Happy, Fun, Creative, Limitless: Making Mixed-Media Jewelry

Recycled jewelry, assemblage jewelry, found-object jewelry, collage jewelry–there are many ways we describe and refer to the beautiful mish-mash that is mixed-media jewelry. The definition is simple–just mix two or more materials or techniques and voila! You've technically achieved mixed-media jewelry. Wire and clay, ribbon and glass, leather and metal, paper and resin–any of these fun combos work well together and qualify as mixed media.

Ephemeral Earrings by Luthien Thye
from Handcrafted Jewelry 2012

But mixed-media jewelry is more than just combining two different mediums in one design, in my opinion. I've always been a fan of mixed-media jewelry because when it comes to art and craft, I'm a fan of anything goes. Most metal designs benefit from the addition of something totally different–a knot of colorful ribbon, a dab of color from enamel or ink, a dangling lampwork glass bead, a squiggle or coil of wire. These are the added little things that make jewelry more interesting, and I think remembering to branch out and include some extra little mixed-media element in a design helps me be more creative.

Speaking of being creative . . . I had a jewelry-making playdate earlier this week with two dear friends who are jewelry designers. One teaches metal clay classes from beginner to certification level and just taught herself metal fold forming; one is a master at finding found objects to upcycle and repurpose into unique jewelry creations and likes "crossover crafting" as much as I do, sometimes incorporating scrapbooking or other craft tools and materials in jewelry making. Both are a hoot!


Floral Cantasy Recycled Can Pin/Brooch
By Claire S. Larrabee

Together, the three of us had a great time playing and experimenting. We were all over the place! We continued my current passion of using flux and various inks with rubber stamps to create unique designs on copper and then torching them to create beautiful patinas; we hammered and fold-formed some of those copper pieces to create dimensional and/or textured pieces; we experimented using fold-forming techniques on aluminum cans and then played with embossing powders and a heat gun to test the permanence of colorful designs on those same aluminum cans; and finally we sliced old wine corks and experimented drawing designs on them with a wood-burning kit.

We also ate brownies and cherries and drank lemonade and learned all kinds of things from each other. We talked about the value of play and how it not only sparks but also fuels your creativity. From wood-burning cork to fold-forming metal, from heat embossing to heat patinas, we covered a wide gamut of jewelry-making techniques. Rubber stamps and propane torches. Heat guns and jeweler's saws. Anvils and ink pads. Hammers and wood-burning tools. We mixed high and low, color and metal, beginner and advanced, hard and soft. Oh, the contrast! This, to me, is what mixed media is. Happy, fun, creative, limitless!


There are unlimited possibilities for combining things that make you happy into jewelry that creates even more happiness. If you like glitter–and oh, how I love glitter!–then use glitter. (With metalsmithing? Yes! With metalsmithing.) If you like working with metal but want to create something colorful, add enamel, ink, or paint to the metal. If you want to soften a design, add fibers, ribbon, fabric, or silk cords. Feeling a little peace, love, and happiness? Add leather. Need more color? Use lampwork glass beads or make your own beads using polymer clay. Have something to say? Stamp a message with metal stamps, rubber stamps, or cut out paper words and include them in resin.

Happy, fun, creative, limitless.

Here are some of the items I'm hooked on using in mixed-media jewelry right now:

  • old rhinestones in any shape or form
  • cut-outs of words or sayings
  • photocopied pieces of old photographs
  • scraps of sari silk or vintage velvet ribbon
  • patinated metal, usually copper with heat patina or verdi gris
  • wax or other drippy stuff that looks like wax (tool dip, etc.)
  • vellum paper
  • handwritten script, either stamped on or copies of old documents
  • natural things like beach finds or seed pods
  • old skeleton keys or bits of vintage hardware
  • enameled anything-that-won't-melt
  • strategically placed ink
  • …and yes, glitter, usually in resin
from Enchanted Adornments

Some of my favorite and most inspiring resources for making mixed-media jewelry are on sale now in our Sidewalk Sale, including Enchanted Adornments (most special jewelry-making book ever), Making Cold Connections with Rivets and Remixed Media: Transforming Metal Found Objects. Grab one, have a friend or two come over with a supply or technique to share, bake up some brownies, and have a jewelry-making playdate. You never know what mixed-media fun you'll get into!

How do you define mixed-media jewelry?  What are your favorite techniques or supplies to use when making mixed-media jewelry? I'd love to hear in the comments below.

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