Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Creating Art Jewelry

The first time I took one of my 24" x 36" paintings, warped it down to a 25mm sphere, and created a pendant necklace I was ecstatic!  I was instantly addicted to making art jewelry, rings, lockets, earrings, pendants... I even have parts for hair pins but I have yet to make those.
Secret Grove ring

If you would like to create art jewelry there are some simple THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW...

1.  Do not use artwork that you did not create unless the artist left this world a long time ago.  Exceptions:  your child's artwork (if the jewelry is for personal use/gifts or charity);  old postcards or scrapbook paper;   other artists' work if you have permission in writing.  ALSO... do not assume that you are not an artist!  You do not need elaborate paintings or detailed work to create art jewelry.  Simple, colorful, and whimsical can be just as beautiful in the right setting as Mona Lisa!

2.  Do not sell the very first few pieces you create.  Wear them yourself or ask friends/family to test them for you.  Fortunately, I gave my first pendant necklaces to my mother and mother-in-law.  My MIL sent me an e-mail a few days later to tell me the chain had broken and I was quite glad to know!  After that I only ordered higher quality chains -- ball chains do not have a long life span and I did not want my artwork dangling from something flimsy.  

3.   You CAN use inkjet printed images, just seal them first.  Personally,  I like to use Mod Podge Satin or Judi Kins MicroGlaze.  Be sure to let them dry for at least 12-hours (preferably 24 hours with the MicroGlaze).

Starry Meadow locket
4.  Start out simple and small.  Make a few inexpensive pendants first before diving into fancy settings and oddly-shaped cabochons.  You will need to get used to gluing in a manner that creates a clear image without annoying bubbles or tears.  

5.  Use settings that suit your artwork.  If you paint pastel bicycles, they would probably look odd in a fancy setting like the one above.  However, in a basic pendant setting or locket they would look extraordinary, at least in my imagination.  There are always exceptions, of course.  

6.  A lot of work and experimentation goes into making art jewelry, especially if you are using large, rectangular images.  You will need to crop, shrink, warp, and probably warp some more.  Programs such as Corel Painter and PhotoShop help immensely.  


1.  digital images of artwork, unless you are using old postcards or scrapbook paper (in some cases you may want to take digital images of these to use instead of the original).

2.  a photo editing program such as Corel Painter or PhotoShop, as well as a little photo editing experience and/or sheer determination

3.  a printer, laser is recommended but you most certainly can use inkjet images (see #3 above)

4.  card stock for printing images

Arabella earrings
5.  if you are using inkjet images, a paper sealant such as Mod Podge or Judi Kins MicroGlaze (again, see #3 above)

6.  very sharp scissors and/or paper punches in various sizes, depending on the size(s) of the cabochon settings you will be using

7.  jewelry and finding supplies - There are tons of these on Etsy with wonderful reputations!  Just to name few I have worked with, Sun and Moon Craft Kits, Canterbury Lane, The Supply Factor, and Bunnysundries (again, that is only a few).  Rio Grande is another supplier with a reputation for wonderful customer service.

8.  glues and sealants - Diamond Glaze is awesome for applying the image to the glass cab ... just remember it dries quickly so you need to replace the cap immediately and work fast.   E-6000 is stinky but it works great for securing the cabochon to the setting.  Use E-6000 in a well-ventilated area (seriously) and do not buy the largest size possible.  I always look for the smaller sizes, even if it costs more per ounce.  I have never been through an entire bottle of E-6000 before having to replace it due to it's overwhelmingly sticky, messy nature.  As far as sealants, see #5.  Obviously there are alternatives to every product I am mentioning, I am just making suggestions based on what has worked best for me.  

9.  packaging and presentation - Create little information cards for your work, even if you are not selling but giving as gifts!   Package them in a pretty organza bag or a decorated jewelry box or tin.  The suppliers I listed above have packaging materials as well.  If you are shipping, be sure to use plenty of bubble wrap and mark the package as "fragile."  Just imagine someone sitting on your package and cushion appropriately.

10.  If you are going to sell your work, you need a good customer service policy.  Jewelry is going to break from time to time and there is a greater risk of customer disappointment with jewelry (I am speaking not only from my art experience but years of retail experience).  Personally, I want customers to have something they can enjoy for quite some time.  I don't care if it's just an inexpensive ring and I will never tell my customers what an employer at a major retailer told me once... "that's what you get when you only pay X amount for a necklace."  In the long run, it pays to be reliable, sincere, and genuinely devoted to the happiness your products should invoke. 

I'm sure I have left something out and I will edit accordingly.  I will post again with more details on creating, assembling, and editing images for jewelry.    

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