Molly Gabel and her dog, Amaya, pose for a portrait in her at home studio Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Carbondale Ill. Gabel said that she loves working from home because she is able to make her own schedule. (Leah Sutton | @leahsuttonphotography)
Molly Gabel and her dog, Amaya, pose for a portrait in her at home studio Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Carbondale Ill. Gabel said that she loves working from home because she is able to make her own schedule.

Leah Sutton | @leahsuttonphotography

Meet the artist behind Carbondale’s butterfly jewelry

If you are looking for a last minute gift idea for the holidays, ethically sourced butterfly jewelry might be a great way to add some color to your winter festivities.

December 20, 2020

Molly Gabel is a Carbondale artist who creates butterfly-themed jewelry. Gabel is known on Etsy and Instagram as Molly Flower Designs.

“I’ve always been artsy as well and I have always been creating things. It is just so therapeutic and fun. I love mixing the natural world with different pops of color,” Gabel said. 

Gabel had previously gone to school and majored in Outdoor Recreation and still enjoys backpacking and rock climbing. It is because of this that Gabel is concerned with making sure that the butterflies that are used in her pieces are ethically sourced. 

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“I source them from a couple of different companies that I have done a lot of research on and I just make sure that the companies that I am getting them from are ethical; meaning that they sell them after they pass away naturally,” Gabel said. 

Gabel also said that a lot of the butterfly houses that she purchases butterflies from also release butterflies back into the wild to help with the population of the pollinators. 

“What’s cool about the butterfly houses is that they are able to make sure that their butterflies are going to live and not get diseases that they might get in the wild [before being released],” Gabel said.

Most butterflies only have a lifespan of about one to three weeks. After the butterfly dies, the wings are available for purchase in either a bundle, where the wings have already been removed from the abdomen or individually, where the wings are still attached to the abdomen. 

Gabel said that the wings don’t necessarily have an expiration date to be used, but she tries to remove the wings from the abdomen as soon as possible to ensure the best results.

The butterfly wings are very delicate and “sometimes if you breathe at all, the wings will go everywhere,” Gabel said. When handling butterflies or moths, Gabel always uses tweezers. 

The delicacy of the wings is slightly different based on the species of butterfly or moth. Gable said that sunset moths and blue morphos have a lot of scales that can come off when handling them whereas monarchs are easier and aren’t as difficult to handle. 

When making pieces such as the butterfly lockets, Gabel sometimes has to cut the wings to fit perfectly. 

In total, she said that she probably uses about 20 different kinds of butterflies and moths regularly and occasionally includes specialty butterflies and moths.

In addition to getting exposure on Etsy and Instagram, Molly Flower Designs attends many local craft shows. 

This year, she participated in virtual craft shows due to the pandemic. Among these were the SIU Virtual Holiday Art and Craft Sale and Earth Day St. Louis.

Although Molly Flower Designs gets a lot of inquiries through social media and Etsy, Gabel said that some people stop by her studio to purchase leftover pieces from previous shows or at the Co-Op in Carbondale.

Gabel also said that she just started creating jewelry full time after moving back to Carbondale in March. 

Now that she is full-time, she said that she averages about six to twelve pieces each day.

“I think that the different natural colors in butterflies and moths really draw me in and I love to work with them,” Gabel said. She also said that she likes to pair them with different metals like silver, gunmetal, and gold. For added variety, she attaches moon charms or pairs them with different gemstones like amethyst or quartz.

“I get a lot of stuff online because of where we live in the midwest, it’s hard to find some of these things,” Gabel said. 

Gabel likes to include the unique processes of the pieces along with the name of the species of butterfly used in the purchase. 

In an attempt to keep each order as unique as the wings they are made with, she likes to include personal notes to the customers, a butterfly tattoo, and decorated shipping packages.

“I love what I do and it makes people happy so I like that,” Gabel said. 

Photo Editor Leah Sutton can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @LeahSutton_

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