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What’s in a clip-on earring

From an antique menagerie, an artist crafts a conduit to the past

| 24 Jun 2024 | 03:49

Nostalgia is a difficult thing to articulate. It’s a mixture of pure happiness at recalling an event paired with a strange sadness that it can never happen again, because the world it took place in no longer exists. Overall though, I would describe it as a warmth of remembrance. Difficult as it is to describe, it’s far more difficult to evoke, as it’s tied to one’s memories, and those are hardly universal.

Yet that’s exactly what Janine Sedar conjures in her basement workshop. Here she takes old, often worn and patined jewelry items, dismantles them and creates something entirely new from their collected parts. Nostalgia plays a heavy role in her work, as most of what she sources for her endeavors are vintage and antique jewelry pieces, items that for many (myself included) spark memories of family and loved ones who may no longer be with us. For me, the colorful clip-on earrings she was arranging into a necklace immediately brought me back to when I was 8 years old, visiting my grandmother in Whippany, NJ, playing in her lawn where my mother once played, and how she always had a kettle of tea on the stove.

“I began in 2008 by selling antiques,” Sedar said of the origins of Jacobus Lane. But over time, the logistics of antique dealing became increasingly difficult. “I’ve always liked buttons, and eventually I thought I really should make something out of them,” she said. “And these earrings and pins, look at how amazing these are.”

She removed a clip-on earring from a necklace she was crafting. “Someone wove all these beads together by hand, this was long ago,” she said. “This wasn’t made by a machine.”

I could see Sedar’s appreciation for the unnamed, long-lost artist who assembled the earring in her hands. “I reuse every single part of the pieces I get.”

Even the name Jacobus Lane comes from Sedar’s childhood. “It was my grandparents’ old home address. We didn’t live far away and I was there all the time,” she recalled. Her website describes her grandparents’ home as a “wonderful place for family picnics and big hugs.... There was lots of love down on Jacobus Lane, but not a lot of money. Creating what you needed from what you had was a way of life.”

When asked to describe a piece for which she has a particular fondness, Sedar shared a story of a project rather than a singular piece.

“One time a woman came to me with a collection of her [departed] mother’s old clip-on earrings. She wanted to have something made from them, so I turned them into bracelets for the daughters... They ended up being Christmas presents.”

After she finished her story, it struck me how seemingly simple items like pins, buttons and earrings can hold a surprising power in them. When handled by someone like Sedar, who recognizes and celebrates this element, you end up with items that are worth far more than the sum of their parts and transcend pieces of jewelry. They are physical representations of beautiful memories we hold, as well as conduits for us to visit those times once again, if only for a moment.

You can find Sedar’s work at the Brick+Mortar Marketplace in Lafayette, NJ, the Goat’s Haul in Belvidere, NJ and the Jacobus Lane Etsy shop.