DAWN JEHLE of WONKY WARRIORS
It is our pleasure to introduce you to Dawn and her inspirational journey into setting up her business 'Wonky Warriors' - Asymmetric Jewellery, in honour of women with breast cancer.
Dawn's approach to design and her jewellery making techniques is so very personal, yet speaks to so many. She has created something very special indeed and we would like to share her story...
I have been making jewellery for about 10 years, but Wonky Warriors was conceived in 2018 after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Wonkies jewellery is all in some way asymmetric, in honour of women with breast cancer, and 20% of the sales price goes to a cancer charity. My goal was to create something empowering that also recognised and commemorated the experience but without the pink and ribbons.
When I stumbled across Kintsugi last year, I knew immediately that was a perfect philosophy for my customers. The art of Kintsugi traces its history back to a late 15th century Japanese military leader (Ashikaga Yoshimasa), whose prized Chinese tea bowl had broken. He sent it back to China for repair but was saddened when it was returned fixed with metal staples. It is said that he then charged his own craftsmen to find a better way, and from this Kintsugi was born.
Using a special lacquer to effectively glue the pieces back together, they mixed and dusted this with powdered gold or silver, which highlighted the seams instead of masking them. This repair emphasises and embraces the scars as part of the object’s history. Showing that nothing is ever truly broken and that there is strength and beauty in imperfection. I fell in love with this idea immediately, and thus began a nearly one year experiment. I am not a jeweller, I am more of an ‘assembler’ of shiny pretty things, so Kintsugi posed quite the challenge for me.
First off, I tried to break gemstones and then glue them back together with a Kintsugi repair kit that you can find on the internet. Even after considerable practice this was a frustrating process that caused a lot of waste as not all the breaks were clean. So next I tried ceramics. My mum and I bought a few pieces from charity shops so that I could try a more traditional and less expensive approach. It turns out that ceramics and porcelain are not my friends. I even tried concrete from Jewellery Maker using moulds I had made with channels already incorporated within them to avoid the ‘breaking’ process. They worked well, but the colour choices were limited.
The Art of Kintsugi
When I was introduced to the Dremel Stylo, that allowed me to go back to the gemstones I had reluctantly turned away from. Carving channels into the stones so that I could fill them in with gold or silver enamel paint in a ‘Kintsugi inspired’ repair. I have been doing this for a couple months now, buying pendants already set in silver, carving them and filling them. Ultimately however, there is more choice if you can set your own cabochons. I really wanted to learn silversmithing, but with a full-time job, Wonkies, the lockdown etc, I could not really see any good options... until I saw Elizabeth Hunt demonstrating Argentium on Jewellery Maker. Stone setting was suddenly within my grasp - Argentium could be fused instead of soldered - not as much clean-up as standard sterling silver - a minimal amount of tools and space - and a great ‘remote’ tutor that made it look all so… dare I say it… easy!
I had loved the gallery wire look and after a little research found that you could buy Argentium gallery wire. So I decided to try that first, as it took away the need for a backing and bezel or creating a claw setting. The result is what you can see in the above image. Even my very first attempt at setting a cabochon with a fused jump ring looks so professional. I cannot even express how happy it made me to be able to make something so powerful and beautiful for my customers. I can’t wait to learn more Argentium stone setting skills so that I can expand my range into something truly unique for Wonky Warriors.
I am sure some people will be disappointed that the end product has not been broken and repaired using the traditional Kintsugi method. That is simply ‘in the style of’. But in the end, the message is the same...
"When you wear a Wonkies Kintsugi inspired piece of jewellery, it is an empowering reminder of your strength and beauty."
Asymmetric Wonkies in Argentium.
The Kintsugi philosophy of embracing your scars - whether they are physical, spiritual or mental, is a powerful and comforting symbol for people everywhere and I am very happy to be able to share with you my small part of it.