My Favorite Materials for Mixed Media Beadwork
One of my long-standing obsessions is using found objects in my beaded necklace and beaded bracelet designs. When I inherited a portion of my mother's old jewelry after she passed away in 2008, I started thinking about ways I could use them in new mixed-media jewelry projects, both as a way to honor my mom's creative spirit and as a way of keeping her memory close to me.
That was right around the time I was starting to become interested in stitching beaded bezels around found objects, too. I was trying to figure out how to make peyote stitch and right-angle weave bezels around anything I could get my hands on, including cabochons, crystal stones, vintage glass stones, and cameos. I also started playing with adding leather cord, silk ribbon, and chain as necklaces to my beaded pendants to give them a different, more modern look. Inspired by the Beadpunk style originated by bead artist Diane Hyde, I started looking for more objects and more ways to incorporate them into my beading projects.
If you want to start including more found objects into your bead-weaving projects for great mixed-media jewelry projects, here are a few ideas to get you started:
Tiny glass bottles. I found a stash of these glass bottles at my local craft store with the scrap book supplies. When I first started learning how to bead twelve years ago, beaded bottles were everywhere. With all the new mixed-media jewelry making projects that incorporate bead-weaving stitches, these tiny glass bottles in a range of shapes and sizes are perfect for adding to a statement necklace. They also make great last-minute beaded gifts when you add a fancy ribbon for a necklace!
Antique keys. Keys have been a staple of steampunk jewelry making projects since the beginning, it seems, and some of my favorite thrift-store finds have been big key rings full of old skeleton keys. Embellish them by wrapping a strip of peyote stitch or right-angle weave around the shaft of the key, or attach it to a beaded necklace using peyote stitch rings. Look for keys with unusual heads or even with a little bit of rust that give your antique key some character.
Typewriter keys and Scrabble tiles. Old typewriter keys are great for making tiny pendants and earrings. Whether you cover them in resin or stitch a tiny beaded bezel around them, you can find dozens of ways to incorporate typewriter keys into your mixed-media jewelry making projects. String them together for a unique bracelet for your favorite writer or reader, or hang a single typewriter key from a beaded necklace as a special and personal gift to a friend.
In the same vein, I love to use old Scrabble tiles in my bead embroidery pieces. Their square shape and flat backs make them better suited for bead embroidery projects than typewriter keys, which can sometimes have rough or curved backs. You can add initials, spell out short words, and add language to your mixed-media jewelry making projects using Scrabble tiles, and they make great bead embroidered cuff bracelets, too.
Natural objects. My mother had a huge collection of shells, fossils, and other natural objects from her beachcombing adventures on Galveston Island, where she lived the last years of her life. She would send me boxes of wonderful shells, shiny seeds, rough beach glass, pressed and dried flowers, and tiny twigs for use in my mixed-media jewelry making projects. These objects can be beaded around, glued to a backing and used for bead embroidery, or placed in a bezel and encased in resin for jewelry with a natural touch.
Silk ribbon or sari ribbon. Before I found a great tutorial for how to make a wire hook-and-eye clasp on leather cord or ribbon, I always felt intimidated by using these materials in my mixed-media jewelry. If you want a quick, fabulous necklace for a beaded pendant, wrap a strip of silk ribbon or sari silk around a length of leather cord and wrap the ends with a small piece of wire to hold it in place! Adding a few wire-wrapped dangles will add even more texture and visual interest to your latest beaded necklace project.
There are so many ways to incorporate special objects into your beading and bead-weaving projects for unique keepsake jewelry. Melanie Doerman's book, The Art of Forgotten Things showcases fifteen mixed-media jewelry projects using a wide range of both bead-weaving and jewelry making techniques that will inspire you to make your own memories. Sadly, Melanie passed away earlier this year, but The Art of Forgotten Things has left us with a beautiful way of honoring her memory, as well as a way to capture our own special memories with special keepsake jewelry.
Pre-order your copy of The Art of Forgotten Things and turn find new ways to turn special memories into special pieces of beaded jewelry. Or, if you just can't wait another minute to get started, you can also find The Art of Forgotten Things as an eBook, available as an instant download, and ready to view on your desktop or laptop computer in just minutes.
What found objects have you used in your own mixed-media jewelry? Have you included bead-weaving techniques in your found object jewelry yet? Or maybe you've already created a piece of keepsake jewelry using bead-weaving and found objects that told a special story. Leave a comment here on the Beading Daily blog and tell us about your favorite techniques, materials, or that special memory you captures in a piece of jewelry for yourself or for a friend!