Studio Saturdays: Metal Patina

I love feeling like a creative scientist in my studio. Trying new image transfer techniques, making sun prints, experimenting with different dyeing methods—the processes are so satisfying. Creating metal patina ranks high on my alchemy list, and that’s why I love the Jewelry Box column in the May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors—it’s all about using what’s in your kitchen to patina metal.

That’s right, there are no special chemicals involved, no fancy mixtures or formulas. All that’s needed to create gorgeous patinas for mixed-media jewelry and more are just a few simple ingredients, and your own imagination. My big tip is when you do this, make a lot, because you’re going to love it that much.

In this issue of the magazine, Deborah Mauser brings you “Creating Color with Household Items,” which has all the details and instructions for using common supplies to imbue copper and brass with rich metal patina shades of blue, green, and brown. Since I usually use patina solutions or paint-on patinas to add color, I was excited about these easy techniques. Note: If you do try these yourself, please make sure to heed all the cautions mentioned in the article.

I regularly make my own jewelry, but I also love incorporating metal and jewelry components in other mixed-media art as well, such as books, assemblage, and collage. Metal is such a unique element in artwork, and adding a patina to it makes it that much more special.

I started with an array of shaped metal pieces. Prep for the pieces was easy and simple: wash in soap and water, then rough up the surface with steel wool to make sure the solutions will work.

Plain shaped copper before adding metal patina
These pieces of plain shaped copper are about to go through a transformation, using household ingredients.

A few pieces went into a vinegar fuming spa; first I sprayed them with a water and salt solution that also facilitates the process.

Spraying metal pieces with salt water for a metal patina
For the metal patina to work, spray the metal pieces first with a saltwater solution.

The pieces were then hung on copper wire and taped to the lid of a plastic container. I saturated paper towels with white vinegar and placed them at the bottom of the container. No muss and absolutely no fuss.

Metal patina with vinegar
The pieces were suspended in a plastic lidded container with vinegar-soaked paper towels at the bottom.

Within a few hours the pieces started to darken, the first stage of the metal patina transformation. A few more hours after that, a gorgeous turquoise patina began to appear, and I got really happy. It was difficult not to sneak a look every 15 minutes, like waiting for a soufflé to rise.

After leaving the container overnight, here are the results from the vinegar fuming. Tell me these aren’t gorgeous.

Patina on copper
The finished results were even better than I had hoped–this patina is rich and textured.

When the pieces were completely dry I sprayed them with a satin-finish sealant, layering a few light coats. This makes the metal patina nice and stable.

As much as I loved just staring at these pieces, I couldn’t wait to make them into something. I turned one of the large copper washers into a focal piece for a necklace. I wound 24-gauge copper wire tightly around the top five times, starting in the back and leaving a 4″ tail. On the third wrap, I added a chain, slipping a link onto the wire and setting it in place at the top of the washer. I continued to wrap the wire, tucking in the ends in the back and snipping them with a wire cutter. If the ends poke out, try crimping them with a jewelry pliers, or filing the ends with a metal file so they don’t snag your clothes.

I added a wire-wrapped pearl on a large jump ring at the bottom; this gives the piece some movement. I’ve already debuted the necklace to rave reviews, and I plan on turning the chandelier drops into earrings.

Necklace made with metal patina on copper
Wearing the finished necklace–onto the earrings!

I can’t wait for you to try this and other metal patina techniques that you’ll find in the May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. This and more inspiration are waiting for you in the North Light Shop!

May/June 2017 Cloth Paper Scissors magazine
Get the full instructions for how to create beautiful metal patina in the May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine!
Making Metal Jewelry by Jen Cushman
Discover fantastic techniques for creating mixed-media metal jewelry in Making Metal Jewelry by Jen Cushman.
Metal Sketchbook Pendant video with Jen Crossley
Turn vintage finds into beautiful jewelry in the video Metal Sketchbook Pendant with Jen Crossley.
Best of Mixed-Media Jewelry video
Learn a fun technique for creating metal patina, discover tips for making a felted cuff, and more in the video Best of Mixed-Media Jewelry.


Blog, Mixed-Media Jewelry, Mixed-Media Techniques

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