Photographs! I have a computer full of photographs I’ve taken and I bet a lot you do too! While I love to look at them and remember the events, emotions and friends, I want to do more with them. Since I make jewelry, I’ve been experimenting with ideas. That’s what I do- experiment with ideas and then turn them into wearable art – jewelry.
So as I went through my photos one day, I saw that I had a lot of animals. Especially animals from Africa (what a surprise since I only brought home hundreds of photos from Africa!) and I decided to make a silver bracelet with a cat family. I had great photos of a cub, a lion and a lioness. I experimented with photo sizes and charm sizes and eventually figured out I could use 3 charms on a bracelet and have room for tiny beads.
And then I realized that this bracelet had endless possibilities. It could have photos of birds for a birder. It could be a friendship bracelet. It might be a reminder of a trip. Mothers and grandmothers might like to have their children and grandchildren’s pictures. Might be a great gift for bridesmaids. I needed to really think about and plan the process for this piece and future pieces of jewelry.
First I decided to make the charms about ¾ inch x 1 inch. Yes, that was kind of an arbitrary size but it seemed good. The second challenge was to make the photographs the correct size. I love to use Google’s Picasa as my photo editor but this time I knew I would need to use the dreaded Photoshop Elements. I’ve had Elements for a long time but have not found it user friendly. My cousin is quite proficient in Photoshop but she lives in Texas and I’m in Arizona. And I know she will suggest an online class when she reads this post! I dug out the Elements ‘how to’ books and played with the editor and organizer and figured out how to do what I thought I needed to do to get the correct size. It took a while!
The photograph would need to be protected and I just learned how to use resin. I had my idea and was ready to go. I could stop writing now and just let you look at the pictures of the bracelets but it is important to me for you to understand the general process. I want anyone who purchases my handmade jewelry to know a little about why I made it and why it is different from machine manufactured jewelry. We are so used to seeing something, liking it and not thinking about the process. I find a piece more valuable if I know a little about the artist and how it is made. I hope you do too.
So here are the basic steps in making this personalized one of a kind fine silver charm bracelet!
1. Make the charms out of silver clay. To do this I made cutters made of polymer clay and copper strips so that the charms would be the same size and be easier to produce. I needed 2 cutters – one for the back and one for the frame. Definitely reminded me of cookie cutters. Once the two pieces were cut, textured and put together, I embedded rings on each side so I could connect them to each other. Then I fired it in the kiln and finished the silver by sanding and polishing. Liver of sulphur gave the finished metal some depth and contrast.
2. Prepare the photograph. I measured the finished charm opening and sized the picture to fit. Metal clay shrinks about 10% when fired so the finished measure is important. Then I printed a laser copy of the photograph on presentation paper. The ink in laser copies does not bleed like inkjet. I sealed the photo even though it might not have been necessary. Wasn’t taking any chances! Sometimes when you pour resin over an image, it soaks into the paper.
Then I cut and glued the image into the opening.
3. Apply the resin (a clear two part mixture of epoxy). It has to be mixed in equal amounts, stirred a prescribed amount of time and poured carefully at the right temperature. The goal is to have a hard clear no bubble layer over the photograph. It not only protects but enlarges the image. Very cool technique. After much practice it worked!
4. Attach the charms to beads or wire wrap each one to the next charm and attach the toggle clasp. The length is about 8 inches. The finished bracelet is a great conversation starter and some bracelet owners hang them as art when they are not wearing them.