Once just science fiction and fantasy writing reminiscent of Jules Verne, the Steampunk genre now saturates many facets of life, such as music, fashion, design, and art. Frequently inspired by 19th-century industrial machinery, Steampunk is fundamentally described as modern technology that is steam-powered and takes place in the 1800s.
Mechanical gearwork taken from old discarded timepieces, and a love of all things vintage, is what drives June Druchunas to create magnificent Steampunk jewelry. “For as long as I can remember, I was always very visual and loved to decorate and be creative,” she said. “I have been in the jewelry industry since I was 16. After an unexpected layoff, I went back to school to take some art classes,” said Druchunas. “I had been in the jewelry and watch world my entire working life and didn’t really know what was going to happen next. I actually started making button bracelets for fun and it all just fell in place.”
With the preciseness of a watchmaker and the delicacy of an artist, Druchunas has taken discarded pieces of history and created beautiful pieces of art, sometimes remaking family treasures that are no longer functional into heirloom quality for the next generation. Her love of vintage has a major influence on her art. “I love antiques, but jewelry and watches have always been high on the list,” she said. “Being able to take a nonfunctional item and bring it back to life is really exciting for me. The beauty and details hidden on the old timepiece are revealed and displayed in my jewelry. I pay attention to the makers marking and serial numbers and incorporate them into the designs.”
Druchunas and her business partner Lois Wallace own the Victorian Magpie, a jewelry business specializing in transforming discarded vintage timepieces into jewelry. “Lois and I started designing steampunk jewelry because of our love for vintage items and watches. It was a natural course for two people who are passionate about antiques, jewelry, art, and watches,” she said. “We search for new materials everywhere. Personally, my favorite way to shop is rummaging at vintage and antique stores to find old, broken, and discarded treasures waiting to be transformed. The thrill of the hunt is as much fun for me as the creating.”
Originally from Long Island, Druchunas relocated to Wilmington 17 years ago to continue her career at Reeds Jewelers as the Visual Merchandising Manager. “Working in the jewelry industry when gold prices were at their peak, I was saddened by all the vintage pieces that were being destroyed. It was like watching pieces of art and history being lost forever. Being able to “save” vintage items that no longer function as they were intended and recreate a new purpose for them is a wonderful feeling.”
Druchunas credits her inspiration to her love of a bygone era, by the craftsmanship of the timepieces, especially the attention to detail. “Some of the elements we use are new recreations of vintage jewelry findings. Since we’ve both been in the jewelry business for the majority of our lives, we have a lot of connections that enable us to find some really cool elements,” she said. “Some of my new designs come when I’m not on a schedule and just have time to putter around the studio, pulling out items I find interesting and playing with ideas until I come up with something I like.”
With the pandemic in full swing, artists have had a bit of a challenge this year as stores have been forced to close and art festivals were cancelled. This has been reality for many artists and gig workers. “I sell mostly at craft or antique shows. So far all of my events have been rescheduled or canceled since March 14th. With art, I think a lot of clients want to connect directly with the artist,” said Druchunas. I do not yet know what shows will be available for summer. I am hoping to be at the Historic downtown Wilmington marketplace, Sunset Beach Farmers Market when they are permitted to open. But most of the annual shows are rescheduled for fall.”
You can see more of Druchunas’ work and reach her through her website at www.VictorianMagpie.com, or on Facebook at Facebook.com/victorianmagpie. She has her jewelry for sale in many Wilmington locations including The Bryand Gallery, Cape Fear Jewelry and Antiques, Madame Meerkat’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and Port City Pottery.