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Archive for Tuesday, July 23, 1996

JEWELRY BUSINESS FEATURES INSECTS

July 23, 1996

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Insects may bug a lot of people, but they are a business for Lawrence resident Charlie Hines.

When scanning Charlie Hines' house, a cicada may catch your eye -- or a praying mantis, scads of spiders or a bunch of beetles.

But the bugs don't bother Hines.

Hines, 26, is owner of Bedebug jewelry, which features insects embedded in clear, polyester resin forms.

"I sell them all over the U.S.," Hines said. "I also market to businesses or galleries across the U.S."

Hines graduated in 1993 from Kansas University, where he majored in biology with an emphasis in entomology. The business grew out of Hines' childhood fascination with insects.

"When I was a kid, I would draw insects and just imaginary insects and I would call them 'Bedebugs,'" Hines said.

In addition to the bugs that Hines collects, he uses specimens sent from people throughout the world to be embedded in Bedebug jewelry.

"Actually, some people in New York sent me a batch of 17-year cicada," Hines said. "There are just thousands of them up there this year."

Hines said the cicada emerge only once every 17 years in different broods. The batch he received from New York will become the latest works for his Bedebug collection.

Once collected, the bugs are put in rubbing alcohol to preserve their elasticity. Before the embedding process, Hines positions each insect in the shape it will be permanently preserved in the polyester resin.

"I was taking an organic chemistry class at KU and I started working with polymers," Hines said. "It (organic chemistry) wasn't that enjoyable for me, but I guess I got something out of the class after all."

While Hines' unique style of jewelry attracts a lot of attention, he keeps the designs simple to focus on the beauty of the insects.

"It's more to accentuate the form of the bug and not the fact that it is jewelry," Hines said.

"I've done some earrings, but I tend to stick to necklaces. It's not so people can go 'Hey, look! I've got earrings with bugs in them.'"

Hines has sold an estimated 3,000 pieces of jewelry through various vendors in Lawrence and other cities, including Seattle and San Francisco.

Hines' friends Jeff Conaway and Adam Kuban helped create a catalog to sell Bedebugs by mail.

While his bugs didn't bring in the big bucks when he first began business three years ago, Hines now has a steady income from insects.

"The first year I was in business, I didn't make that much money," Hines said. "But I've doubled my income every year that I've been in business."

The fact that Hines works out of his home and focuses on mail orders helps to keep overhead down and income up.

"I really only spent $2,000 to get started and I've already made that money back," Hines said. "I try to work out of my home in a place that is well-ventilated to keep the fumes from going throughout the house."

Aside from catalog sales, Hines said a lot of his business comes by word of mouth.

He also takes the jewelry with him on road trips to shows where he performs in the band Panel Donor.

"When we're on the road, I sell Bedebugs then, too," Hines said. "I can go in and scope shops out that I think would be good and then mail them a catalog."

In addition to making bug jewelry, Hines has created displays for Cornell University and KU's Natural History Museum, where his jewelry is sold.

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