I fell into making fordite jewellery almost by accident. I bought a piece completely on a whim at a bead fair in Perth, Scotland last year. It was only going to be a one off. However, I seem to have become obsessed with the stuff………..that and buying old Ford matchbox cars from eBay to use as props.
There didn’t seem to be that many jewellers working with fordite, and of those, most were in America. How could I make mine different whilst still remaining true to the style I had developed over the last few years?
Hmmmmmmmmmm. Thinking head on!
Out came 4 years worth of college sketchbooks.
I had always loved working with gemstones and a lot of my projects reflected this. Although my first few fordite jewellery pieces were quite basic in style I’ve now started to experiment with combining it with the likes of rubies, sapphires and blue topaz in strong geometric settings. I pinpoint a particular colour in the fordite and then search for the perfect gemstone to compliment it.
But Whoah! Maybe I need to rewind. What is this fordite stuff?
Well. Its car paint. Ok. There’s more to it than that.
Now this is the bit that will get me into trouble with the Fordite Police if I don’t get it right!
This is an abbreviated version. Fordite is made up of hundreds of layers of old auto paint from the Ford plants in Dagenham in the UK and various other auto plants right across the USA. The paint accumulated on the racks that carried the car parts through the assembly line to be sprayed, each layer was then baked. When the over spray became too cumbersome workers would remove it & send it to the land fill or squirrel it away! When cut and polished it produces some fantastic agate like banding and psychedelic swirls which has earned it the other name of Detroit Agate.
But I’m no lapidary artist so how does that rough material become beautiful cabochons? Take a bow Susan Kershaw of https://www.facebook.com/ForditeCabochons
Now, I’ve never actually met Sue as I’m in the central belt of Scotland and Sue’s in Cornwall but we speak (sort of) most days. Generally about bacon butties and other such stuff but she is my go to lady when I’m in need of treasure these days.
A majority of the cabochons that Sue cuts wind there way back to America which only seems fair seeing as that’s where the rough material has been sourced from. It’s hardly surprising then that most of the fordite jewellery that I’ve sold has also gone over the pond.
Although I have my own website, I’m glad I listened to advice saying it would be best to sell my fordite jewellery on Etsy. There’s just not that many people in the UK who’ve heard of fordite yet. https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/KirstyMuirJewellery
But what about the Dagenham fordite?
The problem is that there is so little of the Dagenham fordite left and what there is can be a bit on the brittle side. This does not bode well for folks like me who like to wield heavy tools. My motto is usually – if in doubt hit it with your hammer. It does look amazing though, with its bright psychedelic patterns, and if the right piece was to come along I would snap it up in a heart beat.
Everyone loves a good story. Usually customers see the matchbox cars first and are then drawn to my written explanation. You can actually see their eyes widen in disbelief as they look at the jewellery and beckon their friends and family over to pass on what they’ve learnt.
The main reason I love working with fordite is that I can play. There are no rules to follow. I don’t have to stick to repeat pieces which feature in my other ranges. Every piece of fordite is different from the colour and pattern to the shape and size so every piece of jewellery is truly unique.
Special thanks to Susan Kershaw for info and the Assembly Line and Rough Material images.