MSU entomologist inspires artist to create collection to protect insects

Endangered insects
Endangered insects
Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 4:54 PM EDT
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GLEN ARBOR, Mich. (WILX) - Inspired by a chance encounter with MSU entomologist, Douglas Landis, while redesigning his wife’s engagement ring, Michigan jewelry designer Becky Thatcher embarked on a journey to protect some of nature’s smallest creatures: endangered insects.

“When you can see a problem, it’s easier to tackle. These insects are hard to see,” notes Thatcher. So she took action. With an objective to raise awareness of the importance of insects and protect their threatened environment, she created the Endangered Insect Collection.

Each sale from this elegant line of jewelry includes a donation to support the restoration of native habitat in northern Michigan.

The Endangered Insect Collection by Becky Thatcher Designs honors the balance of the natural world in our own backyard. Insects and pollinators are the building blocks of our environment, worthy of notice and protection.

This collection embodies a two-year journey to reflect the issues of our time. Each piece is a one-of-a-kind design featuring Becky’s illustrations of six Michigan endangered or imperiled insect species; the Karner blue butterfly, Mitchell’s satyr butterfly, Hine’s emerald dragonfly, Hungerford’s crawling water beetle, secretive locust, and rusty-patched bumble bee.

Research and thoughtful observation inspired the designs and led to the discovery of a new process to capture the beauty and fragility of the subject. Thin sheets of blackened steel are hand-engraved to reveal detailed impressions, stamped like fossils in a textured silver surface. The hand-engraving process is reflective of the vulnerability of the imagery it represents. A merger of art and life, where ghostly images convey their imperiled state.

To create this delicate work Thatcher needed a master engraver. She searched for almost two years until Alison Simmons walked through her front door with an application to work the sales counter. With a BFA in metalsmithing, Alison’s skills were quickly identified and put into action. Today she carefully translates Becky’s original sketches with a delicate hand underneath a microscope. Each piece lists the name of the species engraved letter by letter on the back.

The Endangered Insect Collection includes bracelet cuffs, stamped earrings, and large circular Vario pendants with interchangeable chains. Each piece features one insect, positioned so no two are alike. They are priced under $500 and available at Becky Thatcher Designs studio in Glen Arbor, the downtown Traverse City store, and by virtual showing.

According to Becky the response to the collection has been inspiring. “People are trying to mix native plants into their garden, tearing out lawn to put in prairie grasses and flowers to keep different things blooming. So it’s really been fun to have conversations about restoring habitat and appreciating insects. Can you imagine the world without a Karner blue butterfly?”

Becky Thatcher Designs is donating 10% of sales from the Endangered Insects Collection to the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy for use in habitat restoration. Nature’s small creatures —insects and pollinators—are among our endangered and imperiled species. You can help them fight for survival by adding native plants to your garden, removing harmful chemicals, and appreciating the biodiversity that supports the splendor that is Michigan.

To contact Becky Thatcher click here:

MSU entomologist Douglas Landis says another way you can help protect the endangered insects is by planting flowers. Below are two links to learn about which plants help these special bugs.

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