Julie Gootee’s bumper sticker could read, “I brake for butterflies.” The artist, who is based in Bloomington, has been pulling over to salvage lifeless swallowtails, monarchs, and red-spotted purples since 2007. “There’s so much beauty scattered along the roadsides,” she says. Gootee collects wings, then sandwiches them between glass sheets. After careful soldering and a few embellishments, each insect’s delicate patterns come alive once more in earrings and pendants. “The process frames each wing in a way,” she says, “so people see something different that they haven’t noticed before.”
Whether using just a small section or a full wing, Gootee starts with sketches and paper templates. “I make a copy of the wing so I don’t have to handle it again until it’s ready to be put in the glass,” she explains. Using a glass cutter and grinder, she shapes two glass fragments to fit. Once the pieces are ready, she trims the wing as needed and places it between the thin sheets. Next, she joins the pieces with silver solder or copper.
To electroform copper, Gootee uses low-voltage power to fuse bits of metal together. “Some people like warmer metals as opposed to silver,” she says. To adorn intricate pieces, Gootee adds precious gemstones. Her earrings range from $35 to $120, with necklaces priced at $27 for simple designs and up to $175 for embellished pieces. If you like something, snag it before Gootee sets up shop at the next art fair—pretty much the only place to find her works. They’re one of a kind, and they have a way of flying off the shelves.