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Artisans of Michigan: Designing steampunk jewelry

Apr 27, 2018

Heather Wright is showing samples of some of her work as designer for Scared Crow Steamworks.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

We like to hang out with people who make things by hand and then report back to you about their work. We call the series: Artisans of Michigan.

We visited Scared Crow Steamworks in Flint. Heather Wright is the designer of steampunk jewelry.

LG: What do you mean by steampunk?

HW: Steampunk is a movement that was started back in the 1980s. It has to do with sort of post-apocalyptic lifestyle if technology never really evolved and steam-driven driven things were here today.

LG: How does that translate to your jewelry?

HW: Well, I use a lot of antique clockworks, meaning gears, mostly brass, and parts of pocket watches and wrist watches, anything I can find that’s of a certain age. It has to be early 1900s and earlier than that.

LG: I have seen on Amazon bags full of steampunk type pieces that were stamped out in a plant in China. Why do you go to the trouble of finding these older pieces when you could do it for a lot less and probably most people wouldn’t even know the difference?

HW: I really want people to have a connection to the history of it. And, I think that it’s more unique because they’re more difficult to find many of, especially some of the pocket watches. They have dates on them from the people who repair them and I think that’s a real connection to history and I like that part of it.

LG: You’ve got on your bench here just a pile of gears and coils and pocket watch faces. How do you make jewelry out of this?

Heather Wright buys century-old pocket watch pieces and other material for her steampunk jewelry.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

HW: Well, I don’t really like to clean up too much. It’s kind of a mess here because it helps me think about what I want to make. I’ll change my gears many, many times. I’ll be working on five or six pieces at a time and it just helps me to think a little bit more about what I want to do.

LG: Is there anything unique about how you assemble these?

HW: I like to refer to myself as kind of an architect. I sort of like to build the piece and I never really glue until I feel like it looks finished. Then I’ll take a photograph of it with my phone. I’ll later assemble it with the glue. Sometimes it will change; sometimes it will stay the same.

LG: Who buys your jewelry?

HW: Oh, many people. I’m surprised sometimes at who’s interested in what I have. Some people have no idea what steampunk is. People of all ages, small kids, older adults, but everybody is really interested, men and women alike.

A Scared Crow Steamworks piece designed by Heather Wright.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

LG: How many pieces have you made?

HW: Oh, gosh. Probably over a thousand, maybe. I’ve been doing this since about 2014. So, I’ve sold quite a bit and made quite a bit and I hope to make more.