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Arts and Music

Jeweler Finds Beauty In Strange Places

Clocks, nail files, vegetable peelers and license plates. Aside from being random items one might find in a house, these are some of the unusual materials Alice Sprintzen uses to make jewelry. The retired Oyster Bay High School art teacher can find beauty in almost anything. She calls her unique structured pieces, “found-object jewelry,” or a “very good way to strike up a conversation.”

From flea markets to garage sales and bike rides, “I can find it anywhere,” the artist says of her bold and unconventional materials. She calls it her “hunt.”

“I’m always looking down instead of where I should be looking,” the artist laughs, sitting in her peaceful Syosset backyard. Sprintzen says she has always had an affinity for repurposing items that might have been discarded as trash or otherwise overlooked. As a child, Sprintzen was an avid beachcomber, and evolved to teach a course in “high tech art” at Oyster Bay HS.

“I never throw anything out before I can scavenge through it,” she says. “I’m always thinking, ‘What could this be used for?’” When it comes to her materials, “anything goes.” Her most recent purchase was a flute.

The challenge of meshing and “manipulating” materials is something Sprintzen thoroughly enjoys. Like two people from different worlds, Sprintzen brings objects together that otherwise would never had met. Both the elegant and rugged objects bring their own individual story to the overall piece.

“I don’t look at how precious things are,” she says. “I find plastic equally as precious as a gemstone.” In fact Sprintzen has 12 pieces on display in the “Driven by Art” exhibit in Jericho until the end of this month. Everything in the exhibit was made from cars, like her heart necklace made from a red taillight.

“Taillights and license plates have strong plastic. It’s a beautiful material, easy to saw and polish,” she says.

Aside from the materials themselves, people are a huge part of her “hunt.” One woman, whom she had never met before, brought her three bags of eclectic antique buttons after reading an article about Sprintzen’s jewelry in Newsday. Sprintzen still uses the buttons today. Those people, who are involved in finding its parts, are what make the jewelry genuinely one-of-a-kind.

Part of the complexity, cleverness and pure fun of Sprintzen’s jewelry is trying to figure out just what exactly is made from what. The “Musical Flower Pin,” for example, is comprised of clarinet parts, antique brass buttons and clock parts. The real talent of her work, however, is concealing those uniquely bizarre objects to create a cohesive, beautiful piece of jewelry.

“I think it makes people happy,” Sprintzen says.

“Found objects” is a relatively new project for Sprintzen. She started it about eight years ago and has only started selling her pieces about two years ago. Her collection is up to about 70 pieces, from necklaces and pins to bracelets. “It’s more than a financial transaction,” Sprintzen says of selling her work. People tend to smile or even laugh when they see her pieces. “There is humor in my art,” she says.

She says selling her jewelry was never a goal. “I don’t even know if I have a goal, I just do it because I enjoy it,” she says. “Jewelry is not a good way to make money.”