Technique Tuesdays: 10 Tips for Mixed-Media Jewelry

Everyone likes to have new bling, and making your own doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Creating mixed-media jewelry can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. Beads, wire, found objects, a variety of metals, and even paper can be manipulated and changed to create one-of-a-kind pieces. There are countless options, no matter what your style is. Ready to get started? Here are some tips for mixed-media jewelry from top jewelry artists, and a few quick techniques to take your jewelry adventures from good to great.

1. Yearning to make a quick jewelry project, but don’t think you have the materials? Everyone has paper on hand. In her “Doodled Paper Bead Jewelry” article in the Winter 2016 issue of ZenDoodle Workshop magazine, Kari McKnight Holbrook used doodled pages she created on lightweight copy paper to create unique paper beads, but any paper will work. She first doodles on paper, cuts the paper into strips, tightly rolls the strip around a toothpick, and seals it with varnish. The doodles are front and center on the beads, which can be strung onto headpins and hung from a chain for a bold statement.

Doodled paper beads by Kari McKnight Holbrook

Paper beads take on a whole new look with hand-doodled paper. (Art by Kari McKnight-Holbrook, photo by Sharon White Photography)

2. You’ve just unearthed some colorful holiday tins from last season. A number will get filled with cookies, but what to do with the rest? You could use them to make jewelry components. Leisel Lund cut shapes from colorful tins to use in her jewelry in the March/April 2015 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, and here are some tips for mixed-media jewelry made from tins:

  • Cut out a piece of tin with an image that you like and use it as is.
  • Find a pattern or color combination on the tin that would enhance your design, such as swirls for feathers.
  • Cut out free-form tin shapes, or use a template to create the shape you want.
Mixed-media tin necklace by Leisel Lund

Cut designs from printed tins can become beautiful focal points in mixed-media jewelry. (Art by Leisel Lund, photo by Sharon White Photography)

3. The spiral is one of the easiest wire forms to learn, and it adds something special to just about any jewelry design or mixed-media piece of art. Using only two tools, flat-nose pliers and round-nose pliers, and wire you’ll master these spirals in no time. In the July/August 2015 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Jen Cushman offers these simple steps to success. Use these as headpins, or jewelry components:

  • Grasp the very end of the wire with the round-nose pliers, and roll the wire away from you. Continue rolling until the end of the loop touches the longer section of wire. You want this to be a tight roll.
  • Switch to the flat-nose pliers and, holding the wire firmly in your non-dominant hand, continue rolling the loop inward to form a spiral, gently rolling the loop until the wire runs out. Tuck the tail end neatly against the spiral or gently bend it outward. While a perfect spiral is lovely, Jen usually goes out of her way to ensure the concentric circles are more organically shaped.
Wire swirl jewelry by Jen Cushman

Creating a swirl from wire is easy, and it makes a stunning mixed-media jewelry component. (Art and photo by Jen Cushman)

4. No more relying on pre-made or store-bought designs for etching. In the Winter 2016 issue of Zendoodle Workshop magazine, Carol Geurts shows how to add your own designs to metal. After using commercial stamps for designs in her etching work, Carol discovered that she could draw her own designs with permanent markers with great results. Anything on the metal covered by ink will be preserved, and the untouched metal will be etched by the etching solution, giving relief to the design. This offers new design possibilities and creative options, allowing you to create metal pieces that are uniquely you.

Etched metal bracelets by Carol Geurts

You can create your own custom etched designs on metal. (Art by Carol Geurts, photo by Sharon White Photography)

5. If fabric is your preferred material, try Rebecca Ringquist’s “Stitched Style” fabric necklace, from the November/December 2015 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Her tips for mixed-media jewelry made start with embellishing a piece of fabric with stitching, using any combination of hand embroidery stitches and machine stitches you like. Rebecca encourages you to make the cloth as densely embellished as possible, and to layer various stitches and colors together. Once the fabric is embellished to your liking, wrap it around piping cord and whipstitch it in place. Gather and cinch the ends of the fabric, trapping a leather lacing or ribbon at each end, and secure them with stitching.

Rebecca Ringquist shares tips for mixed-media jewelry incorporating fabric.

