Wearable Art / Handmade Paper Jewellery

A while back, I started playing around with making paper jewellery and created a pile of cute little beads using old calendar pages, sheets of painted card, unfinished paintings and Greek leaflets and book pages. Its a meditative, if rather time-consuming process involving cutting strips of paper or card to the right size, then rolling, sealing and varnishing them. Some papers work better than others and like most things, it involves a bit of trial and error to find the best paper and most successful length and shape of strips to use. 

Then there’s the sealing and varnishing. Good old Mod Podge is a pretty good sealant for the first coat.. I’ve tried several types of clear varnish and a couple of methods of varnishing so far. They’re all pretty messy! Having sat around for about a year, the beads have resurfaced recently as I’ve spent much of January figuring out various ways of creating paper earrings and I’d like to incorporate the beads into the process. Why paper jewellery you may ask? Well, I guess most of my art is created on paper and I love the idea of wearable art. Making a practical, usable thing out of a painting really appeals to me… plus, they’re incredibly light to wear.

Like the beads, the paper earrings took quite a lot of research! First I tried making paper sandwiches with layers of glue and wallpaper paste, then cutting them into shapes. I tried cutting the shapes first, then layering and sticking them together. I found old paintings – cut them up and stuck several layers together. Different papers called for a different number of layers, depending on their weight. Then – how best to cut them? Its not so easy getting reasonably regular shapes when cutting 5+ layers of paper and my hole punch had given up the ghost. Why is it we ever think these things should be easy?

Many (too many) hours were spent online trawling Greek and European e-shops, looking for the right jewellery findings and debating the advantages of sterling silver vs stainless steel and other metals. New jewellery tools, beads and a new type of quick-drying gloss varnish were purchased especially for the job. In the absence of a craft hole punch, Mick’s hand drill came in handy for making hanging holes. I learned a whole new vocabulary and was very grateful for the advice of a friend who is a very proficient jewellery maker. Penny brought her stash of tools, wires, clasps, glues, head pins, crimp beads and jump rings to the studio so I could try them out and gave me lots of valuable advice.

As soon as the parts arrived from Athens I began attaching ear hooks, jump rings and beads and soon realised I needed more supplies… so back to the e-shop! At this point, I reached out to Mick’s cousin – Linda Jones for a bit of moral support and some professional advice on earring hardware before ordering more parts. Linda’s a very experienced jeweller and tutor specialising in wire jewellery – you can see some of her lovely work HERE…

Currently about 25 pairs of earrings are ready. They’re available from the Charakopio Studio for €20 per pair (€15 per pair for the single paper bead design above). Prices are plus p&p – I’m happy to mail them anywhere, with registered mail from Greece.

The flowery pair above were made from a small painting – the lines were incised into the wet paint and the texture of the heavyweight card has created an interesting texture under the paint. After all their coats of sealant and varnish, they’re really pretty durable – just don’t go swimming in them or wear them in the shower or bath!

Looks like the jewellery making bits have taken over the whole double desk! Much experimenting has been going on… This lovely Greek blue pair below were created by adhering some of my decorated paper artwork to a base of lightweight wood, then finished off with some wood and ceramic beads and earring wires. Just CONTACT me if you’d like more photos of any of the earrings or to know more about their individual lengths etc.

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