Thursday, November 19, 2015

“Sunshine in a drop of glass” with Tawny Reynolds of Sundrop Jewelry

I had reached out to Tawny Reynold of Sundrop Jewelry to ask if she would share with us her creative process. I am happy to report that SHE DID!  

Sundrop Jewelry is handmade from recycled bottles and stained glass, and melted with sunshine and a giant magnifying glass!  My magnifying glass (technically a fresnel lens, originally designed for lighthouses) measures 2.5 by 3.5 ft, which is about as big as they get.  The larger the lens, the more light can be concentrated, and mine can reach up to 3000 degrees fahrenheit - but only on a clear day!

The biggest difficulty with using focused sunshine is that my work is weather-dependent, and the temperatures fluctuate quite a bit.  Is the sun high or low in the sky?  Is the sky hazy or crystal clear?  And most important - what color glass am I working with?  Dark-colored and opaque glass will absorb all the light (converting it to heat) on one side of the glass, while the other side of the glass remains cold.  In contrast, light-colored translucent glass lets more of the light shine right through and does not heat up as much.  Clear glass won’t melt at all!
In addition, glass often changes color when melted, and it sometimes depends on exactly what temperature it was.  Red glass in particular can do very interesting things - I have tried red glass that ended up yellow or orange after it cooled down, or red with dark streaks!  I find the glass-melting process very zen.  Sitting outdoors working under the magnifying glass is calming and repetitious, as I watch for subtle signs indicating the glass is starting to melt, and judging the right moment to pull out of the hot spot.  Until a cloud comes along to block the sun…

Environmental impact
Concern for the environmental impact of Sundrop Jewelry has been a mainstay since the beginning.  Though my original partners left to form an environmental non-profit, our shared vision of sustainability and creative re-use continues.  I use recycled materials whenever possible, using reclaimed sterling silver findings, packaging with recycled content, and minimizing and recycling the inevitable business paperwork.  And, of course, using glass bottles otherwise destined for the trash or recycling bin!  Since the color palette of glass bottles is generally limited to blues, greens, and browns, I fill in the rest of the rainbow with stained glass.  

Love of glass
I grew up in Alaska, which still holds on to a bit of the old "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" motto.  That mentality really encourages learning to make your own... everything.  And to improvise as needed.  I took community classes with my mother when I was young, including stained glass, lost wax casting, pottery, paper mache, and more, and she was often working on some kind of project.  I did a little bit of everything, but only really got into working with glass as an adult.  

I am inspired by colors, and I love the way translucent glass glows in the light.  A new bottle color, a sheet of glass or millefiori rods in the glass shop - I want to try them all!  And I am always excited when I find a bottle in a new color! 

Pumpkin Orange Simple Earrings
My pieces have a bit of a bohemian feeling with the simplicity of the natural, free form droplet shape.  Anyone who has fallen in love with sunlight through a stained glass window will recognize the same vibrant, glowing translucency in much of my jewelry.  So many people are immediately attracted to the colors of recycled glass, even before realizing they were made from their favorite liquor bottles!  I’ve never met someone who, on hearing how my jewelry is made, didn’t say, “What?!  You’re kidding!”  I think the story appeals to the inner science geek in us all. Who can resist a chance to tell their friends, “Oh, these new earrings?  They’re made from Skyy Vodka bottles melted with sunshine and a giant magnifying glass!” 

Dusty Orchid Cameo Choker

Morning Glory Belly Ring

Find out more
My work can be found online in my shop,, and I occasionally sell at craft fairs in the Bay Area, but my largest market is wholesale.   I’m currently in 80 boutiques and science museum gift shops around the United States, including the Mauna Kea Observatory and MIT Museum.  I’m always looking for more shops that focus on earth friendly products!

Follow me on your favorite social media 
(Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter): @SundropJewelry

Here's Tawny in action !

Who would ever imagine that these delicate sundrops of color were created using such an interesting process? Seeing ALL that goes into each piece just makes these pieces that much more beautiful. Thank you Tawny for sharing with us!


  1. Thank you so much for reaching out and asking me to share!

  2. Very neat! I often see Sundrop's posts on Pinterest, but had no idea what went into the jewelry. Thanks Shelley!

  3. The glass is suspended with resilient woven filament that does not decay. RS Glass bottle