Collage is one of the easiest and most fulfilling ways to begin your personal journey into jewelry making. It's where I started, and where my heart still is. Anyone can do it. There is no right, no wrong, just determination, some patience, and some cool parts to assemble....and away you go!
Over twenty years ago, someone sent me a very special gift. This gift consisted of broken jewelry, old buttons, miscellaneous jewelry findings. Along with it, they also sent some pictures of things folks were doing at crafts shows they had been attending, collages of old tintypes and lace and broken jewelry. WOW....there were big bodacious brooches dripping with pearlies and rhinestone chain and brass stampings! SUCH COOL THINGS. They said, get yourself a tube of e6000 glue and give this a try! I know you can do it.
Today we would probably call this type of jewelry making 'altered art assemblage'. Depending on what you use in your assemblage, it might also be called 'Steampunk', if you use old watch movements and gears and hardware. Back then we called it 'collage jewelry' and in my mind, that's still what it is.
My ultimate guru of the collage genre is Wendy Gell, who first glued bibs and bobs she found in the bins on Canal Street in NYC, onto cuff findings back in the seventies. VOILA! The wristy was born. Check out more about Wendy at http://www.wendygell.com/
Wendy became very famous with beaucoups of celebrity clientele. Her jewelry pieces are even in the Smithsonian. Talk about the ultimate museum piece!
When I started making this jewelry, there were no books written about it and not much to read.....and I had not yet met Wendy Gell! So I was really on my own.
Today, there are MANY books about altered art assemblage, much written. I love the idea nowadays of combining altered art JEWELRY with PAPER crafts assemblage. For great ideas on how to combine polymer clay, UTEE and paper with collage elements to make jewelry, I love to reference Tim Holtz' material. We sell his DVD's on this website and I think anyone who is seriously into outsider-style jewelry making (jewelry outside the box!) should own them. You can also get more information at Tim's own website found at http://www.timholtz.com
Much of my perspective in jewelry making comes from 'coffee table' books of collections of vintage and historical jewelry. There are no instructions in them on making jewelry, but the pictures are quite inspirational. Please check out MY BOOK LIST and the Book Reports section on this website for more information regarding books that have helped me and that I think may help you in your journey into jewelry making.
Collage can be achieved by beading onto wire and threading and pulling through filigree, reminiscent of sewing (this is called cagework); it can also be achieved by gluing objects onto a base. Beginners will probably want to begin with glue as there is quicker success. The glues I recommend most are:
E-6OOO this one is most durable, but it is toxic. You must use it with ventilation.
CRAFTER'S PICK NON-TOXIC SUPERGLUE, comes out white, dries clear. It is not as durable as the first two but is quite strong, the strongest non-toxic glue available. Follow the manufacturer's instructions. This is best for those with limited ventilation in their workspaces also for children's projects and those who may have allergies.
I carry them on my website at http://www.bsueboutiques.com.
When using glue, generally less is more and do follow manufacturer's directions.
DO NOT EVER USE HOT GLUE. It is not durable, just don't go there!
To make a brooch:
Select the items you would like to have in your brooch. Some ideas may be:
rhinestones and rhinestone findings
debris found on a walk (yes I have made jewelry from things I've
found along the road!)
You are limited only by your imagination. I've even made jewelry out of dried flowers!
Select a base. This could be a large coin, a brass backing such as I sell on my website, a big button...anything durable that you can glue to.
Now begin to arrange the things you want to put in your brooch. Don't glue them at first. Start with the biggest things on the bottom. Then imagine what would come next, usually the med-sized things. Tiny things go on top, like icing on a cake! After you think you know where you are going with your project, you can start gluing. Glue the big things first, then work up from there.
When you are arranging, think flow, movement, form. This will prevent you from creating a big ugly blob. Work it like a puzzle! Think as you go. Don't just glue in what fits in a crack. Keep thinking....does this really belong here?
After you are satisfied, let your project dry, or cure, for 24 hours.
At this point you are ready to decide if you will seal it or not. All raw brass should be sealed, or it will oxidize. You can seal with spray lacquer from the hardware store (matte for a flat finish, glossy for a bright and shiny finish), non toxic jewelry glaze from the crafts store or Diamond Glaze, or some the Ranger brand glazes. I sell Diamond Glaze and the Ranger products on this website.
If your collage is primarily of glass or rhinestone, DO NOT SEAL. It isn't necessary. If it is of old buttons, porcelain objects that are unglazed, old junk, found items, unplated brass filigree and charms, etc, you will probably want to seal it.
After you seal the piece, let it dry another 8-12 hours, then add a pinback by gluing the finding on the back. This too should cure for at least 8 hours and better if you let it cure for 12-24.
As the glue has an odor, you will want to allow it to 'gas off' for a few days before wearing.
FINALLY....NOW you can wear and display your creation!
The more you work at collage, the more sophisticated you will become. My first pieces were dismal, but they were my babies nonetheless! I wore them with pleasure. Many people were fascinated by them. Nowadays I do most of my collage work on brass filigree with tiny beads, glass leaves and flowers and roses montees on wire, beaded through. This sort of collage is called cagework, and is the sort of work you would see in the Miriam Haskell book I told you about earlier. This is a little tedious, but I personally love it. I pride myself when I have completely wired a brooch and have used no glue in it, as Haskell jewelry was made.
But remember, I have made a lot of jewelry. This sort of work is probably not going to satisfy a beginner. At some time down the road, however, you will want to try cagework collage. You must remember to use PLATED 28 gauge wire and if possible, plated findings; if you use raw brass, you must seal FIRST by spray lacquering them front and back.
Don't stop with a brooch. How about a collar necklace? Earrings? Maybe a cuff bracelet? What FUN you will have. There is nothing more enjoyable than working a new jewelry project.
REMEMBER: THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG in collage. YOU HAVE TO PLEASE YOURSELF.
Challenge yourself each time you try it, to think harder, think differently. But most of all.....just have fun!