Jewelry made from fabric and stitch offers great texture and color. (Art by Rebecca Ringquist, photo by Sharon White Photography)

6. Jen Cushman knows that just about anything can be made into a great focal piece for jewelry with the right tools and techniques. In the March/April 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Jen elevates the humble spoon from everyday tool to fashion piece with simple hammering, stamping, and annealing techniques. Jen’s tip: If, after adding patina the stamped letters are no longer dark enough, use a fine-point marker to get into the recesses of the letters.

Spoon necklace by Jen Cushman

Altered spoons make great jewelry components. (Art by Jen Cushman, photo by Sharon White Photography)

7. Jewelry makers have used resin in all sorts of ways, adding shine, embedding objects, and more. Becky Nunn suggests adding color to the resin to create a totally new look in her “Faux Porcelain Jewelry” article in the March/April 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. It’s as easy as stirring in a bit of pigment, and you can even mix colors. Just be sure the colorant does not equal more than 10% of the resin, because having more than 10% can cause issues with curing the resin.

Resin bracelet by Becky Nunn

Tinting resin with powdered resin is an easy way to add a pop of color. (Art by Becky Nunn, photo by Sharon White Photography)

8. Turn a simple paper punch into a great jewelry tool with Rachael Stewart’s Dragon Egg bead technique (Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, September/October 2016). Punch a lot of circles (about 150), ink the edges of each circle with an inkpad, and adhere the circles to a wooden bead for a delightfully layered bead. As you place the circles on the bead, be sure to turn the bead in the same direction as you work so that the overlap is going in the same direction around the entire bead. This also adds to the scale-like appearance of the beads.

Among Rachel Stewart's tips for mixed-media jewelry is to use paper punches to adorn wooden beads.

Transform a plain wooden bead into a Dragon Egg bead with paper punches. (Art by Rachel Stewart, photo by Sharon White Photography)

9. To colorize or not to colorize metal—that’s a question jewelry makers are often faced with. Here’s a tip from Matthew Runfola on how to decide whether to keep metal its natural color, or amp it up: Part of the decision, he says, rests on deciding if the end result, the color, is what’s most important, or if the process is equally important.

According to Runfola, the author of Patina: 300+ Coloration Effects for Jewelers & Metalsmiths, “There is usually more than one approach to obtaining a desired metal coloration. Sometimes both reactive and a non-reactive colorants are available, which can be used to achieve similar results.” The key word here is similar.

A reactive coloration involves a chemical reaction with the metal, i.e. oxidation or patination, and every metal has a range of reactive colors. Non-reactive colors lie on the surface of the metal. Pigments and paints are non-reactive colorants. Though the resulting colors are similar, they are definitely not the same. Choose the method that best fits you and your work.

10. Available in an array of shapes and sizes, resin blanks offer a wonderful start to jewelry making. But if you want to take the design up a notch, try some of Debby Anderson’s tips for mixed-media jewelry from the July/August 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine: Apply a thin layer of self-hardening clay to the front of the blank, and stamp the clay with a small rubber stamp for an impressive textural effect. Just think of the many design options this provides. One more great tip: Applying a thin layer of hand lotion to the clay, or to the stamp, will help prevent the stamp from sticking to the clay. Be sure to remove any clay from the stamp after stamping before it dries.

Jewelry art by Debby Anderson

Stamped clay can turn a plain resin blank into an artful one. (Art by Debby Anderson, photo by Sharon White Photography)

If you’ve already hauled out your jewelry tools and are ready to get to work creating some mixed-media jewelry, here are more resources that will make those projects even better:

Cloth Paper Scissors Mixed-Media Jewelry Basics Kit

This Mixed-Media Jewelry Basics Kit is perfect for creating a number of projects.

Patina by Matthew Runfola

Patina by Matthew Runfola is the source for information on creating beautiful finishes.

Making Metal Jewelry by Jen Cushman

Making Metal Jewelry by Jen Cushman is packed with fun metal jewelry projects.

Winter 2016 Zen Doodle Workshop magazine

Get great jewelry projects and techniques in the Winter 2016 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop magazine.

 

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