Growing up in Walla Walla, Washington, cicadas and other critters weren’t part of the landscape for Allison Camp, but they are now. An NC State graduate student studying environmental toxicology, Camp is drawn to protecting the environment and looking out for the little guy, by trade and by passion.
That little guy is now prominently displayed throughout Camp’s jewelry line, Ocelli Creations. Named after “eye spots” found on many insects (ocelli, or ocellus in singular form), Camp encapsulates everything from baby’s-breath flowers to moth wings in resin, to create pendant necklaces and earrings.
“I was inspired by the diversity of all of the little animals around me and I was trying to think of some way I could preserve them, turn them into art,” says Camp. “Beyond that I thought they looked cool, I had the ultimate goal of helping other people notice all of those little critters and animals that are interesting and have so many beautiful details about them. That was the dual inspiration.”
Camp, along with her friends Nicole Allard and Lexie Just, started with the cicada wings that are abundant, locally, in the summer. They experimented with different wings from various insects and parts of flowers, and the jewelry line grew from there.
“I was fascinated with the idea of capturing cicada wings in resin,” says Camp. “I was interested with playing around with how I could preserve them in some way, and that’s how I began.”
Resin casting is not an easy process, and preserving cicada wings, honeybees and shed snakeskin requires delicacy, to say the least. The resin takes time to prepare and multiple layers need to be applied. If Camp were to apply a layer each night, a typical piece could still take a week or more to preserve. And sometimes air bubbles get in the way.
“A lot of the resining is done freehand, so if you miscalculate the viscosity of the resin, it can spill over the edges,” Camp says. “That contributes to a large amount of our challenges. We can try to recoup some of these, but sometimes it’s just not possible and they end up in our own closets. And some pieces just get totally ruined in the process.”
So far, cicada wings and honeybees have been the most popular on Ocelli’s Etsy site and at local shows, but with Camp using only what she finds already deceased, her inventory can be limited. Because she refuses to order wings from butterfly farms, Camp can’t exactly make jewelry to order; she once found a lime green butterfly, for instance, and was able to make four pieces out of it, one from each wing.
But she doesn’t know when she may find something like that again, or even if she ever will.
“There’s just some aspect of being foraged and found that we subscribe to that keeps it in its most natural, most low-impact form,” says Camp. “Everything is very local. These are actually animals that you would find in the state, or in the Southeast. That’s fun, creatively too, to be like, ‘hey, we don’t know what we’re going to have.’ It makes everything a little bit more unique and special.”
With the goal of expanding upon her metalsmithing skills—Camp considers herself a newbie—and starting a blog focused on art, behind-the-scenes work, and promoting a lifestyle that encourages people to be a little gentler to the environment, Camp is optimistic about the future of Ocelli Creations. etsy.com/shop/OcelliCreations