For the past 15 years, Jill and Bob Stillwell have made jewelry.
It began with her grandmother’s button box, which contained buttons so pretty that didn’t want to hide them away in a drawer.
Starting with brooches, Jill Stillwell later enlisted her husband in bending and cutting old silverware to create up-cycled jewelry. Together, they make bracelets, necklaces, earrings and rings, all using recycled materials.
The couple, who have been married for 23 years, share a passion for recycling. They came from a generation “where you didn’t waste everything,” Bob Stillwell said.
“Not like they do now,” Jill Stillwell said. “Everything wasn’t so disposable.”
True to their philosophy, Bob Stillwell created a bending jig using recycled sockets from a tool set, strap steel and bolts from the feet of a washing machine.
He uses a Dremel and other drills, he bores holes into the old silverware and cuts spoons into pieces for dangling earrings.
Using an epoxy, Jill Stillwell affixes pieces of costume jewelry to the bent silverware, creating memorable jewelry that’s made completely of recycled pieces.
How long have you been making jewelry?
Jill: I started making brooches. I went to the first couple of Deja Vus (a craft and art show that takes place in Columbus and features art made of recycled materials), and I decided to start making bracelets. I guess it was Marilyn (Brackney, the organizer of Déjà Vu) who gave us the idea about using spoons and silverware. I knew I couldn’t bend them myself, so I enlisted the help of my husband.
Tell us about your process.
Jill: Normally we start out with the silverware. We look every place — Goodwill, garage sales, any place where you might get silverware, or pieces and parts of things. Then I start looking for mostly costume jewelry. Once you start doing something like this, people will say, “Oh, I’ve got a whole box of stuff like that belonged to my grandmother.” I’ll take anything — and in exchange I’ll make you something out of some of it.
Bob: She gives me the spoons, and I’ll make the bends and the cuts and the holes. Spoons can be of different metal compositions. You can have some that are brass and some that are stainless or some that are silver plated. Stainless steel is much harder to bend. I had to come up with a fixture with which to make the bends — it just was a way for me to get a smooth bend.
Jill: Then I attach pieces to the silverware. I use an epoxy.
Why is recycling something you do?
Bob: Jill and I have always tried to make something out of nothing.
Jill: That’s why we like Déjà Vu so much — it’s all recycled stuff. That really appeals to the both of us. Otherwise, this costume jewelry, nobody is ever going to use it. So if we can take these things and make something unique out of them that people want to wear and enjoy wearing, why then, I just feel really good about that. It’s been reused. It’s that simple.
What inspires you?
Jill: I look around to see what people are wearing. I see what’s in stores. A friend came to the house, and she had something on from, I don’t know, I think from Silpada. And I thought, “I can do this.” Heaven knows I’ve got plenty of pieces and parts. I like things with a little bit of bling in them. Ever since I was a little kid, if it sparkles, I’m attracted to it.
Bob: Some things turn out and some things don’t. We just kind of come up with the idea to try this, or if I say, let’s try this, we come up with a way to use as much of it as we can. When I go to the trash every week, I’m recycling more than I throw away. If we can’t use a piece of a spoon, we recycle the metal. We recycle everything.
Why is recycling so important?
Bob: As a human race, we’re doing enough to (damage) this world.