Try Something New: Colorful, Affordable Origami Paper Jewelry Making for Summer

One of the best ways to overcome a creative rut is by introducing a new technique or material to your jewelry making. I began my lifelong craftiness with paper crafts, cardmaking in particular, which later expanded to include scrapbooking. Cardmaking is still my favorite, and over the years, it has turned me into a huge paper fan. HUGE. I could spend–and have spent–hours looking at paper at a craft store or art supply store.

So imagine my joy when I found out we were publishing a book about paper jewelry! Origami jewelry, specifically. In Origami Jewelry Motifs by Julián Laboy-Rodríguez, I learned that tiny, folded paper shapes like owls and other birds, various flowers, hearts, stars, shirts, purses, angels, and even elephants (called “models” and there are tutorials for 30 of them in the book) can be used to make charming jewelry. I also learned a new way to combine my passion for paper with jewelry making–and it’s so affordable!

learn to make origami earrings and other paper jewelry

origami earrings

“The projects in this book serve as an introduction to both jewelry making and origami. You will find traditional origami models and some original pieces, all of them accessible to jewelry making,” Julián says. In Julián’s book, you learn to create the origami models and then learn how to properly prepare them and turn them into paper jewelry–including earrings, pendants, charm bracelets, and more–even headbands, hairpins, and brooches.

But what kind of paper can you use to make paper jewelry? Excerpted from Origami Jewelry Motifs, here are some of Julián’s suggestions and advice on the kinds of paper you can use, what kind of paper will hold up to folding without fading or wearing thin, how to alter paper to make it more suitable for paper jewelry making, and more.

learn to make paper jewelry like this origami flower necklace

origami flower necklace

PAPER

from Origami Jewelry Motifs by Julián Laboy-Rodríguez

Without paper there is no origami. But what type of paper should you use? Vibrantly colored paper can give your jewelry a flamboyant edge while more solid or serious colors denote a more elegant feel. And it’s not just color you need to consider–the texture and weight of the paper must be chosen, as well.

Consider these important questions when choosing paper:

  • Is it expensive? Is it hard to find?
  • Does it come in the right size?
  • Does it come in different colors?
  • Will it tear with repeated folding?
  • Will the colors fade with a protective coating or with repeated handling?
  • Will it absorb the protective coating?

Let’s explore a few different paper options and how they relate to these questions.

Photocopy paper

This widely available paper is a very inexpensive option. It comes in different sizes and colors, and because it’s dyed in its entirety, the colors will not wear away with repeated handling or the application of a protective coating. The paper absorbs the protective coating which gives the paper more durability. However, this paper may break when used with smaller models that require repeated folding.

Magazine paper

Though the accessibility of magazines make them an appealing option, the paper is thin and may not hold up with repeated folding and the application of a protective coating. Crease marks are hard to produce. However, you can always change the paper’s properties by gluing two layers of paper together. A sheet of paper with different designs on each side will create a unique look for your origami model. Don’t be quick to give up on a paper. You can always do something to change its characteristics.

learn to make origami paper jewelry rings

origami paper rings

Origami paper

This type of paper is not hard to find. Art stores, different websites and even bookstores often carry it. It comes in many sizes, including 3″ (7.6cm) squares and 10″ (25.4cm) squares and has the advantage of already being a perfect square.

Origami paper is a fairly inexpensive option, especially if you purchase it in large bundles. There are many colors available, although they tend to be bright and solid. Origami paper works well with repeated folding and can absorb a protective coating for durability. However, the color may fade when coated, and if it has a color side and a white side, the white may fade first. It is a great option for practice, however.

Foil-backed paper

Foil-backed papers are an elegant option for some projects, giving the appearance of silver or gold jewelry. They’re a little more difficult to find, available mostly at specialized stores and on websites. Usually, the paper comes in gold or silver on one side and white on the other.

The sizes are somewhat limited, although you may find a wider variety in wrapping paper, which is more readily available. Foil-backed paper is usually not a good candidate for a protective coating, but because of its metal component, the paper has more resistance than other types of paper. There are two varieties: Japanese and American foils.

Japanese foil is a very thin and very malleable option. That means that it can hold any shape. It’s so malleable that the shape in itself may not be resistant to constant use. However, adding a second or third layer of this or another type of paper can add resistance and durability. The shiny and bright appearance is worth it!

American foil is an imitation of Japanese foil, so it has different properties. For example, the shiny surface may be a spray of color. That means the color will fade with repeated folding. The paper tends to be spongy and thick, so it doesn’t hold shapes as easily as Japanese foil. It is a less expensive version of foil paper, so it may be a good option for very simple models.

learn to make origami paper jewelry

origami butterfly necklace

Washi

In general, washi (which literally means “Japanese paper”) is the best option for the pieces included in this book. The only drawback is the price: This paper is more expensive than the others and it is not readily available.

The arrangement of the paper fibers makes this paper strong, and it is made even stronger and more durable when the protective coating is added.

Washi paper doesn’t break with more than usual stress; it comes in various colors and wonderful patterns as well as soft, fabric-like textures; and it folds beautifully with small and large models. Washi paper includes a wide variety of papers–I encourage you to experiment with them to find the ones you like best. —JLR

origami boat and fox earrings

origami boat and fox earrings

The colorful, lightweight paper jewelry you’ll learn to make in Origami Jewelry Motifs is perfect for spring and summer. With models like turtles, sailboats, flowers, fish, and butterflies, what could be more appropriate? And if you’ve ever seen the paper aisle at a craft store, you know the possibilities are endless for the colors, designs, and styles of paper jewelry you can make.

If you love paper like I do–or if you’re just looking for a fun, affordable new material and technique to add to your repertoire, order Origami Jewelry Motifs or instantly download the digital book and you can get started making paper jewelry in minutes! Plus it’s a great, inexpensive technique for kiddos out of school this summer.

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