Nicky Ruxton has a knack to take trash and turn it into treasure.
The petite peppered-hair Mountain View resident goes to flea markets to find just the right pieces of metal, whether in unwanted jewelry or former electronics. Then she heads to FabMo, the used textile distributor on 2423 Old Middlefield Way, to get free scraps of discarded designer fabric.
The creative process then overcomes her.
"When I'm preparing jewelry, I get lost in it," said Ruxton, 58. "But this is my passion. You forget to eat, you don't take a shower. My house looks like a bomb went off."
This weekend Ruxton will showcase her work at the Celebration of Craftswomen show in San Francisco—her first major craft show as a jewelry designer. In fact, Ruxton started to make jewelry a year ago October 2010, one year after she lost her job.
"I've been unemployed for two years and it's painful, especially when you are not a technology person," she said about the lack of opportunities in Silicon Valley for artists.
But Ruxton, who moved to California from New Jersey in 1978, decided to repurpose her skills and reinvent herself. A graphic and mixed media artist who's studied calligraphy, book and printmaking, collage and typography among other things, now repurposes junk.
"I can make almost anything work," she said about items like flat metal washers, springs, even an electrolytic capacitor. "If I'm looking at a pile of crap, I know what works and what doesn't. It's an intuitive sense."
Now she has several collections. In her "industrial line," Ruxton constructs soft and light-weight bracelets of threaded charcoal felt and light organza fabric and uses them to hold the metal objects. She likes that the kinetic aspect of the design.
She's also expanded on the idea and made "wristwraps," a three fabric bracelet that snaps to showoff a large eye-catching piece. Ruxton shared that she loves the peek-a-boo interior, which reminds her of the intrigue and sexiness of lingerie.
"It was important to find a way to create something with a visual look and the same quality impact," she said. "The combinations are endless."
Endless possibly. Ruxton has made rings, earrings and necklaces all from the mundane, and sometimes unique things she finds. She thoroughly enjoys the "green" element of her work too.
"Sometimes I find something, dismantle it and repurpose it," she said, adding that at flea markets she'll find unique pieces that she enjoys taking apart and making something one-of-a-kind from. "That's part of the thrill."
Ruxton continues to look for a job and attends programs in Sunnyvale at the NOVA workplace development center, but in the meanswhile hopes her jewelry–which sells between $45 and $120–speaks to the women who do have some disposable income.
"You might have a straight-edge job or be a soccer mom, but jewelry is that one thing you wear to make a statement," she said. "This is for the creative aspect in every woman. For the little bit of rebel in every one of us."