Joan Therese Seivert's necklace a large heart shape covered in tiny pieces of sparkly jewelry attached to a bolo tie looks homemade.
And it is. It comes with a heartfelt story.
Her sister made it for her before Seivert left her hometown of St. Paul, Minn., 35 years ago to live in Denver. All those little sparkly bits were culled from the jewelry passed down by her grandmother.
"It's Grandma. It's my sister. It's my path of service. It's my work. It's my faith. It's my way of taking care of myself. It's a way of showing up. It's a reminder," said Seivert, who helps families navigate senior-living choices through her company, Connections Unlimited. Clients, often unfamiliar with elder-care options, start out worried and stressed. Seivert wears the necklace to remind herself to work from her heart, and to signal that message to others.
Many of us collect or end up with old family knickknacks sewing notions, keys, jewelry, handkerchiefs, buttons, all manner of little, ancient doodads.
Often, we don't know what to do with them. What are these thingamabobs anyhow? What's it made from? Should I cherish it? Toss it? How might I use it?
Some, like Seivert's sister, know exactly what to do with the jars full of keepsakes and the drawers stuffed with thingamajigs.
Take Giuseppina "Josie" Cirincione of Phoenix, who teaches community art classes and has written several crafting books, including "Collage Lost and Found." It shares ideas for making collages and jewelry with old photographs, memorabilia and vintage ephemera.
For Cirincione, creating begins with collecting. She collects a lot of old things, from wooden dry cleaner hangers and yardsticks to kitchen and woodworking tools. Cookie cutters. Brass keys. Ice picks. Handwritten letters and envelopes. Vel-veeta cheese boxes (they're wooden and tout "the delicious cheese food" in vintage lettering).
That's only a slice of her collection, and Cirincione puts it all to good use, eventually.
"I've always been drawn to anything old, drawn to that unique thing," Cirincione said.
For the rest of us, who simply want to make a little something special with a family member's memorabilia, Cirincione recommended making a two-dimensional collage or three-dimensional assemblage but handle your treasures carefully.
"It's a challenge, using Grandmother's things," she said. "You don't want to drill through it or ruin it. You have to figure how to use the found object piece without altering the piece itself."
This nod to preservation led Cirincione to wire-wrapping and metal-soldering. She recommended using baling wire an all-around, "fix-it" wire used to mend farm fences stripped of its outer coating, which reveals a gun-metal gray wire.
"It lends itself more to a vintage, found-object kind of look," Cirincione said.
Combine memorabilia in a display box this is why Cirincione collects the Velveeta boxes incorporating disparate items and textures for added interest.
For jewelry making, have a small drill (with a 1/16-inch drill bit) and pliers on hand. Pick up some jewelry fasteners and eyelets. Cirincione solders pendants, incorporating buttons, small shells and photocopied images atop colorful scrapbook paper or snipped pages from discarded, vintage books.
Alisa Hopper of Roseville, Calif., makes salvaging Grandmother's jewelry even easier: You can mail costume jewelry to her and she'll refashion it into a modern, wearable piece. See her creations at All Things Tinsel, her shop at (Etsy.com).
Hopper says a lot of her clients are brides who want to wear that "something old" in a new way. Pieces range from $50 to $300, depending on how much of her own stock she has to use. Hopper sends photos of her creations to clients before mailing the finished pieces.
"They have to love it," she said.
Also for brides, but not exclusively so, Jen Rose Diehl of Columbus, Ohio, creates bouquets out of vintage brooches. Her work is available at The Ritzy Rose at (Etsy.com).
Diehl began with her own bouquet for her wedding last year.
"I had so much fun making it," Diehl said. "I laugh now. It took months. Now it takes days."
Each bouquet requires a lot of brooches. They need to overlap so the foam ball underneath doesn't show. Diehl wires each brooch and sticks the wires all the way through the ball. The wires become the bouquet's stems.
And when they're done, they can even be displayed in a vase.