Jennifer Merchant Makes Jewelry By Ripping Apart Magazines and Books

Image of myself

The walls in Jennifer Merchant’s studio are covered in glossy sheets torn from magazines.

She has an entire bookshelf stocked with magazines—anything from Vogue to imported magazines she finds at Barnes & Noble—and she keeps several binders (and a few bins) filled with images she’s pulled out. “I rip out anything I can’t look away from,” Merchant said.

What does she do with all these sheets? She turns them into jewelry.

First, Merchant layers together acrylic sheets and magazine cutouts. Next, she cuts out the rough shape of a bracelet or ring with a scroll saw. Then it’s time to sand the piece by hand until it shines.

“I think jewelry makes you a lot more patient because you have to sit there and sand it,” Merchant said. “You’re taking things away a little at a time, and you can look at things from all angles.”

Merchant started making jewelry in high school. She initially trained in casting and metalsmithing. But after college, she didn’t have the right tools to work in metal. Instead, she turned to alternative materials, such as acrylic and corian, which she could carve without too many specialized tools.

Lately, the jewelry artist has been taking her inspirational cues from the stars, satellite images of Earth and art—whether it’s modern, Pop Art or classics from the old masters. She’s also ripping apart more than just magazines.

“Books have kind of been a new discovery. I feel kind of terrible ripping them up, but often these things just sit on our shelves,” Merchant said. “I try to look through them a few times first.”

But then, like all the magazines on her books shelf, the images and patterns get torn out and filed away until Merchant transforms them into a necklace or ring.