To find Sandra Patton, creator and curator of handmade mushroom earrings, I weave through the toe-to-toe crowd packing the Mount Pisgah Arboretum at the 2017 Mushroom Festival. I squeeze through the fungal enthusiasts teeming in the White Oak Pavilion to find Patton behind the Cascade Mycological Society’s table, wrapping up mushroom pendant earrings for a patron.
Patton hand-sculpts, paints and clay-fires each model to represent a type of wild mushroom. Every unique pair includes a description of the wild mushroom that’s portrayed.
Judging from the customers who push in and out to peruse and purchase the earrings, they are a sought-after accessory, especially for the mycological hounds who are out on this wet day to take in all things ’shroom.
“If you had told me 10 years ago that this is what I’d be doing in retirement, I’d have told you that you were crazy,” Patton says.
Patton first got involved in the Mycological Society while mushroom picking with Marcia Peters, one of the nonprofit’s founders. After a few years of working on various projects, Sky Weintraub, former president of the mushroom group, suggested making mushroom-themed centerpieces to raise money for the organization.
When the group sold more than 100 centerpieces, they decided to diversify into mushroom wine charms and earrings for the society’s silent auction. After the ornaments sold out at auction, Patton was encouraged to continue construction. Now, along with books, clothing and membership, the earrings are available on the Cascade Mycological Society’s website.
Patton purchases project supplies and uses all proceeds from sale of jewelry to “benefit the Freeman Rowe Scholarship Fund to help those that contribute to the advancement of mycology.” Production of the handmade sets is limited, so if you want to surprise your partner with a pair of wearable chanterelles this Christmas, don’t wait — when the ’shrooms are all picked, they’ll be gone for the season.
Earrings are $12 a pair and can be found at CascadeMyco.org.