By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
CAREY — Whether it’s a flower from her garden, a weed by the side of the road or a shell found on the beach, Susan Kuhlman is inspired by nature. So she preserves their beauty in handcrafted resin jewelry.
Kuhlman lives in rural Carey with her husband, Bryan, and youngest son, Cade. Three days a week, she works as a registered nurse in outpatient surgery at Marion General Hospital. Other times, she can be found creating pieces for her business called Nature’s Jewelry by Susan.
“Everything is nature-inspired,” she said. “When I first started, I was using stickers or different paper things (in resin). People like that as well, but I was drawn more toward just the natural things.”
Kuhlman uses all kinds of items from nature, including bees and the wings from monarch butterflies. (Everything passes naturally, she noted.)
“My husband, at first he was kind of not into it,” she said. “But now he finds butterflies along the road for me.”
And recently at a craft show, he saw a dead bumblebee and asked if she could use it.
“I’m like, ‘yes!” she laughed.
Kuhlman said she’s always been a crafty person, and began experimenting with resin jewelry a few years ago. When she found that she had more jewelry than she could use, she tried selling it at the urging of a friend.
“At first I wasn’t sure anyone would want to buy it, but I ended up doing a craft show and really surprised myself. And it was such a good feeling. You’re like, ‘People really like what I made,'” she said.
She has been in business two years and started an Etsy shop in 2018.
“I enjoy making affordable jewelry that brings back memories,” said Kuhlman. “Like people will come up, ‘Oh, I like this orange flower. My dad loved orange flowers.’ Or ‘Pansies were my mom’s favorite.’ And it brings back memories to them.”
The process starts by finding the items she wants to use and drying them. Some can be pressed and dried between the pages of a book, but the majority are done in a microwave oven between layers of tissue and paper towels, held down flat with a glass baking dish.
“Everything is a little different. Some you can’t do in a microwave. It just turns them brown,” she said. “But usually I try like 5 to 10 seconds at a time until I get it to where I want it.”
Kuhlman also uses small silica beads when she wants to maintain the three-dimensional shape of items like flowers and insects.
After drying, she starts working on the design. She often places the pieces in silicone molds and then pours on the liquid resin. The resin comes in two parts that have to be mixed together, said Kuhlman.
The resin gradually hardens and creates a solid plastic piece with a clear surface, although sometimes she adds acrylic paint to the resin to give it color. In beach scenes that contain tiny shells and grains of sand, for example, she often adds blue to a second layer of resin to resemble water.
“I like the beach,” she said. “So it’s like taking a mini vacation when I make them.”
Kuhlman creates a variety of wearable items, from bracelets and earrings to pendants and rings. For people who don’t wear jewelry, she also makes coasters, paperweights and keychains.
She said the process has taught her to be more patient.
“I was always kind of a hurry up and get it done kind of person, laid back but hurry up and get it done,” she said. “And this has taught me to slow down and enjoy things.”
In addition to Etsy and on her Facebook page, Kuhlman’s jewelry can be found at Greenbriar Florist and Catering in Carey and Shops at the Carriage House, a collaborative shop of artisans in Dayton. Prices start at $8 to $10.
Mascot jewelry featuring schools around Carey are available at Kurtz Family Store in Carey, while Findlay City Schools’ mascot jewelry can be found at Flag City Clothing.
Kuhlman does custom orders as well. One of her favorites, she said, is a necklace she created as a birthday gift for a women who was turning 90. It featured a picture of the woman and her husband that was taken 67 years earlier.
Even Kuhlman has pieces that are special to her.
“I’m sentimental, so my favorite one is probably mine and my husband’s thumbprints (in ink on paper), and then on the back are my kids’ fingerprints,” she said. “That’s probably my favorite. It’s like having a little memory with you.”
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