The Making of Artifacts

As an archaeologist, sometimes I can’t help musing about what items we use today will become artifacts that future archaeologists uncover. The artifacts we find when we dig up ancient sites largely fall into four categories: stone, bone, metal, and ceramic. The ceramic pieces are very rarely intact, with various vessels breaking into chunks under the pressure soil, seasons, and the long passage of time. We call these chunks “sherds” and we find tonnes of them.

But being archaeological artifacts, they stay hidden behind the scenes, analyzed by archaeologists and left out of the public eye unless they can be refitted into a near-complete vessel. The cracked and reformed pieces seen in museums are extraordinarily rare, and the orphaned sherds are extraordinarily common.

The sherds are beautiful, but inaccessible to anyone but archaeologists, even given their quantities. So when I received a broken shipment of the stone tiles I use to make my coasters, I was inspired.

A shipment of broken stone tiles.

To me, these looked like the long-lost cousins of the archaeological sherd. The jagged edges and organic shapes were so familiar. I was frustrated with the broken shipment, but the more I looked at the pieces, the more I could see an opportunity to do something that would be unethical to do with archaeological artifacts: make pendants.

Jillian cutting broken tiles into pendants.

I set to work with the tile saw. It would have been nice to leave the chunks as-is, but given the material, it would prove far too heavy to wear as a pendant. I trimmed the chunks down, leaving as much of the jagged edges as I could.

Closeup of tile trimming.

After being cut into various shapes and sizes, I put them into the heat press and hoped the images would turn out. They are so small compared to the size of tile I’m used to working with, I was worried that there would be a lack of detail in small images.

Whenever I put a new item into the heat press, opening it up is pretty much like Christmas morning for me. The anticipation as the press time counts down just leaves me pacing around, but then comes the unwrapping…

Artifact Pendants after heat pressing.

I have been so happy with these pieces and I’m so excited to share them on my Etsy shop and on my art table. I’m in love with each piece and I hope they’ll be well received. Of course, given their inspiration, I am calling the line Artifacts.

I’m off to get the next batch ready! Find them in my Etsy shop!

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