Carol Overstreet’s Colony Philosophy: From Honeycombs to Jewelry

For the majority of people, seeing a bee is a scary feeling. Their immediate reaction is to scream, run away, and sometimes even kill these insects. However, many might not know bees are already endangered due to various causes. According to studies done at the University of Michigan, “There have been a number of reports in the media about the mysterious disappearance of large numbers of honey bees, called colony collapse disorder.” Educating our society can be a tough task, but Carol Overstreet, a local Orlando artist, has found a way to create awareness of these fascinating insects.

“My friend is a backyard beekeeper, and one day she needed assistance extracting some honey she had just harvested. When we finished, there were a few scraps of empty comb lying around and a lightbulb went off in my head. I brought the scraps home and began to experiment.”

Overstreet discovered that with a lot of care and determination, she could create beautiful jewelry from these honeycombs. This can be a tough and lengthy process because of how delicate the combs are, however the challenge didn’t stop her. “It’s fascinating to work with the combs. Bees consume six to eight pounds of honey to create a pound of wax, and every piece is different depending on how the bees were using it. They are the artists; I am simply bringing their hidden world to light.” You could say Overstreet and the bees are collaborating in making one of a kind, wearable art, which allows her to showcase her creative talent and lend the bees a voice. Unfortunately, bee communities have been declining as pesticide use in agricultural and urban areas increases. “The necklaces help start a conversation, which is an opportunity to encourage people to do more to help pollinators. For example, encourage them to find a local nursery that can help them find native wildflowers to plant and make sure something is blooming each season.”

Overstreet only works with extra comb she finds at her friend’s while harvesting or cleaning the hives, meaning she only has a limited amount. “I only work when I feel patient and inspired. I appreciate how special each piece is. I have a limited amount of comb and it is very delicate, so I have to be completely focused when I am cleaning and cutting a piece. Although, some of my favorite pieces have come from a slip of the hand.”

The process in creating this jewelry isn’t short—each piece can take up to four weeks to complete. This is why each piece is so special. “I only create two to three pieces at a time. Clean up can take around three weeks, and cutting usually takes a day because I have to be so careful. I then coat each piece in a jewelry resin and let it cure overnight. It takes about six thin coats on each side to be strong enough to wear. Even then, it is still a delicate piece of jewelry.”

While Overstreet loves the final product and gets a sense of accomplishment when someone purchases a piece of jewelry, her main goal is to create awareness regarding the important job bees have on this planet. “The bees really inspired me to make a statement in their name, and to create a tangible item that could at least be a conversation starter. Also, huge thank you to my friend Amanda Martin for introducing me to the fascinating world of beekeeping.”

You can find Overstreet’s creations on her Instagram at @colonyphilosophy or on display at Redefine Gallery in Downtown Orlando. To learn more about Florida Native Residential Landscape Design and Consulting, visit groundedsol.com

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