Compass Rose Design Jewelry

DIY Vintage Watch Photo Locket Bracelets

Learn how to make vintage photo locket bracelets with old wrist watches and your favorite antique photos. I love old photos - they offer passage to a past world and a view into a moment frozen in time. Look at the small details - the shoes, the hands, the detailing on the dresses for clues into the daily lives of the sitter.  Making a vintage photo locket bracelet takes just a few materials is a wonderful way to make a memorable keepsake or a vintage fashion accessory.


But here's the thing. I'm not using these photos in my bracelet project - they're too historical and valuable and I just can't bring myself cut them up! There is also a practical reason, that cutting the photo to fit the watch case is not always an exact science, and it would be rather tragic to cut the photo and not be able to use it. It's also really special to use photos of family members for remembrance - I made one with my grandmothers engagement photo that I was able to resize from an 8x10 to a keepsake bracelet. 

Simple solution: use printouts! Simply scan and print the photos you want to use. 300 dpi works well and I do mine in the original color to preserve the sepia, rather than using straight black and white. You also have the advantage of adjusting size with a basic photo editor. Measure the watch case and make sure your photos are the right size - with the central image usually about .75-1 wide and tall. 

Before cutting, I trace the watch case as a guide then cut the shape slightly inside the line. Just prior to inserting the photo, I add a dab or tacky glue or glue stick to help the photo stay put. Then gently insert the photo - it's ok if the edges of the paper bend a tiny bit on the way in. Use your fingernail or a clean pencil eraser to press the edges flat and then snap the case closed. 


Written by L.C. Van Houten — February 16, 2015

Custom Project 29 - Upcycling Mom's broken watches

We were recently approached by one of our regular customers who had a plastic sandwich bag full of broken jewelry from her mother, including several lovely but broken watches and some other pieces. Her mother was still alive and she was looking to make custom projects for three generations in the family, grandmother, herself and her college-aged daughter. 


She remembered her mom wearing these timepieces, but none of them worked. We added two more movements to make a lovely watch bracelet, still one of my favorite designs.

One of the watches (not shown above) had lovely crystal inlay design. Even though some of the crystals were missing, it was full of sentiment. I added a coordinating Victorian button to make an eye-catching bracelet. She loved it!

The last piece in the set started as a fairly worn watch, not even of particularly high quality, but a family keepsake. We transformed this from a broken watch with a torn leather band, into an elegant gold and navy blue crystal set for her daughter.

The final product with matching earrings. 

Do you have a family treasure you'd like to make wearable?

Contact us about custom projects!

or Shop Now!

Written by L.C. Van Houten — January 28, 2015

Valentine's Day Sale

Need something for your Valentine? Save 15% on your order through 2/7 with code: SWEETHEART



Written by L.C. Van Houten — January 24, 2015

Home Improvement: DIY Repurposed Hanging Pot Racks

We're finally finished with summer shows and have some time to do fall cleaning and some projects around the house. Item one - hanging pot rack to free up some cabinet space in the kitchen. 

A good pot rack is hard to find. I've been researching pot racks online for a while and they seem to fall into 3 main categories:

1. Fancy There are the fancy upscale heavy duty iron behemoths that run $400-1500. If I lived in a chateau or had a giant kitchen and was filthy rich - maybe but probably not. 

2. Generic  Then there's the basic models available at Bed Bath and Beyond, Macys, Target, etc, all made overseas, and all overpriced for the quality at $50-350. Still to expensive for something not that interesting:



3. Etsy  And, then there's etsy, which had lots of great options if you like things that are bulky or made from recycled ladders.  Some were interesting, but too bulky or too industrial or too vintage. 

SO - we decided to head to our local hardware store, which also has a vintage/junk/recycling area, to see if we could find an interesting piece of wood. We spent about half an hour sifting through old banisters and doors and every manner of junk and came out with nothing. There was one last room to check with indoor furniture. I'd previously found a panel from a Victrola phonograph that continues to delight, so we figured it was worth a look. We were rewarded!

First, among the old picture frames and tool boxes and an assortment of lamp bases, was a piece of iron wood crown molding. It's a center cut piece with hand cut front detail and you can still see the tool cuts - at least a century old. Bargain price, $30. Then, hanging on a rack of crummy aluminum levels was an antique wooden level with faded aqua paint. One of the three glass vials was busted but the other two were intact and it had beautiful brass hardware. Bargain price of $3.

We picked out some basic hardware and went to work, well, Johnny went to work. We spaced the eye-hooks about 7 inches apart. 


Final Result: The ironwood crown molding:

and the vintage level:

Two of the glass vials still have bubbles in them - the effect is fantastic. The faded grey blue goes well in the kitchen. 

We're really happy with the result! Functional repurposed items that are not overwhelming. More storage in the cabinets and easy access to the pots and pans we use most. 

Making our space more functional and enjoyable makes me want to be productive! 

...and we're having a September Sale!

Save 20% off your next purchase in September with code SEPTEMBER20



Written by L.C. Van Houten — September 22, 2014

Backstage at Compass Rose Design

We've been traveling every weekend doing shows for the last EIGHT weekends and it's SO nice to be home! Time to recover, rest, clean shop and give some love to our withering garden. Of course - family first! We took the first few days after a great summer season to introduce our nephew to backpacking. He's seven - right at that perfect age where he wants to be a skater but also likes holding hands. His finger puppet squirrel was a constant companion.  

Finally had time to deep clean the studio and really get organized! We're in the camp that celebrates creative organized organic chaos, albeit regulated. See this great article on creative spaces or the PBS American Masters Documentary on Charles and Ray Eames for further evidence that "clean" isn't "better." But it sure is pleasant.

