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LIVE IT!: How to turn junk into a fashion accessory

Rarely a day passes when Jen Anfinson isn’t designing and crafting bracelets, necklaces and other costume jewelry from unavailing bric-a-brac. (DAN BURDETT | LIVE IT! MAGAZINE)

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

It’s a cliché in the most banal sense.

But to Jen Anfinson, another person’s junk spells opportunity.

So much so, the craft room of her Hamptons-fashioned home on the shores of Lake Koronis near Paynesville is lined with jars and receptacles overflowing with what seems to be little more than unavailing bric-a-brac: blackened and corroded keys, glassless watch faces, nicked and chipped buttons and bottle caps, and wispy copper wire, each a small sampling.

“I’ve got a lot of stuff,” said Jen through a playful giggle, an unflailing feature of her sprightly personality.

And it’s this “stuff” that represents the tools of her trade as a freelance designer of steampunk jewelry, which takes root in turning discarded odds and ends into wearable accessories.

Rarely a day passes when Jen isn’t in her space designing and crafting bracelets, necklaces and other costume jewelry. Some pieces she maintains for her own collection, some she sells, and others she uses to teach the dozens of free DIY jewelry classes she conducts each year through the Great River Regional Library System, which includes the public libraries in Belgrade, Paynesville and St. Cloud.

“That’s the best part about all of this,” Jen said,

“ … being able to go into the libraries and teach others how to make something really interesting and nice out of something they may not ordinarily think about. I feel like I’m helping people learn how to create. I love that.”

Jen’s appreciation for knick knacks is intrinsic but grew while she worked at Buffalo Nickel, an antique market in the arts-driven community of Buffalo, 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis. Her fondness for jewelry partly derives from a period in which she was employed by Paffrath Jewelers in Willmar’s Kandi Mall.

“I just put the two together and it snowballed from there,” said Jen, who finds many of the pieces she uses for her jewelry at area flea markets and garage sales. “The possibilities are endless.”

During our interview, Jen invited Live it! into her craft room to offer a few simple steps to putting together a piece of jewelry, though she cautions a more intricate piece is often more time consuming.

Here’s what she had to say:

STEP 1: Select the items you want to use. For this piece, Jen has selected a gold chain, the face from a pocket watch and a faux crystal brooch to create an extended necklace. She also will use two o-rings — also known as a toric joint and commonly used as a mechanical gasket — and has cut a strip of copper wire about six inches in length.

STEP 2: Lay the items out in the shape you want the completed jewelry piece to resemble.

STEP 3: Jen has determined the watch face and faux crystal brooch will be the signature elements of the piece. She uses the copper wire to weave through the brooch in a cross pattern and attaches the wire to the back of the watch face.

STEP 4: Now the chain needs to be attached to the brooch. To accomplish this, Jen weaves the o-rings through the brooch and chain, and uses a needle-nose pliers to close the o-ring.

STEP 5: Jen checks to ensure all the pieces are connected and tightly woven by pulling slightly on the chain.

 STEP 6: Admire and wear your handiwork.

For more information on Jen Anfinson’s upcoming jewelry classes, visit the Great River Regional Library System’s website at and select the events option. You can also follow Jen on Facebook.

Dan Burdett is the lead writer for Live it! Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @danburdett1

Dan Burdett

Dan Burdett is the community content coordinator at the West Central Tribune. He has 13 years experience in print media, to include four years enlisted service in the United States Air Force. He has been an employee of Forum Communications since 2005, joining the company after spending two years as the managing editor of the Redwood Gazette and Livewire in Redwood Falls. Prior to his current position, Dan was the presentation editor at the Tribune.

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