Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Sustainable Crafts: From Recycled Materials

Weeks 3 & 4
We've reached week 3 of the 8 week course and are having a  breather during half term. So, what will the learners be doing ready for week 4? Well, they've all had a  go at making paper beads now and at least two have totally embraced the craft, producing the most beautiful and unique designs that they will develop into finished jewellery pieces. I will be showcasing these at a later date but I am amazed at how a simple craft like paper bead making can turn, in the right hands, into an art form! Well done ladies.

It is still early days and not everyone has decided yet which of the five recycled materials (paper, plastic, fabric, glass & metal) they will focus on to make their chosen artefact. Of course, they may choose to incorporate more than one of the materials and so long as at least one is of a recycled nature, this is fine. We will be looking further at shrink plastic in week 5 but it does not have to be this product that is used for the plastic requirement - recycled pastic beads are readily available at charity shops and probably in our jewellery boxes. One of our new starters has a lovely collection of beads in both pastic and glass which will look great in a number of designs...the next step there, is to gather ideas together for inspiration. I touched on some of these ideas in an earlier post -Upcycled blog post.

Recycled wooden beads, large metal beads wrapped in scrap material and tied with strands of cotton.
I always suggest keeping a notebook or sketchbook to gather and record any ideas relating to projects and hopefully, all of the learners have their own starting to fill up. When you start out in making jewellery, there is an abundance of info to absorb and special names for things and specific measurements to remember, keeping notes of some kind really will help and if you want to go back and make  the same item again, you have all the info to hand. Simple mood boards that show a collection of images cut from magazines is a great idea and ideal for this course. As this is an accredited course too, it is another good way of showing evidence of learning. Another old blog post mentions more on this and can be viewed here. 
Mood Board Ideas
I've fallen a  little bit in love with tassels lately and  have just set up a new board on Pinterest (click here) in honour of these fab little dangling delights. I hope the learners will be equally inspired by some of the designs as incorporating upcycled cotton/leather or chain tassels would be a perfect project for completing the course requirements.
Cotton tassel & recycled jewellery parts
Meeting requirements with recycled glass can be in the form of old beads or even beach glass. If the learner is new to jewellery making then I'd advise sticking to making beaded links from upcycled beads as this will give them the chance to practice the basic techniques of looping and how to connect all the components together. There are lots of tools available now for jewellery making but I advocate mastering the main pliers, cutters and needle file techniques before attempting these short cuts.
In all classes we use the following: Flat, round, narrow nosed (sometimes called snipe) pliers, top or side (flush) cutters and a needle file. Buy sturdy ones and they should last you a long while, I recommend buying from Beads.co.uk as these are great for starter jewellery makers. Jilly Beads is another good supplier for a range of items, including tools.
Tools required
Basic techniques for jewellery making include opening and shutting jump rings (various sized rings that are essential for joining the jewellery components together). Use your flat nosed and narrow nosed pliers in conjunction to hold the rings either side of the ring's join. DO NOT PULL APART! Instead, gently twist with one hand pusing away and the other towards you. No need to over do it and avoid twisting out of shape. The opening needs to be enough to thread on whatever finding (this is the name for the assorted metal parts that are required to make jewellery) or component that is to be threaded on there. To close simply repeat the action in reverse until the ends meet and the ring cannot allow things to fall off!

Basic loops are the most important technique to master and much of their success comes down to getting the size right. For standard sized plain loops using head pins or approx 0.8mm wire, you need to cut the wire at approx 1cm in length. File the end flat, bend over on a right angle, place your round nosed pliers (approx 1/3 of the way along the pliers) right at the top of the wire - no spare. If you are right handed, support with your left and turn the pliers AWAY from you while gripping the wire. You will not complete the loop in one movement, just ensure the wire is tight against the pliers and forming around it. Turn as far as feels comfortable then remove the pliers to reposition. Grip again at the top of the wire and continue to turn away from you to complete the loop. It should look round, NOT like a tear drop...if it does, next time check you are gripping the wire at the very top, with none spare. To finish the loop, hold so you are looking down on it and place the round nosed pliers up through the hole until it rests without moving. Position the pliers so that the both sections meet at where the wire join is. Grip gently but firmly. You need now to COUNTER TURN the pliers (or move the wire if it is flexible) so the loop sits on top like a needle head. If you turn it the wrong direction, you will simply get a split ring effect...fine if that is needed but not for a  simple loop!

For wrapped loops, do not cut the headpin/wire short but allow a few centimetres spare. Create a  loop as stated above but leave the spare wire for wrapping. The loop needs to be postioned close to the bead before wrapping so turn and check it is snug. Grip the loop with the flat nosed pliers and use narrow nosed ones to tightly wrap the spare wire around the base of the loop. Squeeze ends around for a  neat finish.

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