Behind the Scenes Jewelry Talk with Felice Caffrey of Dinosaurs for Tea
Fall fashion is kawaii.
We had a chance to catch up with Australian jewelry designer Felice Caffery. The crafty Aussie and self proclaimed “dinosaur bedazzler” has been making waves in the jewelry world. Inspired by kawaii harajuku fashion, a famous trend in Japanese culture that literally means “cute”, her bold color choices and unique style are shaking up the Etsy world of traditional jewels. Naturally, she gravitates to Safari Ltd® Good Luck Minis® for to their petite size and accuracy. Caffery catches us up on all the miniature details below.
Where did the inspiration come from? Specifically, what part of the Japanese culture and fashion prompted dinosaur (or animals in general) jewelry?
I’ve had people ask me this a few times now, but it still remains the hardest question to answer! Looking back, I’ve always had a thing for making quirky and unusual jewelry but the whole idea really took off after my mum and I went for a holiday to Japan. I had done a bit of travel prior to this, but never before had I experienced such a complete freedom of expression through dress. The streets of Harajuku especially are alive with such an eclectic mix of people and styles of dress that it would be virtually impossible to not feel inspired. It made me realize that there was commercial potential for what had previously just been a hobby – so I set to work!
Did you always like dinosaurs growing up? What is your favorite type?
To be honest when I was really small, I was terrified of dinosaurs! I would wake my parents convinced that I could hear dinosaurs rampaging around in the garden outside. Somehow this transitioned into quite the obsession and I found myself collecting all dinosaur paraphernalia that I could get my hands on. If I had to pick out a dinosaur favorite, it would probably be the brachiosaurus. Being a vegetarian, I figure we could have been friends without wanting to eat each other!
Where did the name Dinosaurs for Tea come from?
When I first started out with Dinosaurs for Tea, I had the idea in my head that dinosaurs dressed up in frilly skirts and having tea parties was the most perfectly ridiculous juxtaposition and the name quickly came from this. At this point Dinosaurs for Tea was mainly a hobby and I would spend my time painting the toenails of all my toy dinosaurs, making them outfits and adorning them with rhinestones. They even had names to suit them, like Dorothy and Martha.
Design Process: How do you go about brainstorming a certain jewelry piece?
Many designers start the design process by perhaps sketching ideas or working from current trends. However, I’ve found that most of my inspiration for new pieces comes from things I stumble across, either online or during sourcing trips. I also love traveling and find that this is a great time to look for new ideas or design elements that I could incorporate into dinosaur pieces. Most recently, I had the chance to visit the Natural History Museum in London (which was amazing!) and they had glow-in-the-dark dinosaurs available in the gift store – I picked some up knowing they’d make great earrings.
What thought goes into choosing which types of dinosaurs, colors, etc?
When fossicking for dinosaurs, I’m most attracted to bright colors or quality figures which have been painted in detail. One of my favorite things about the Good Luck Minis® is the surprising amount of detail given their size!
Do you ever make custom pieces when asked? Do you receive these types of requests?
Absolutely, I love making custom pieces! Usually when somebody requests something custom it’s because they’re a bit of a dinosaur enthusiast and want something even crazier than our standard fare. Before Christmas I had a customer request a ‘pineapple themed dinosaur phone case’ which was fantastic. I’ve also made a ‘crazy cat lady’ necklace which featured the whole Safari Ltd® domestic cats Toob®!
Why do you enjoy using Safari’s dinos and animal figurines? Is there something in their design you enjoy? The shape? Do any specific characteristics work particularly well with your jewelry brand?
As mentioned above, when sourcing dinosaurs one of the things I look for is quality and detailed paint work – both expectations that Safari Ltd®’s range of toys well and truly meets. My absolute favorites are the Good Luck Minis®, which I primarily use to make earrings as they are lightweight and the perfect size. Being soft and squishy makes them easier to work with when making a piece which is quite small and delicate. I use tiny screw eyes which wouldn’t be possible if they were made from a rigid plastic.
How did you stumble upon Safari Ltd®?
Finding the Safari Ltd® Good Luck Minis® was a complete stroke of luck! I first picked up a couple of the dinosaurs from a store in Japan but didn’t think to ask for the brand. Upon arriving home I spent hours online searching for teeny tiny T-rex before finally discovering Safari Ltd® – and that there was in fact an entire range of miniature animals!
Did you ever play with their toys as a kid?
I don’t think that I did have any dinosaurs out of the Safari Ltd® range as a small child, but I’ve never really grown up, so now I’m basically just a big kid with quite the collection of bedazzled dinosaurs!