About five years ago Karin Collins started art therapy for an eating disorder that had plagued her for most of her adult life. As part of her treatment, she took vintage buttons, Eiffel Tower pins, tiny dried flowers, little plastic dinosaurs and anything else she could get her hands on and sealed the little treasures forever, like flies trapped in amber, in spoons using liquid resin. It was a painstaking process — each layer would take up to two days to dry. But once the resin had hardened, she would cut off the handle and be left with something most people had never seen before — a spoon pendant.
At the time, she didn’t make the connection between her eating disorder and the unusual medium she had chosen to work in. Neither did she consider the significance of the food-and-beverage-inspired names she gave to her handmade designs — like “Grapejelly Dinosaur” and “Orange Pop Lipstick.” All she knew was, for some reason, making jewelry out of spoons was making her feel much, much better about life. “I’ve always had to deal with this compulsion to be detailed and perfect in some way,” she says. “I think that was part of the eating disorder. And it sounds a little crazy — but the spoons were a healthy way for me to be detailed.”
She started making more and more of the pendants, often wearing her creations out on the town. She was pleasantly surprised at the attention they got her — sometimes from the least likely of people; the guy behind the meat counter at the grocery store, or the guy at the airport. “When I told them it was made from a spoon, they would freak out.” Around the same time Collins started working with spoons, pretty much everything else in her life was being turned on its head. She was finally confronting her eating disorder (she doesn’t like to specify exactly what it was). She got divorced. She quit her job, a soul-destroying 9-to-5 gig she had had since graduating college. “I was a commercial-loan underwriter, and it was very stiff and very corporate — a “job” job. Honestly, if you’d told me at the time that a few years later I would be making spoon jewelry, I would have called you insane.” The biggest change was deciding to uproot and leave her hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, to start a new life in Los Angeles. She had no idea what she was actually going to do in L.A. — other than carry on making spoon jewelry.
She set up a studio in her new two-bedroom apartment in the Miracle Mile, ordered cases and cases of commercial spoonware and got to work, refining her process and switching to a new kind of resin, one used primarily in furniture making. “I wanted something really hard, something you could bang around without it getting damaged.” She went looking for even more weird and wonderful knickknacks to use in her designs. Things like guitar picks. Old cameos. Buttons, pins and rhinestones raided from her grandmother’s costume-jewelry collection. Pieces of wire bent into heart shapes. And little hedgehog buttons in primary reds, greens and blues.
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Collins launched her company, SpoonFed Art, and found herself increasingly busy, especially after a write-up in hipster bible Nylon. She started selling her pieces at Pull My Daisy and Silver Lake Shoes in Silver Lake, and in the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum shop. These days, she says, she devotes her time exclusively to making spoon art, and I believe it — there are more than 200 designs on her Web site alone, not counting the custom pieces she has been asked to create, like the one for the mother who wanted a locket-style pendant showcasing a picture of her little boy. She also makes smaller pieces using coffee spoons, which can be used as bracelet charms or hair accessories. “I imagine people will soon start showing up with locks of hair, which is ironic — one of my biggest hurdles in the production process is trying to keep any kind of fuzz or hair away from the spoons.
“It’s funny — whenever I tell people I make jewelry out of spoons they mainly look confused,” says Collins. “But they are sort of hard to explain until you see them.”
Does she consider her pendants art? “People are so bored of jewelry just being jewelry, you know? They want to look at it as a piece of pop art. So if that makes my spoons wearable art, then sure — count me in!” But more than being part of any trend, what really excites Collins is the notion that her story is somehow inspirational. “When I get feedback from women with eating disorders, that makes my day,” she says. “Or even if it is from someone who is stuck in a job they don’t like — it’s that kind of reaction that’s the real payoff for me.”
SpoonFed Art pendants are available at Silver Lake Shoes, 3822 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 663-7463; Pull My Daisy, 3908 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, (323) 663-0608, and online at www.spoonfedart.com.