It was a scary and shocking sight: my mother walking around confused, sweaty and mumbling something inaudible. I thought she had been acting funny earlier that morning, but I chalked it up to my vivid imagination. As the afternoon faded into evening, though, my mother’s behavior grew more and more bizarre. It was impossible not to notice it. Even though my father instructed me to go to bed, I couldn’t sleep.
I tossed and turned, thinking about the day in detail; replaying it over and over in my head. The questions mounted: had she hit her head, was she losing her mind or perhaps, even worse, had she been abducted by aliens and now, was some strange creature in her body making her do weird things? I was completely and utterly perplexed. Mind you, I was also young and a little on the dramatic side.  
The next morning, as things got worse, my father started to panic (for the record, I’d never seen him that way.) Left with what he explained as “no choice,” he gathered my mother together the best he could and carried her to the car. When he placed her in the front seat she writhed in pain. It was horrible to watch and I cried without letting her see me. Through my tears, though, I noticed something odd about the way she was sitting.
When my dad sprinted to the driver’s side and my mother was left alone in the car for a few brief seconds, she strangely favored her right side. It was if her left hip was injured. Then, as if his wife’s very life depended on it, my dad quickly drove out of sight. Later we would learn, her life did depend on it.
At the hospital, the doctor did indeed discover a wound on the left side of my mother’s gluteus muscle that was red, swollen and appeared to be rotting. Luckily, he recognized the mark immediately: a Brown Recluse Spider bite. The skin around the bite was in what is called Necrosis; the premature death of cells and living tissue. Apparently, the “non-aggressive” creepy crawlers (indigenous of the Southwest, where I grew up) only sink their teeth into victims when they feel threatened.
A few days prior to my mother’s strange behavior, she was out in the garage where our laundry room was. She had placed a basket full of clothing, fresh out of the dryer, on the floor to free her hands to wash another load. That’s when the spider, more than likely, made its way into the basket and my mother unknowingly brought the little varmint into our home. She then proceeded to dump the clothing, along with the aforementioned spider, on her bed to fold.
At least, this is how the doctor said it probably played out after interviewing my mother once she started to recover. The Brown Recluse loves dry, soft material and apparently wiggled its way under the covers after my mom dumped him onto her bed. While she was sleeping, her new friend sunk its small but lethal fangs into her behind.
She didn’t notice anything at first; just a pesky itch that grew into a severe sting. Within eight hours, though, my mother began manifesting the symptoms I described at the beginning of the blog. Shockingly, there is no anti-venom in the US for a Brown Recluse spider bite, but with a mixture of steroids, antibiotics, pain meds and antihistamines, my mother slowly recovered.
The doctor kept a close eye on her during her follow-up care to make sure her Necrotic wound (bite surrounded by dead skin) healed properly and didn’t get infected. Seeing the wound was tough. It was big and nothing short of disgusting: it throbbed, oozed and seemed to have a life of its own.
When everything was said and done, my family dubbed the event “Spider-gate” and that’s when I officially became obsessed with arachnids. I studied, dissected and begged my parents to get one as a pet. You can imagine my mother’s reaction. I loved scorpions, too. They’re a distant cousin of the spider, also boasting eight legs and two body segments. We have a lot of them in the Southwest.
If I got lucky, on extra hot days in the desert, I’d find one hiding under my bed trying to escape the relentless summer heat. Needless to say, my mom would freak out and my dad and I would swiftly move in to extract the creepy crawler. Next, I grew a healthy interest in insects (which have six legs and three body parts.)
Instead of growing up to become an entomologist or arachnologist, though, I would become a fashionista who loves wearing “The Bugged & The Beautiful.” I’m incredibly attracted to bug prints; ladybugs, beetles and butterflies. I also adore jewelry made in the likeness of spiders, scorpions and dragonflies. So, imagine my delight when I met jewelry designer, Haley Holeman.
Haley is the undeniable queen of bug jewelry. What’s more, she’s sweet, unique, quirky and beautiful. She mixes her love of insects, spiders and scorpions to create the coolest, most captivating pieces that are the quintessential meaning of “The Bugged & The Beautiful.”      
Shireen Sandoval: Your pieces are so unique & unusual. I fell in love with your bug creations immediately. How would you describe them?
Haley Holeman: I’ve always been attracted to the natural beauty of insects. They elicit a visceral reaction – people are drawn to their beauty, but also fear them. Out-numbering humans 200 million to one, they are impossible to ignore. My work follows a similar aesthetic. It’s impossible to overlook and all eyes are guaranteed to be on the wearer. I often incorporate actual insects that are encased in glow-in-the-dark resin and set in sterling silver. In addition to actual arachnids and insects, I also make use of unusually cut gemstones as well as other out-of-the-ordinary materials. Most recently, I made a piece out of an over 2 million year old fossilized megalodon shark tooth. These sharks were larger than our modern day whale shark. Like the megalodon, any woman wearing my jewelry has nothing to fear; she is already the baddest babe in the room.
SS: When did you start designing bug-themed jewelry?
HH: The first insect piece I designed wasn’t actually encased in resin. I had just learned how to cast silver and made a mold of a rhinoceros beetle I ordered off ebay. I thought the dramatic shape of the beetle would make a beautiful ornament in sterling silver. Unfortunately, my mold-making and casting skills were still in development. The piece came out beautifully – only without the legs! Over time, I gravitated toward resin, as a safer, more practical way of preserving their natural beauty.
SS: Where do the bugs come from and what’s the process of making them design ready?
HH: Most of the arachnids and insects that I use I order on-line from a niche company. A mold is then selected which is filled halfway with a self-doming epoxy resin. The insect is placed on the first layer and it begins to thicken. Once the specimen is secure, a second layer is added to finish the piece off. After a wait of approximately ten hours the piece is ready to be popped from the mold, and viola! You have the center-piece for a beautiful and unique piece of Haley Holeman jewelry.
SS: What are your favorite bugs to design with?
HH: For the most part, I enjoy working with all of the insects equally. I find delight in all of their individual charms, but if I had to choose, I’m a big fan of the spiny orb-weaver spiders. They are the most avant-garde of my specimens and living in South Florida, they also offer a bit of nostalgia for the beautiful red and white varieties that are often referred to as “crab spiders” and inhabit many of our backyards.
SS: What is the most unusual piece you’ve ever designed?
HH: The most unusual piece I have ever created would have to be a sterling silver pendant that I set with one of my own baby teeth! I’ve always been attracted to Victorian jewelry and the mementos of loved ones that they would incorporate; Queen Victoria famously revived the trend of encasing a loved one’s lock of hair inside of a locket and even sported a bracelet made from her children’s baby teeth.
SS: You design more than bug jewelry. Tell me about some of your other unique creations.
HH: My work is created through an eclectic range of inspiration. I often draw on a macabre aesthetic, while southwestern Indian art and animal anatomy are other influences. My pieces range from minimal sterling silver designs, to elaborate statement-pieces that make use of exotic leathers, like stingray skin. Semi-precious stones like jasper, glamorous agate and amethyst geodes and fossilized dinosaur bone are frequently strewn throughout my jewelry work. Regardless, all of my pieces share a common characteristic: they are all glamorous pieces with powerful imagery that are highly wearable.
SS: Do bugs scare you? Or are you fascinated by their ‘interesting’ beauty?
HH: I have an intense appreciation for the beauty of insects – from the sophisticated architecture of their exoskeletons to the iridescent sheen of their wings, it’s hard to find a specimen I would be completely repulsed by! With that in mind, there is one species that strikes fear into my heart – the Florida palmetto bug!
SS: When styling me for the blog, which pieces did you want to feature and why?
HH: Well, I wanted the pieces I selected to reflect your own cutting edge and glamorous style. Growing up in New Mexico, you share an appreciation for the Southwestern aesthetic that sometimes creeps its way into my designs. Considering this, I thought turquoise would be appropriate, especially set off by luminous purple tones reflected in various cuts of unusual amethyst. The megalodon and amethyst necklace is as fierce as it’s shark tooth center-piece and you have the personality and presence to give it a real punch. The glow-in-the-dark scorpion necklace and the spider and ant necklaces are showstoppers and my signature pieces, so it really was a no-brainer to dress you in these two unique designs.
SS: You make your jewelry from scratch. What’s the process?
HH: My work is a marriage of hand fabrication and casting. The cast components are carved in wax or are ??? from a mold made of a found item. An example is the silver bullet border, which frequently encompasses my bezels and was taken from a toy ammunition belt. Each bezel is meticulously hand formed in sheet silver. The casting is done in my backyard using centrifugal force. Sourcing unusual and appealing insects encased in glow-in-the-dark resin is always a fun process. I’d like to experiment with even edgier arachnids in the future.
SS: What’s the first piece of jewelry you ever designed and do you still own it?
HH: My mom, Kristin Holeman, is a renowned cloisonne enamelist and silversmith, so it is only natural that I began designing jewelry early. The first piece I ever designed was a present for my kindergarten teacher, Miss Stolpe. I drew a unicorn on a sheet of paper and my mom interpreted my drawing into two identical pins. One I gave to Miss Stolpe and the other one I kept for myself. To this day I still have and treasure that piece.
SS: What is your personal style, from jewelry to clothing?
HH: Growing up traveling from state to state with my mother and attending craft and art shows gave me a deep appreciation for handmade and well crafted fashion and accessories. That passion that was instilled in childhood manifests itself today in my love for up-and-coming designers like Zana Bayne, and K.T. Ferris Creations. I am fond of unusual and well-made accessories, but I also love feminine and sophisticated glamour. Mix that with a reverence for Southwestern flair and a beautiful and strong pair of boots and you have my style in a nut shell.

