When Driftwood Becomes Art

By Laine Bergeson Becco | September 2019

Britney Hansen.jpg

Britney Hansen’s creations are optical illusions — architectural pieces that make a bold visual statement while weighing not much more than a feather.

Hansen, 29, makes earrings and necklaces out of driftwood. “People often ask if my work is made out of charcoal or cement,” she says. When she tells them what it is, they’re surprised. She calls her business Everything Is All Ways, a phrase that suggests there is more than one way to look at things — not unlike the way people look at her creations and see different materials and forms.

Early in her career, Hansen, who was born in Iowa and raised in South Dakota, worked with textiles. She’d always loved driftwood, but she didn’t start transforming her collection into jewelry until it dawned on her that it was porous, like linen, and would absorb dyes just as easily. “Seeing the vibrancy of the driftwood, I realized it could be a wearable thing,” she says.

Today, she makes her own dyes using all natural materials, like turmeric and buckthorn berry. She boils the berries into a mash, and then boils the driftwood in the mash. Dyeing wood affords her a freedom that dyeing fabric didn’t. “Jewelry doesn’t need to be laundered,” she says. She never has to worry about dyes bleeding in the wash.

Hansen sells her jewelry at craft shows and online, and fills custom orders at her studio in northeast Minneapolis. She gathers all the driftwood from Lake Superior and the banks of the Mississippi.

“People who are comfortable in nature are attracted to my work energetically,” says Hansen. So are people who love driftwood and all it symbolizes: movement, travel and transformation through space and time. “Pieces of driftwood are smoothened and lightened by time and travel; the pieces embody a sense of wanderlust,” she says. “And I think there are a lot of driftwood people in the world.”

Laine Bergeson