I tend to have several projects going at once, but we separate work spaces by medium - beading, chain and wire, metalwork etc.

We work with a million tiny pieces. We love what we do.

Drills, punches, hammers and protective eyewear - tools of the trade!

ok friends, back to work!

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Written by L.C. Van Houten — August 21, 2014

Summer Road Trips: Renegade LA, Urban Air Market PDX

We've been traveling a lot this summer and loving it. We had a fantastic time in Los Angeles at Renegade Craft Fair. Despite the 90 degree heat and humidity, we completely enjoyed the weekend. 

And of course, since we love beer, we enjoyed visiting a couple local startup breweries including Eagle Rock Brewing and a local gastropub, York

After some catch up in the studio, we headed up to Portland for Urban Air Market. The event was right along the river with fantastic views of downtown and, well, everything.

One of the aspects we love about being on the road is connecting with people. It's been a real joy to see all the kinds of folks who see themselves in our work. 

We continue to delight in the fact that our jewelry helps people feel confident, beautiful and to honor their past relatives and memories. 

check out our events schedule for upcoming shows!

Written by L.C. Van Houten — August 06, 2014

Custom Project #27 - Wedding Charm Bracelet

Last week, I got a thick package in the mail. Inside were a collection of travel tokens collected for a best friend's wedding. The bride and groom love vintage - not faux vintage, but the real thing. They're getting married in an old train station and arriving in a beautiful old Studebaker, restored by the groom himself. I love this couple - even having never met them, I adore them and was honored to work on the project!

We kept it simple - starting with the tokens from Santa Cruz, San Diego, Sacramento, San Mateo and Crescent City, all from significant places in the couple's love story. 

My goal was to make a keepsake bracelet with just the right balance of artifacts and comfort. I added several treasures to balance the bracelet:

- An antique keepsake case key from the Paris flea market
- two Victorian buttons (1860-1920) for a touch of sparkle and story
- a two-sided vintage typewriter charm with the bride and groom's initials
- 1880's inspired clock clasp to celebrate many years together

So happy with how this turned out! 

Do you have a family treasure you'd like to make wearable?

Contact us about custom projects!

or Shop Now!

Written by L.C. Van Houten — June 18, 2014

Family Keepsakes - Custom Project #23

Jewelry is infused with sentimentality and memory. Since the inception of adornment, jewelry has been much more than decoration. These wearable keepsakes are at the center of what we care about and why we work with historic objects. We do many custom projects with family heirlooms, but this latest one is perhaps one of the most meaningful.

We recently worked on a project for a dear family friend, more of an auntie, my mom's oldest friend. My mom passed away several years ago at 59 - too young, but she infused me and all the people in her life with a deep sense of loving honesty. My mom had many strong friendships that lasted multiple decades in her life, but Kemay knew her longest. They met in college when one of them got stuck with a roommate she didn't click with and the other had a roommate that had just moved out to get married. They instantly connected and later that night, though my mom usually went to bed early, Kemay came to her door and knocked. My mom was up late writing a paper and they just decided to be friends.

Below, My mom (left) and Kemay (right) at my brother's birthday party in the late 1970s.

My mom (left) and Kemay (right) at my brother's birthday party in the late 1970s.

Johnny and I visited Kemay recently and she gave me a project. In a small weathered paper bag, she had her father's uniform buttons and wanted to make them into a necklace for her. 

I've been doing beadwork for 15 years, though I've tended towards metal for the last several years. The timing of Kemay's necklace was rather wonderful, as I recently started doing more beadwork, like this Greek Revival agate watch fob signet with malachite and onyx.

This custom project awoke my inner beadwork aficionado and I've been beading ever since! I had to do a double strand to stabilize the buttons, a well-known beading technique, and really happy with the results!

and a close - up:

Then I just kept going. This technique allows me to use buttons I have saved for years that don't work with our other designs. 

Interested in a custom project - email us! 

Check out our latest events schedule or shop online.

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Written by L.C. Van Houten — May 21, 2014

Santa Fe Road Trip

Santa Fe is one of our favorite places. It is old in a way that swallows you up and reminds you that the Boston Tea Party and the Gold Rush are rather recent. After a great Renegade Craft Faire in Austin, Texas, we headed to Santa Fe to unwind for a few days. 

It's a beautiful old city, where the stubbornness of history perseveres in spite of kitsch and caricature.

The collision of Spanish Empire and indigenous Pueblo cultures and the United States has left a tragic but often beautiful cultural landscape in its wake.

As an unexpected surprise, we ended up having small collections of our work invited into two galleries in Santa Fe!

Gallery Cruz on Canyon Road.

and POP Gallery Downtown on Lincoln St.

After Santa Fe, we visited Petroglyph National Monument on a whim, which was oddly located the sprawling growth of suburban track developments that have enveloped it. But the experience of how recent America really is, in the grand scheme of things, is always humbling to remember. 

And we stopped at the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert. We always enjoy road trips and the unexpected adventures they bring. This trip inspired a great deal of thought and inspiration about the type of creative work we want to do and the vision for our small business.  

and Pecos National Historic Monument

and Billy the Kid's grave, which is sad because of the Fort Sumner history,

but had this fantastic antique phone operator station. 

We OF COURSE did some antiquing along the way - and came back with an assortment of treasures to make into wearable keepsakes!

Check out our latest events schedule or shop online if we're not coming to your area.

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Written by L.C. Van Houten — May 21, 2014