Bringing Up Bust Form, April 6, 2015



Combining My Loves of Vintage and Fossils With Antiquarian Couture,

by Karlie Baker

Antique watch with ancient fossil and wing necklace: c/o Antiquarian Couture
Dress: Ross Dress for Less
Vest: thrifted
Shirt: The Field Museum in Chicago
Vest: thrifted
Dress: Ross Dress for Less
Blouse: thrifted
Sweater: thrifted
Wooden necklace: purchased at Belleville Flea Market

Most of you who’ve followed my blog or know me in person know my interests lie within a few categories, aptly described several years ago by my one of my best friends as “words and dinosaurs and my little sister.” Having grown up wandering among the sandstone canyons of Starved Rock State Park and its surroundings, my love for dinosaurs also extends to fossils. A geology professor I had would make us meet at different state parks in the area for field trips where he would explain the origins of the rocks we were walking on, and show us how we could identify the passage of time by changes in the rock layers. Those lessons piqued a new curiosity in the natural world and stuck with me more than any other non-writing classes I had in college. I still find myself observing and collecting and hypothesizing on hiking jaunts, often driving home with a checklist of questions for further research. It’s also just helpful, in times of first-world, white girl crisis, to think of these places and remember that the world has a larger purpose than serving my needs, and that I should enjoy my time here rather than fretting.

I’ve tried to incorporate my love of fossils into my wardrobe, mostly through dinosaur t-shirts. For a few years I had a miniature T-rex fossil head necklace. Despite being asked several times if it was a fossilized rat, I wore the thing until it crumbled. So I felt very fortunate when Antiquarian Couture‘s John Bauer recently sent me this beautiful necklace that manages to capture Karlie the vintage jewelry hoarder and Karlie the fossil nerd into one piece.

The local jewelry designer’s creations combine antique watch parts with steampunk and fantasy elements. The effects are one-of-a-kind and brand new, hinting at deeper histories you can create your own hypotheses about.

“The older the watch part, the more of a chance that some part of it was done by hand. Using parts and materials that a skilled worker created 100-150 years ago is great. Having myself embellish those same pieces and turn those watches into necklaces is such a thrill for me. It is as if there is a connection through time. This is why I love to make these pieces into jewelry,” Bauer explained.

In addition to watch parts and fossils, he uses beads, dog tags, shells, jewels and metal pendants.

“The shape of a piece is determined by the materials I wish to include with it. I try to make everything move in a natural way…. When I use natural pieces like shells or insect parts, I like to mix them with the industrial pieces,”  he said. “I like the juxtaposition of the natural and mechanical pieces together and try to make the natural pieces the center of what I do, whenever possible.”

Bauer said the fossil included in this piece was a gift from his brother-in-law.

“I wanted to do something fun, because the natural circular shape of the fossil was one that seemed to mimic the circular shape of a watch movement or watch gears. The 1920’s watch movement just seemed to look nice in the middle of the circular area,” he said. “I love the pairing of a material that could be millions of years old, with one that is probably only 90 years old.”

What inspired the use of the wing? “The metal angel wings happen to be close to the shape and design that artists during the Renaissance time used to use whenever they drew or painted wings. It is also similar to the style and look that artists used in Victorian times as well. I strive to make my jewelry stay within the look and feel of that time and that style.”

I love the addition of the wing because it reminds me of the Golden Mean spiral and sacred geometry associated with the nautilus shell. Plus, Bauer’s creations are coated in resin for easy cleaning and insurance against clothing snags.

This necklace’s mix of metal and natural elements has made it a pretty versatile piece for everyday wear. I’m having a ton of fun working it into my wardrobe, and staring at it in general. Check out that detail!

Photo courtesy: Antiquarian Couture

Check out Bauer’s work at or e-mail him at for jewelry inquiries. His pieces are also available at TRXtattoo in St. Louis, and Rabbits and Rags in Columbia, Ill.