This month I’m introducing you to Tawny Reynolds, the owner, and designer behind Sundrop Jewelry.
These monthly features of other creative businesses are a way for all of us to get to know these wonderful businesses; it has been a long-time interest of mine to explore how other creative people make their way as professionals.
Introducing Tawny Reynolds and Sundrop Jewelry
Tawny Reynolds, I’m delighted to have you! I am as much taken by the process as I am by the jewelry, so let’s dive in and find out more. I think we have to go straight to What, then we’ll go back to Who after we sort out the What and Where.
A: “What” has to be my giant magnifying glass! It is about 20” by 30”, and it can focus sunshine to temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit on a good clear day. I melt either recycled bottles or stained glass (depending on the color) into dainty glass teardrops for my jewelry.
Technically, my magnifying glass is a fresnel lens – instead of a curved piece of solid glass, this lens is flat, with tiny grooves in concentric rings to focus the light. Fresnel lenses were first developed for lighthouses to disperse light from a small lamp. But, flip the lens around, and it focuses light instead of dispersing it.
As the day progresses and the sun moves across the sky, I have to constantly refocus the magnifying glass in order to keep a tightly focused hot spot that produces enough heat to melt glass. My lens stand pivots horizontally to follow the sun as it moves from east to west, and can also be tilted to keep the light in focus as the sun rises and lowers from morning to afternoon.
My glass-melting process is very zen. I usually make a large amount of one color at a time, so it is very calm, repetitious, and my mind can half-wander. Sitting outside under the magnifying glass, watching for the subtle signals that indicate the glass is starting to melt, repositioning for the drip and judging just the right moment to move the glass out of the light and let it cool, ready to begin again. Until a cloud comes along at the wrong moment and steals all my light!
That is not at all what I pictured, so thanks for the picture! This seems just too amazing. I admit I would be happy just knowing this, but let’s go onward.
Tawny Reynolds and Sundrop Jewelry, Children of Alaska
Q: Is there a place that is important to your work?
A: I was born and raised in Alaska, and Sundrop Jewelry was invented by my friend when he was a teenager growing up in a nearby town. Even though we didn’t start the business together until we were out of college and living “outside” (as Alaskans call the rest of the US), Alaska is still at the heart of who I am and what I do. My parents still live there, and we take my daughter to visit at least once a year.
Growing up in Alaska leaves an indelible mark of resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and love of the natural world. That love of nature shows through in my jewelry, both in the natural teardrop form that is at the center of my work, and in caring for the environment. Over the 13 years I’ve been making Sundrop Jewelry I’ve explored the environmental impact of my business, always working to improve. From melting glass with solar power to using recycled silver and glass, to the printing, packaging, shipping, and even web-hosting – wherever possible I try to tread lightly on the Earth.
Thanks for the light step, Tawny. I so appreciate when artists take that into account in their creating and their business. Just being mindful is a huge step to modifying our impact. That you have been able to make it part of your process and product is terrific.
Tawny Reynolds Creates for You
Q: Tell us a very important person to you being the business-owner you are today. This might be someone who has mentored you or whose work you have followed or someone who has guided you in some way.
A: Sally is my absolute favorite customer. Her love of big earrings and custom designs has inspired a number of my new designs over the last couple years, and she has consistently been the first to jump on any new design I add to my line of glass teardrop earrings – as long as it’s big! I launched four new collections last year – 28 new designs in all – and Sally’s requests were the direct precursors of a number of the designs.
I love working with Sally on her custom glass teardrop earrings. Some are based on one of my existing designs, while other pieces have emerged after a fair amount of back and forth adjustments to her original idea. Depending on the design, I either start with a rough sketch, or simply lay out the glass teardrops to mock up the earring design. Then I email her a photo to get her thoughts – too long, too short, too big, too small? With Sally, it’s never too big!
Plus, with comments like this, is it any wonder she’s my favorite customer?
“I receive more compliments on my cobalt Comet earrings. I’m wearing my diamond and sapphire ring, however, the Comet earrings is the only thing that gets noticed. People rave about the beautiful blue color. Then I tell them are they are made, and they are totally blown away!!” – Sally
Q: Please tell me what is going on in your business now, and any exciting projects you have going on or coming up.
A: I am inspired by colors, and I love the way translucent glass glows in the light. A new bottle color, a sheet of glass or millefiori rods in the glass shop – I want to try them all! And I am always excited when I find a bottle in a new color! Anyone who has fallen in love with sunlight through a stained glass window will recognize the same vibrant, glowing translucency in much of my jewelry. So many people are immediately attracted to the colors of recycled glass, even before realizing they were made from their favorite liquor bottles!
I’ve never met someone who, on hearing how my jewelry is made, didn’t say, “What?! You’re kidding!” I think the story appeals to the inner science geek in us all. Who can resist a chance to tell their friends, “Oh, these new earrings? They’re made from Skyy Vodka bottles melted with sunshine and a giant magnifying glass!”
Thanks Tawny! Sadly all the liquor I drink comes in clear bottles. But I think I’m going to be looking at wine bottle glass in a new way. I love that bead that is mixed colors that I saw on your website.
Find and Follow Tawny Reynolds and Sundrop Jewelry
Learn more about Tawny Reynolds and Sundrop Jewelry on her website: https://store.sundropjewelry.com/