SS: Describe your jewelry in one word.
HH: Powerful.
For our shoot together, Haley wanted me to be dripping in beautiful bugs and she didn’t disappoint. My favorites: her scorpion earrings, a drop multi-layered spider necklace and her beetle cocktail ring. It’s not only massive, it’s magically mysterious and a great center piece to any outfit, especially one that evokes the stylings of the Southwest.

That’s why we teamed up with the uber-chic, clothing boutique, Trend Rush. They provided two looks with a sexy, gypsy/bohemian feel; which is definitely the style of the moment. If you’re looking for something unique, unusual and well-made, Haley’s work is worth investing in. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything else quite like it.

Back to my mom…that bite on her butt happened over twenty years ago, but still to this day, that moment took a monumental toll on her and left a major mark on everyone in my family. Since then, my adolescent curiosity with “The Bugged & The Beautiful” has grown into a deep respect and admiration for nature.

After all, whether human, animal or bug, we all have our own defense mechanisms for survival; some a little more aggressive than others. The point being, learning to live together in harmony isn’t just stylish, it will always be one of my favorite things.
Instagram: @Prada_marfa  
Twitter: @Haley_Holeman
FB: Haley Holeman Jewelry

Instagram: @Trend_Rush
Twitter: @Trend_Truck
FB: Trend Rush Shopping

Twitter @ShireenSandoval
IG @ShireenSandoval

photography by tod p/t4twophotography
Twitter @todp_photo
IG @Tod_p

Hair & Make-up by Odette Hernandez
Twitter @Odettehernandz
IG Odett_Herndz

Editor: Matthew Auerbach

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