Re-use, re-purpose, and upcycle your sense of style

By MIKE CHAIKEN
EDITIONS EDITOR
There’s something to be said for fashion that is nothing like what anyone else is wearing.
And what better way to create this unique fashion than to take everyday items, and redirect them for new use as something fun to wear.
That’s what Julia Sloan of Connecticut’s Brazen Betties does. Sloan, who used to own a brick and mortar boutique in Torrington that featured items created by other designers and crafters, has morphed her business so the spotlight is on herself.
And the key words for her creations are re-use, repurpose, and upcycle.
“I like the challenge of creating something new, unusual, and stylish from antique and vintage items,” said Sloan via an email when asked why she liked the process of repurposing objects and giving them new life as something wearable. “I really admire the workmanship and quality of old pieces and like to reinvent its intended use. I feel it’s a clever departure from using traditional materials like beads. You will see vintage keys, watch parts, drawer pulls, buttons, cabinet hardware and more upcycled into jewelry for men and women.”
The basis of her work started in more traditional terms, Sloan explained. “I went to school for fashion design and would one day love to start designing clothing.”
However, Sloan said, “When I had my shop (Brazen Betties), I was too busy to begin a clothing line but saw I had little bits of time where I could create smaller accessories and jewelry. I wasn’t 100 percent happy with the (accessories and jewelry) I was finding out there and I have always been committed to creating original designs you don’t see everyday.”
Sloan explained, “I started creating small Steampunk-inspired pieces because they were in demand with my customers. I would take apart a vintage watch to get to the movement. (But) throwing away the rest of the watch wasn’t an option for me; they have wonderful detail that you don’t see products have these days. I hung onto them because I knew I would figure out how to incorporate them into my designs one day.”
Asked about her creative process, Sloan said, “I love going to tag sales and flea markets to source my materials. I am very influenced by the actual piece I find, whether it be a vintage rhinestone button or a piece of cabinet hardware. I’ll look at the piece and brainstorm the design possibility, if I can marry it with another piece or if it can stand on its own as a piece of jewelry.”
As far as design influences, Sloan said, “I keep up with current trends but I also make my own. One of the questions I ask myself when designing is ‘Have I seen this before?’ I get a charge from knowing I’ve created something truly one-of-a-kind; that’s what drives me…being different and stylish.”
Sloan said she sees her customer as someone who “finds value in being unique and appreciates clever design. She is polished and put together in her own unique way; just like my jewelry. She is an individual that dictates her own direction; just like me and just like the pieces I find.”
Even if you’re not that kind of “woman,” Sloan said, her work still will hold appeal.
“Each piece is a conversation and I feel that’s why it appeals to a wide range of people; my pieces inspire folks that there is possibility and wonder in recreating. My pieces work with all styles of clothing but what makes my pieces truly work, is the wearer’s excitement in finding a piece of jewelry that delights them and has personality.”
Sloan said her pieces range in price from $5 to $85. Her pieces are available at Hardcore Sweet Cupcakes, 20 Main St., Oakville, (860)417-6660, hardcoresweetcupcakes.com; or The Arts Desire, 41 Main St., Torrington, (860) 618-0431, theartsdesire@yahoo.com.
Sloan also sells her work at assorted events across the state. On Nov. 23, she will be at Vintanthromodern, State Street, New Haven; Nov. 29-30, she will be at Winterfest at Bushnell Park, Hartford; Nov. 29-30, she also will be at State of Makers at Waterbury City Hall, Waterbury; Dec. 4, she will be at Funky Monkey in Cheshire; Dec. 6, she will be at The Arts Desire in Torrington; on Dec. 7, she will be at Yelp Holiday Market at the New Britain Museum of American Art; on Dec. 13, she will be at Vintanthromodern; on Dec. 14, she will be at the Collinsville Charity Craft Fair in Collinsville.
For additional information, go to www. facebook.com/ brazenbetties; http:// instagram.cobrazen_betties;  twitter.com/brazenbetties;  http://www.pinterest.com/brazenbetties.

Photos by Mike Chaiken

Necklace made from vintage drawer pull and cabinet hardware $65. Bracelets made from vintage watches. Unicorn $40 each. Flower $25.

Necklace made from vintage drawer pull and cabinet hardware $65. Bracelets made from vintage watches. Unicorn $40 each. Flower $25.

Brooke Cyr of Bristol wears a necklace made from a vintage rhinestone button, vintage watch case, and leaf charm from Julia Sloan ($50).

Brooke Cyr of Bristol wears a necklace made from a vintage rhinestone button, vintage watch case, and leaf charm from Julia Sloan ($50).

Necklace made from vintage watch case $35. Ring made from vintage watch case $30

Necklace made from vintage watch case $35. Ring made from vintage watch case $30

Nut rings with vintage rhinestones in the center from Julia Sloan.

Nut rings with vintage rhinestones in the center from Julia Sloan.

Brooke Cyr of Bristol wears a necklace made from cabinet hardware, a vintage watch case, and a drawer pull from Julia Sloan. ($75).

Brooke Cyr of Bristol wears a necklace made from cabinet hardware, a vintage watch case, and a drawer pull from Julia Sloan. ($75).