Artist Spotlight: nature’s allure captured in jewelry

MountainLust began as a hobby to keep Taryn Rhodes busy while her daughters napped, but it has since evolved into a successful business. Using aluminum, brass and dried flowers, Rhodes has created a jewelry line of romantic, whimsical bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings. Above, Rhodes is wearing one of her most popular products – a necklace from her "Mama Bird" collection.
MountainLust began as a hobby to keep Taryn Rhodes busy while her daughters napped, but it has since evolved into a successful business. Using aluminum, brass and dried flowers, Rhodes has created a jewelry line of romantic, whimsical bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings. Above, Rhodes is wearing one of her most popular products – a necklace from her “Mama Bird” collection. C. D. Moore photo

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

The mountains are calling,
and I must go. — John Muir

Wanderlust is defined as “a strong desire for or impulse to wander; to travel and explore the world,” and it was that very idea – of being pulled toward nature – that led to the creation of MountainLust, a romantic and whimsical line of jewelry, handmade by Arbovale-transplant Taryn Rhodes.

“I’ve always loved the mountains,” Rhodes explained, “and rural places where people can just go and get away for a little while. Nature is a place where a person can gather oneself, and I’ve always felt that pull – the need to be outside and to get up and go.”

Rhodes has felt the pull of wanderlust, and because of that she has rooted her line of botanical- and feather-based bracelets, earrings, necklaces and rings in nature.

When it comes to creating her jewelry, Rhodes employs different techniques depending upon the piece of jewelry she’s creating. For her metal-based pieces, Rhodes begins by cutting the metal to the desired shape and uses sand paper – purchased in bundles from Trent’s – to sand the edges. A tumbler – filled with little pieces of metal – is then used to smooth the entire piece.

Two different types of metal – aluminum and brass – are used when making her metal pieces, and Rhodes chooses her metals based upon what holds up well and is easy to wear, but also allows her customers a variety to choose from.

Aluminum is a lightweight, non-tarnishable metal that, unlike sterling silver, does not cause allergic reactions among its wearers. Additionally, aluminum is a less expensive option than sterling silver, and because Rhodes uses a food- and surgical-grade aluminum, she is able to create quality pieces of jewelry and sell them at lower, more affordable prices.

Brass, on the other hand, does tarnish, but for Rhodes, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

“I seal each piece with wax,” she said, “but that doesn’t stop the copper alloy from tarnishing over time. It’s beautiful when it tarnishes because, suddenly, you have these really pretty browns and turquoises to add character to your jewelry.”

Rhodes is well-aware that there are some who prefer untarnished pieces and advices them to use a jewelry buffer and polish to remove the tarnish.

Rhodes offers a variety of bracelets, earrings, knuckle rings and necklaces made from metal, but MountainLust’s more popular pieces come from the “Mama Bird” collection – a line of products featuring Rhodes’ signature metal-cut feathers.

“It [the Mama Bird collection] began after a woman came to me in search of a custom piece,” Rhodes explained. “Unfortunately, she had lost her baby, and she wanted an ‘angel’ feather to wear as a necklace. I just thought that was so beautiful. Mothers are so strong and so fierce, and I thought that that would be something women might like.”

Rhodes offers a collection of botanical-based necklaces, earrings and rings, as well.

Multiple steps must be taken when creating the floral baubles, and the first step of Rhodes’ process is to gather her flowers – and with the help of her family, friends and neighbors bringing over bouquet after bouquet of flowers they’ve gathered and pressed, Rhodes has built up a nice reservoir.

The next step is to dry the flowers. Depending on the bloom, Rhodes either hangs the flowers upside down or presses them in a book – a process that can take months for the flower to completely dry.

Rhodes utilizes the different technique because, according to her experience, some flowers press better than others. “Flat” flowers – such as daisies and daffodils – are perfect for pressing, while “round” blooms – like roses – are best dried upside-down.

“I’ve experimented with how to dry each flower over the years,” Rhodes added. “In some cases – when I had a lot of the same flower – I’d divide them, hang half up to dry, and press the other half just to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s been a lot of trial and error.”

Once the flowers are dried and ready to be made into jewelry, Rhodes mixes a resin solution. The solution is then poured into a mold with the flower and sets for 24 to 48 hours. When the resin has finished drying, Rhodes will sand the piece to rid it of any imperfections.

In the case of a necklace, a little bit of craft glue is used to attach the chain to the bauble. Another layer of resin is then added to secure the chain and ensure that it won’t come off if snagged or pulled in the wrong direction.

Rhodes’ interest in crafting began when she was just a child, and over the years, she has tinkered with a number of different hobbies. As she grew older, had children, and became a stay-at-home mom, Rhodes wanted something to do when she put her daughters down for a nap.

“Making jewelry just happened to be the one that took off,” she said. “I got to a point where I made jewelry for myself, to give to friends and family, and I still had pieces left over. Nature continued to inspire me, and women began approaching me through my online store in the hopes that I’d be able to make custom pieces.”

Rhodes and her family moved to Pocahontas County last summer, and she has been a member of the Green Bank Gallery since February.

A variety of Rhodes’s jewelry is currently on display at the Green Bank Gallery. For a more in-depth look at the accessories Rhodes has to offer, please visit mountainlust.com.

The Green Bank Gallery is located at along Rt. 28/92 and is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The gallery can be reached at 304-456-9900.

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