering, and even quite surprising at times, where my word has taken me so far this year. This sacred and lovingly crafted pendant has become a part of me, every day resting close to my heart, and I often place it at the top of my yoga mat during practice as a focal point for meditation.

Thank you so much for sharing your gift with the world, Danielle! I couldn’t be happier to carry this with me through life.”

-Joanna Read

DaVine Jewelry, Bronze Turtle Totem Pendant with Green Patina

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Behind the Jewelry: Sage Leaves and Metal Clay

The first time I ever heard about metal clay I was still in school at RISD, and I was really intrigued by it. Metal clay is basically very finely ground up particles of a metal (silver, bronze, copper, gold, steel, etc.) mixed up with an organic binding material and water to create a clay-like consistency. The pieces get fired in a kiln, and all that remains is the pure metal.

Metal Clay Silver Sage Leaf Pendant Complete

Sterling silver sage leaf pendant made using metal clay.

Although I majored in Jewelry and Metalsmithing, I took some elective classes in the Ceramics department. I was never very good at making pottery, but I did enjoy playing with the clay and creating small pendant-like objects and tiny sculptures that could be the focal point for a piece of jewelry. I tried my hand at using metal clay once during that period, but having no direction or guidance on using it, along with a lot of work for my classes, I gave up on metal clay for awhile.

Metal Clay Sage Leaf Pendant Construction

Sage leaves in sterling silver metal clay before construction into a pendant.

It wasn’t until around ten years later, when I found out that a sterling silver clay was now available (sterling being my metal of choice), that I decided to try experimenting with metal clay again. I had the time then to play around with techniques that were new to me, exploring a way to work in metal that was completely unlike the methods we learned in school. This opened up some new possibilities for me, and one day when I was weeding in my herb garden inspiration struck for what is now my favorite jewelry line in my work. I noticed the sturdiness and the deep texture of the veins in sage leaves, and realized how beautifully I could capture these details using metal clay, in a way that I couldn’t achieve in sheet metal.

Metal Clay Sage Leaf Pendant Before Firing

Sterling silver metal clay sage leaf pendant before firing.

I picked some leaves of different shapes and sizes, and made molds of them using polymer clay, excited to try out my new ideas. At first I created very simple pendants and earrings consisting of a single leaf hanging, but as I’ve learned more about working with the clay my sage leaf pieces have gotten more sculptural. I began playing around with layering the leaves, and adding stones, settings, and links. Once a metal clay piece is fired it can then be worked with using traditional metalsmithing techniques- soldering, forming, polishing, etc.

Metal Clay Sage Leaf Pendants Before and After Firing

A sterling silver metal clay sage leaf pendant after firing next to one before firing.

I love working with metal clay, it’s a perfect combination of two of my favorite mediums. It will never replace using traditional metalsmithing techniques for me (there’s nothing quite like the feel of sawing or filing through silver, or the excitement when the solder flows just the right way), but the metal clay is a wonderful addition to my work.

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Behind the Jewelry: Why Sage Leaves?

This is a question I get asked a lot at shows these days, especially now that my line of sage leaf jewelry has grown so much. The main reason is a bit more of a technical one. Out of all the leaves I have tried to work with, sage leaves have become my favorite for their amazing texture, their lovely form, their sturdiness, and the variety of shapes and sizes of leaves that can be found growing in one plant.

Sage Leaves

The plant that I harvest the majority of my sage leaves for jewelry from is one that I actually started from seed years ago and has now become the main focus in my backyard organic herb garden. It took about 2 years before my plant was established and happy enough to start flowering, and now it decorates my garden with tall stalks of lavender colored flowers twice a season. I love this plant, and if I ever move I’m going to have to carefully dig it up and transport it because I can’t imagine leaving it behind!

Sage Leaves 2

I first started growing it for it’s culinary uses, and had no idea at the time that it would play such an important part in my jewelry years later. As I’ve learned more about sage, I’ve found that it has a rich and interesting history, and has been used in many different cultures for ages. It has many medicinal uses for both physical and spiritual health, it signifies wisdom, immortality, purification and cleansing, and healing. It’s name, Salvia, comes from the Latin word salvere, which means to save or to be in good health.

Sage Leaf

So, why sage? It’s beautiful, it tastes good, and it has earned itself some very interesting significance over the years.

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