Patina the "Wrong" Way Feels Oh, So Right

Jean Campbell is the senior editor of Beadwork and a
contributing editor to Beading Daily

Do you ever catch yourself thinking "But that's not how it's done!"? Of course you do—everyone thinks that from time to time. Happened to me at Thanksgiving this year, for instance. My sister-in-law put fresh ginger and apples in her cranberry sauce. On the face of it, this just seemed all wrong. But you know what? This spicy, tart sweet concoction was one of the most delicious sauces I think I've ever tasted.

The reason I tell this little story is that when it comes to creativity, the notion that there's only a right way and a wrong way usually stifles us, keeping us inside a box. That black-and-white thinking only gives us two options, right? Just two. And that's just not enough for artistic folks like us. So let's imagine what could happen if we embrace not only the black and the white, but that big range of gray possibilities in between. It could garner something pretty fantastic, don't you think?

Since winter is my season of creative regeneration, I'm going to embrace the grays and sniff around for things that give me a creative challenge. It will be those tips, techniques, and inspirations that don't necessarily meld with my current view of How Things Are Done. It'll be things that make me scratch my chin but get me excited to play, too.

So during this week's creative quest I came across the most recent season of Beads, Baubles, and Jewels, a set of 13 shows that features a wide array of designers, artists, and materials specialists that really got my heart thumping—what a great way to mine inspiration from such a diverse group! The producers this season hung each episode on "Design Inspiration," and one of those episodes is inspired by vintage: making retro designs, evoking a time gone by with the selection of certain materials, and, of course, aging your pieces so they look to have been aging in your collection for years.

The idea of forming patinas in new ways got my wheels turning. What could I do to age my beads in a different way? Especially those boxes and boxes of base-metal beads that haven't seen the sun in years? So I thought it would be fun to try out something "wrong": spray painting them! Painting beads seems like such a deviant thing to do. But then I started thinking about it . . . I'm using the same paint that they color bikes or swingsets with—why would it be a problem for beads? So I went ahead and had at it. Follow along, and I bet you'll be itching to try the same thing soon.

I started out with these base-metal beads that I've had forever—I bought them during the Bali silver craze. I love their shape, but I haven't used them for anything in years.


Next, I took a piece of 350-grit sandpaper and roughed up the surfaces a bit. This will help the paint stick better. I also washed the beads in warm soapy water, just to remove any residue from the sanding.





I put the sanded beads into a cardboard box and lightly sprayed them with metallic copper paint. (I used rust-proof enamel paint from the hardware store for this and all the coats.)





Once I gave them a light coat on one side, I let them dry and sprayed the other side. I've all of a sudden gone from silver to copper, which is cool, but I'm not done yet.





Just a little spritz of black paint deepens the tones, seemingly aging the surface.





So . . .I've got an aging copper thing here, and I figure a little green for a verdigris look is in order. Here I spritzed with just a little bit of sage green paint.





One last light coat with the metallic copper, and I've got a nice, rich-looking bead that's feeling more like an unearthed Etruscan treasure than a cheapo Bali-look base-metal bead. When you let these dry thoroughly the paint is pretty durable, but you can add a final coat of clear varnish if you'd like. 

Hey, that was pretty fun for a seemingly "wrong" thing to do. Want to stretch your creativity even further? I'd suggest checking out the latest season of Beads, Baubles, and Jewels. I was spurred to do this little exercise by the Vintage episode, but you'll find plenty more where that came from with episodes inspired by topics such as Music, Technology, Spirituality, Memories, and more.

Is spray paint something you've tried for altering the look of your beads? What else have you tried? Please share your creative discoveries right here on Beading Daily.

Happy beading-

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