Mixed-Media Jewelry: How to Add Color with Alcohol Inks

27 Feb 2013

The other day I was taking in some eye candy on Pinterest and saw some beautiful mixed-media jewelry made from bent silver spoon handles. Some had beads attached and some had words stamped onto them.

colored metal spoons by kelli nina perkins
Poetry Spoons by Kelli Nina Perkins could be
turned into art to wear.

I immediately thought of Kelli Nina Perkins's popular poetry spoons featured in the May/June 2008 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors. These spoons were not jewelry per se; they were attached with jump rings to a large metal ring to form a "book." But Kelli's spoons were embellished with buttons, bright fuzzy fibers, beads, wrapped wire, and cut-out book text. I couldn't help but think they would make wonderful found object jewelry.

Kelli's spoons were also made iridescent and colorful with alcohol inks. This is easy to do, though if you're going to turn your spoons into wearable art, you would want to add a coat or two of clear polyurethane at the end to make sure the ink stays put.

Here is Kelli's tutorial on how to color the silver-plated spoons with alcohol ink. (She used Ranger Adirondacks.)

1. Wear protective, non-permeable gloves to protect your hands and cover your worktable before starting. Alcohol inks stain, which is why they are so great for coloring metal and glass.

2. Cut a small piece of felt to act as a dabber. Place a few drops of the first color of ink on the dabber and blot color onto one side of the spoon, creating a spotty, marbled efffect.

3. Add a second color to the felt and go back over the spoon to mix colors until the whole side is covered. Allow to dry.

Note: Ranger has a clear blending solution that's fun to use. Drip it on the spoon and blot again with the dabber or squirt some directly onto the felt and lightly go over areas of the spoon to lighten the color.

4. Turn the spoon over and ink the other side. Allow to dry.

If you wanted to use the colored and embellished spoons as jewelry but didn't want to get into cutting or drilling the metal, you could collect tiny tea or souvenier spoons and make them the centerpiece of a mixed-media necklace. Or, use this technique for coloring metal to use

Of course, there are many other ways to color metal for mixed-media jewelry besides using alcohol inks. Jewelry artist Gail Crosman Moore's jewelry workshop video Coloring on Metal for Jewelry Makers explores how to add vibrant color to your jewelry designs. Learn all the expert tricks for working with enamel, heat patina, alcohol inks, and much more.

P.S. Do you have a favorite method of coloring metal? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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Join jewelry artist Gail Crosman Moore in this jewelry workshop Video to explore how to add vibrant color to your jewelry designs. Learn all the expert tricks for working with enamel, heat patina, alcohol inks, and much more!


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LCBourdo wrote
on 27 Feb 2013 11:01 AM

Alcohol inks are fabulous for coloring metals of all kinds for mixed media art, too.  I have used colored sheet metal, metal tape -- you name it.  My technique is to dribble the ink (even in combinations of colors) onto the flat metal surface, add a bit of blending solution, and blow the ink around with an embossing heat gun to dry it in fascinating patterns.

I wish I could post pictures to show you some of the wonderful art I've made using this technique, but I'll try to describe one.

I have created two large abstract metal mosaics with sections of sheet metal folded over heavy chipboard.  I stained the aluminum and brass pieces with alcohol inks in dark blues, purples, oranges, yellows, and reds to create bands of color to represent a sunrise scene over the ocean.  Added cut-out shapes of stained metal to represent the waning moon and seagulls in flight, and adhered the whole thing to prepared canvas board in a triptych fashion.  

I've sold one of these pieces, and have the other on display in an art space -- and they each took me just a few hours to create using this simple and easy technique.

If there is some way to share pictures here, I'd love to do so!

Laura Bourdo


sylvia susan wrote
on 2 Mar 2013 11:54 PM

I used these poetry spoons as an inspiration for a piece I made that winter. A hanging piece, dedicated to 3 women I loved who died that year. I love the alcohol inks, and have used them many times since. My next project using them is to dye a pair of ugly pink eyeglass frames, re-mewing them into one of a kind beauties!