Want to deck your halls with some mixed-media artwork this holiday season? We have just the ticket. In this tutorial from our November/December 2014 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, mixed-media metalsmith Jen Cushman shows you how to make a rustic wire star. Use your star as a tree topper, or leave the tail off to create ornaments, embellishments, and more.
Rustic Wire Star Tree Topper by Jen Cushman
With the holidays right around the corner, what better time to pull out your pliers and wire and make some rustic ornaments. With freeform wire sculpture, it’s challenging to get any kind of uniformity in your wire designs, but a jig makes this process effortless every time. I whipped up a homemade jig from a wood scrap, some tacks I had in my studio, and a royalty-free printable star template I downloaded from the Internet. Once you get the jig set up, you’ll be surprised how quickly this project comes together. Also, don’t limit yourself to using these lovely wire stars as ornaments only. They can be used for embellishments on wrapped packages, holiday cards, collages, tied together with some fabric scraps for a rustic home décor banner, and made smaller for jewelry. Think outside the box.
- Star template
- Scrap piece of wood
- Hammer, ball-peen
- Finishing nails or tacks, 10
- Steel wire, 18-gauge (I bought a spool of wire at iceresin.com.)
- Wire snips
- Round-nose pliers (I prefer Wubbers® brand tools.)
- Cone (mandrel) pliers or a 1″ wooden dowel
- Steel bench block or anvil
- Beads (I used 4mm crystal beads and metal spacer beads from Fire Mountain Gems.)
- NOTE: I buy my tools at jewelrytools.com.
- Winter-themed metal charm figure (Found in scrapbooking or card making supplies.)
1. Place the star template onto the wood and hammer nails into each of the points of the star, including the interior points. (FIGURE 1) You should have 10 nails in all for a traditional five-pointed star.
2. Working off the spool of wire, wrap a loop at the top of the star to get the wire started on the jig. (FIGURE 2) Follow the lines of the star and wrap the wire around the nails. (FIGURE 3) You do not need to loop the wire around each nail unless you wish to do so as a design element.
NOTE: When the wire gets back to where you started, leave at least an 8″ tail if you plan to make the base into a tree topper. If you wish to make a hanging ornament instead, you only need to leave a couple of inches of wire for a hanger at the top.
3. Gently lift the wire off the jig, and use your round-nose pliers to make a loop at the top of the star.
4. Take the other loose end of the wire and thread it through the loop created in step 3. (FIGURE 4)
5. Wrap the shorter end of the wire around the longer piece to secure the star shape. (FIGURE 5) You can cut off the last bit of wire or make a little pigtail detail using your round-nose pliers.
6. Wrap the long part of the wire around the cone-shaped mandrel pliers. (FIGURE 6) Alternatively, use a 1″ wooden dowel. You won’t get the tapered shape that the mandrel gives, but it will still fit securely on your tree.
7. Make a hanging bead dangle to add a pop of color. Cut a 4″ piece of steel wire and hammer one end of the wire on the steel bench block to make a paddle or spoon-shaped end. (FIGURE 7) This will create a stopper (headpin) to keep the beads in place.
8. Thread the spacers and beads onto your handmade headpin. (FIGURE 8)
9. Use your round-nose pliers to wire wrap the bead link to the star. (FIGURE 9) Leave a little bit of space between the top of the beads and the star so the bead dangle has movement. Snip the end of the wire off at the wrap, or add another little pigtail detail for interest. (FIGURE 10)
10. Optional: Glue an embellishment to the wire by the base of the star. I used a winter-themed metal figure. This is a fun craft to do with school-age children or teens.
Jen Cushman is a natural storyteller who found mixed media art 17 years ago and never looked back. She’s drawn to the imperfect, the funky, the quirky, the artsy and the authentic: be it people or objects or art. Author of two books, her work has also been widely published in national art and jewelry magazines. She travels and teaches collage, assemblage and jewelry making techniques. An inspiring speaker, Jen’s been invited to share her knowledge of women in business and living a creative life at industry conferences and art events. Visit Jen’s website at jencushman.com.
For more great project ideas from Jen Cushman, check out this free mixed-media jewelry lesson on our blog plus shop the products below.