You may know our amazing reporter Rachel from her piece “Concerning Pipe Weed: Simply tobacco, or something more?” that offered an in-depth look at an important aspect of hobbit life. Now, she has launched a Tolkien-inspired store on Etsy called Mathoms and Things, where you will find a wide variety of hand-made jewelry and other nick-knacks. Each object is made by Rachel with love and care, just as a crafty hobbit would take their time creating.
With items like her Hobbit Door Necklace, Rohan Horse Head Necklace, and Thror’s Map With Key Necklace, it’s going to be difficult to keep myself from buying out her entire shop! Whether you’re looking for something Tolkien-inspired or just plain fun, there is sure to be something there to strike your fancy.
I wanted to find out more about Rachel and her enthusiasm for creating these beautiful pieces, and she was kind enough to answer my questions.
How long have you been making jewelry?
I’ve been making jewelry seriously for about a year. I had always wanted to learn, so I read a bunch of tutorials online and I finally ventured out and started making my own things. I’ve always been interested in being “crafty”; when I was little, my mother made lots of crafts to sell and I wanted to be like her, so I spent a lot of time making pot holders, playing with the hot glue gun, weaving friendship bracelets, and making keychain animals from plastic beads. I guess you can say I’ve been making jewelry since I was a child, but I’ve only been working with “grown up” materials for a little over a year.
I really wanted to buy something pretty and Tolkien related that I could wear every day. Something that would show my appreciation for his works, but wouldn’t look too childish or out of place. I looked all over the internet, and it seemed like the only real options were to purchase Lord of the Rings prop replica jewelry or to buy from sites like Etsy. The prop replicas are nice, but out of my budget, and I had a hard time finding jewelry that was really what I wanted. So I thought I might as well make my own so it would be exactly what I was picturing in my mind.
I didn’t initially think I would sell my jewelry to anyone. Mostly, I gave pieces I made to my family and to friends. I was always apprehensive about selling any jewelry I made, because let’s face it–your mom loves anything you make for her, no matter what. But then I started posting pictures of jewelry I was creating, especially Tolkien themed items online, and my work got a lot of positive reception. A lot of my followers on Tumblr expressed interest in what I was making, and I kept getting asked if I had an online store. I finally decided to make my items available to buy because of that reason. I wanted to share the joy I felt creating the pieces with other people.
Can you explain a bit of your creative process from idea conception to the final product?
All of my ideas start out with inspiration. I get inspired by others, I get inspired by things I see around me, I get inspired from films, books, and television shows. All creative process must start with inspiration. Very rarely do you sit down and just get inspired. Sometimes inspiration comes in the middle of the night or in the middle of the city–you can’t pick and choose when you’re going to be struck with an idea. I have a little sketchbook that I carry around, and I sketch a small thumbnail of what the finished piece will look like. Once I have a design, I look online to find tutorials of techniques for executing exactly what I see in mind. I’m completely self-taught, so if I want to make something with wire wrapping, I look at a bunch of different sources to learn what the basic tools and materials I would need are, and I learn as much as I can so that I can take the techniques and make something unique with them. Once I know what I will need, next to my thumbnail sketch of my design, I break down the materials to complete the project. I take inventory of what supplies I have on hand and then I make a shopping list. Once I’ve got all my materials in one place, I can spend hours creating different jewelry and trying new things.
I love to work with polymer clay; it’s so much fun–you can create anything you want if you have a little patience. I also love to work with resin. But that is a hard material to work with, and I’m still trying to master it. There is something so addicting to being able to put things inside resin, like a dried flower for example, because you know it will last forever, for longer than your own lifetime. It’s amazing.
It is so hard for me to part with my jewelry sometimes. Especially when I’ve been experimenting and I make something new; sometimes I just want to keep everything I make. In high school, there was this town-wide art show that the students were invited to participate in. A lot of my classmates had their art for sale and sold pieces, but on everything I had on display I had “not for sale” on the little tags. I remember my dad asking me why I didn’t want to sell anything, and I wasn’t even sure why. It’s not like I have that art on display in my house or anything, but it’s almost as if the things I create are a part of me. It’s been really hard learning to let things go!
