NO SOONER HAD JEWELRY DESIGNER Colleen Wolstenholme turned up at a New York City bar last August than a crowd of trendy downtown hipsters began asking about her stash of Paxil, Xanax and other pharmaceuticals. A suspicious manager approached—only to find that the pills in question weren’t for consumption but, rather, strung together to form necklaces, rings and bracelets. “People come up to me saying, ‘Wow, are you the one with the Paxil rings?’ ” says Wolstenholme, 34. “It’s like selling drugs!”
Marketed through her own catalog and on the Internet (prices range from $25 for a Zoloft ring to $135 for a Paxil pendant), Wolstenholme’s silver-cast designs have already hooked pop artists such as Jill Sobule. “I thought her jewelry was very timely and very clever,” says singer and Lilith Fair organizer Sarah McLachlan, who let her longtime friend sell the pill-wear at Lilith Fair. Adds Sobule, who sports a necklace made of the painkiller Tylenol 4: “There’s something so theater of the absurd about it, so wonderful, funny and ironic.”
Trained as a sculptor at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Wolstenholme—who two years ago took Paxil to help get over an abusive relationship—began making her jewelry as a way to “say how sad it is that there is a need for pills.” Still living in Halifax (Mom is an executive at a child-care organization; Dad is a retired teacher), Wolstenholme, who gets her pills from friends and acquaintances, now uses yoga, herbal tea and the positive side effects of her career to battle any lingering blues. As for the drug companies, she hasn’t heard a word. “I’d think they’d think it was funny,” she says.