Thursday, March 8, 2018

Electroforming with Recycled Copper

I've spent most of the past year working on my other shop, Sleepless Storyteller. Sure, I'm still upcycling and recycling whenever and however possible. But I've been focused on the design side of things, most recently, electroforming.

While I would be happy to list some recycled copper at Beyond Junk for anyone who is interested, today's post is more of a conceptual one. Electroformed crystal pendants and rings are one of the hottest trends in metal jewelry at the moment. Regardless of whether it stays trendy or not, I plan to be plating my own jewelry at home for some time to come.

One of the least discussed elements of this technique is the capacity to create almost entirely with recycled material. In the examples below, I have largely used new (to me) stones and gems, but plated with salvaged copper from electrical wire and scrap from a local metal shop.

If you decide to give home plating a try, be prepared to safely dispose of whatever you use for your plating solution. You'll need an acid bath that needs to be neutralized before being discarded.

Electroforming is a tricky process to get right, but once you nail it, keep practicing and you'll be able to produce a huge range of styles in either copper (much more common) or the elusive silver. As I'm new to this form, I plan to stick with copper. If you've tried plating in either metal, comment and tell me about your experience.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Recycled cyber-steampunk pendant giveaway

Enter to win a detailed urban/nature/steampunk fusion statement necklace from my sister shop, Sleepless Storyteller. It's super easy; Like and Share on Facebook to enter.

Monday, September 11, 2017

5 underutilized upcycling ideas for jewellery

The recycling and upcycling movement of recent years has spawned several styles of making jewellery and accessories. We've all seen many rings and pendants featuring beautiful wristwatch movements. Old keys, particularly skeleton keys find their way into pendant designs every day. Also popular is the cutting and shaping of circuitboards. While odd bits of hardware pop up in earrings and as necklace or bracelet charms regularly.

If you've caught the upcycling fever, you may be looking for something new and different to try in your next design project. Sure, it's nice to try your own take on a popular theme, but isn't it also fun to do something that few others are exploring? In that light, I've made a brief list of some often overlooked - but quite easy to source - recycled components I'd like to see more of in handmade salvaged jewellery.

Mini Incandescent Lightbulbs

Working with hollow glass bulbs presents obvious risks to jewellery and accessory makers, but one of the most accessible options is the miniature light bulb. Their small size (and sturdy construction in most cases) makes them durable, while still creating a delicate, steampunk-inspired esthetic in earrings and pendants.

Computer Capacitors

Versatile, plentiful, and very cost-effective to salvage or purchase, capacitors come in a rainbow of colours, although most commonly black or silver. They are lightweight, safe to work with, and effective in creating the illusion of a digital element to a pendant, ring, hair clip or other mid-size accessory. I've used them in nest and egg pendants and rings, as well as accent cabochons in assemblage pieces. Larger capacitors make nice simple pendants all on their own. They're also light enough to make comfortable to wear drop earrings.

Motor Windings

Ever since I started recycling e-waste into accessories, I've enjoyed the esthetic of a bare motor winding. They add an element of industrial texture and instantly raise a two dimensional design upwards and outwards.  Depending on the electronic device you're recycling, the motor windings come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours, although most are plain copper. Some of the largest are also a nice visual stand in for the infamous Arc Reactor created by fictional character Tony Stark. Many a cosplayer will love having one of these pendants in his or her wardrobe.

Mid-century Typewriter Keys

On my other Etsy shop's Facebook page I once received an angry comment from a history buff who thought it was a travesty to turn an antique typewriter key into a piece of jewellery. I assured her that most artists, myself included, only worked with parts already long separated from a working machine. But I neglected to mention the expense of working with antique parts. Even assuming you're sourcing ethically and not carelessly breaking up whole typewriters, these keys are pricey and hard to find. Mid-century typewriters on the other hand are a somewhat different story. I've found these keys much more plentiful and economical, while still creating a fun upcycled ring or pendant.

Vacuum Tubes

I mentioned vacuum tubes recently and touched on why I think so few artists convert these fun glass bulbs into pendants and accessories. As large hollow pieces of glass, they require a delicate touch to work with and extra packaging to mail safely. And they are long enough to present a challenge in using as a cabochon. The easiest and best way to adapt them is to (carefully!) fold the prongs at the end in on themselves. Or a slightly trickier method is to use a bead cap, if you can find one large enough. (I've done shotgun shell caps myself.)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Create alt-reality faux tech with vacuum tubes

Working with vacuum tubes is a rare and curious art. If you're looking for a steampunk or alt-reality costume accessory, a piece featuring a vacuum tube is a good way to go. They're distinctive and instantly achieve an effective alternate history vibe.
Vacuum Tube Glass Bulb

However, speaking from experience at Sleepless Storyteller, they are tricky items to work with. You can either bend or snip the protruding wires, but be careful not to crack the glass. I, personally, would not want to sell an item with a sharp edge of broken glass. They make lovely pendants and work well in mixed media art, but they're generally too tall to set as cabochons.

You'll see vacuum tubes in necklaces, pins, hats, and sometimes clocks. I've also seen them cleverly converted to USB sticks. Smaller tubes can be used for statement earrings while some of the largest can be adapted into desk lamps. If you're interested in working with vacuum tubes, I recommend browsing some of the awesome usage examples on Etsy, like the ones I tweeted below.

Monday, July 31, 2017

What can you make with scrap leather?

I'm always impressed at the popularity of leather scraps at Beyond Junk. I do my best to sort them into similar colours and textures, but beyond that, they're little leather pieces waiting to become ... something. And I'm never sure what.

Maroon Red Leather Scraps

To get a better idea of how makers are using leather scraps, here are a few of my favourite recent finds. Whether you consider it upcycling or recycling, it's an awesome practice I hope to see more of in future.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Vintage Pound Puppies

If you've got a soft spot (pun intended) for vintage stuffies, you'll recognize the cuties below. Did you have a Pound Puppy or two? I had the large and small, although it's the latter below.

Visit these little guys at Beyond Junk and get a feel-good dose of childhood fun!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Upcycling a Little or a Lot

Whether you upcycle to make an eco-friendly statement or to save money, the biggest ongoing challenge is, where do you set the bar for salvaged supplies? If you plan to design again and again, how do you source recycled materials? And how do you incorporate new content?

The design below for Sleepless Storyteller uses upcycled material in the form of a pocketwatch face plate, a repurposed St. Christopher Medal, a salvaged rhinestone and setting from an old bracelet. The hippocampus charms, aquamarine cabochon and setting, bail, and chain are all new material.

Another design for Sleepless Storyteller merges vintage deadstock and upcycled salvaged supplies. There is far less new material in the design below (only chain, findings, rhinestones, and the green wire) but this type of work is not as easy to replicate.

If you're designing for personal use, you could definitely get away with being super selective about  your materials. You may even want to recycle within recycling, and by that I mean, design a piece, wear it until you loose interest, then reuse the components for something new.

If you're designing for customers, you'll need to consider two things: 1) How much art can I make and how often? 2) Am I trying to create a unified brand, or am I just creating as the muse strikes me?

Answering those questions will help you make decisions about supplies and about what kind of business you're building. It's totally fine to create a hobby business and not quit your day job. Sometimes art and design are more rewarding when your paycheck isn't on the line. But if you do want that sought-after self-employed job title, balance business with your art for best results.