There are a couple pieces that are my favorites. They’re both resin pieces and they’re too special to me to sell. The first is a necklace inspired by the Arkenstone from The Hobbit. It was the first one I made like it and I can’t stop looking at it. I just think it’s so beautiful and it’s so much like what I pictured the Arkenstone would look like when I read The Hobbit for the first time when I was a little girl.
The second piece that is my favorite was something I meant to sell, but decided I couldn’t part with. A lot of jewelry I make starts by picking flowers from my yard and then trying them to encase in resin. I picked one particular flower from a kerria bush, which had been something my grandmother planted. My grandfather built our house back in the late 1940s, and my grandmother had lots of flowers that she planted. The kerria bush had died off, but my dad found a sprout from it in the woods on the edge of our yard a couple years ago and planted it up in our front yard. So the pendant I made with the kerria flower is really special to me because it’s something from my grandmother. It might be my most favorite piece of jewelry out of anything I’ve ever made or bought.
Do you ever plan on branching out to things like cufflinks, belt buckles, or even non-jewelry items?
I definitely plan to branch out. I’m not sure about belt buckles, but I do have some sketches for tie tacks. I see a lot of people making “geeky” cufflinks, but I think tie tacks are classy and you can never have too many.
I recently added a small needlepoint pillow to my shop. That is a bit of a harbinger of things to come. Aside from making jewelry, I love to knit and do needlepoint. My intent for the shop is to sell a lot of fun, hand-crafted trinkets and jewelry. I also plan to branch out a bit from just Tolkien inspired jewelry and create pieces inspired by other “obsessions” in my life.
My dream is for Mathoms and Things to be the kind of shop where you can go and buy charming “geeky” things. Everything I plan to sell are things that I would want in my own house. Items, that aren’t overtly geeky but could blend in with charming décor. For example, on my bed I have a “country cottage” style floral quilt, a lacy throw pillow, and a small cross stitch Doctor Who themed cushion. While sometimes I like to “make a statement,” I tend not to scream “look at me I’m a fan of this thing!!!” in my day to day life. I prefer things that express my devotion in a subtle ways, something you could easily put on your couch in the living room. Eventually I want to branch out and make everything from quilts to scarves. I just love creating and I want to share it with the world.
I guess I have a range of “hobbity” activities I enjoy. A lot of them are more like housewife hobbit activties – like baking (especially pie), knitting, painting, and embroidery. But like all hobbits, I love and have a deep appreciation for nature. I love to hike and sketch things that I see (like Bilbo). It’s so wonderful to get lost and lay down in a clearing somewhere, to have a picnic and see what animals will turn up or what plants you will see or birds you can hear. I like to hike and kayak too, but I think average hobbits would find such activities too outlandish and disapprove of me.
If you could spend one day as a hobbit in the Shire, how would you choose to spend it?
Oh my goodness, I could talk forever about this. Since I do a lot of “hobbity” activities in my day to day life anyway, I definitely wouldn’t want to spend my day inside knitting–unless I was in Bag End listening to one of Bilbo’s stories as I knit, then I wouldn’t mind.
I would really love to sample some of that famous Shire comfort. Maybe I would stop in at the Golden Perch or the Green Dragon and order one of everything on the menu. I’d pack a picnic and take a long stroll out to somewhere beautiful: perhaps, the gardens at Bag End or the Bywater Pool or the hills of Great Smials (they must have a spectacular view). Wherever I end up, I want it to be beautiful (which isn’t hard in the Shire).
I would sit under a shady tree, eat good food, and watch everything go on around me. I would watch the hobbits coming and going, I’d watch the sun go down and the moon come up. There would be fireflies, the scent of Old Toby on the air, and perhaps faint music carried on the breeze. It would be lovely and peaceful.
This day would be a million times better if I could have Pippin with me though – just saying. He’s my ultimate favorite Lord of the Rings character and there’s no telling what fun we would have on this picnic.
Make sure to head over to Rachel’s shop, Mathoms and Things, on Etsy! Every item is hand-crafted, meaning you are the only person in the entire world to own anything like it!