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Just took a wonderful workshop by the uber-talented Anastasia Azure on metal-weaving. It was such a wonderful experience and I’ve sort of gone metal-happy as a result.

I haven’t yet turned the following into wearable jewelry but they’re heading that way. With some helpful advice from our departments metals professor I’m now armed with a jewelers saw and access to the metals room… In no time these little woven bits will be nested in my ears or swinging from a chain.

I’m so obsessed I’ve made another pair since photographing these examples. It’s highly addictive as an end of the day activity and I’ve noticed I get better with each thing I make. I think I’ve finally figured out what will I’ll be doing for Christmas gifts this year…

(And if Anastasia ever googles her name and sees this post – THANKS AGAIN!!!)

Cups are horrible – plastic cups, Styrofoam cups… sigh… it’s hard to find large cheap paper cups and therefore, more often than not, we buy plastic cups (hey, it is better than Styrofoam) and then can’t figure out what to do with them since they’re No. 4 or 6 and not recyclable. The good news is: if your cups are No. 6, then they are capable of being cut down and made into beads.

Here’s how:

  1. Cut the bottom out and up one side of the cup so that you have a curling piece of plastic that you can somewhat flatten out on a hard surface.
  2. Cut off all the little ridges or bumps (if you have them) to reveal the strips of flat smooth plastic.
  3. Cut the piece of plastic (parallel to the first cut you made that cut the cut apart vertically from base to brim) into strips.
  4. On the BACK of the side that curls inward (the “outside” of the original cup), sand the surface with light sandpaper to create a surface that will hold marker or color pencil
  5. Color or design your “bead” strips – simple is best, these curl so the smaller and more solid colors/designs will show up better
  6. Once done, lay out the pieces on a piece of pressed cardboard or cookie sheet and bake according to the instructions found in the article “Making Things out of Recycled Plastic” below – except, do NOT flatten out! Because of the original curve of the cups your pieces of plastic will curl in on themselves as though you rolled them around a pencil, creating beads!

It’s super satisfying! Have fun!

Note: the size of your finished bead depends on the width of the strips you cut in step 3, the wider the strip – the more unpredictable the curl becomes, the thinner the more uniform. One cup will generally yield about 15-20 beads depending on the size.

This technique seemed to go over pretty well with my 2D design class the last couple of semesters. Some took to it, others seemed a bit freaked out by it. Those who actually played with the technique produced some pretty amazing results. The process is as follows:


  1. waterproof ink (any color)
  2. white (or very light hue) gouache
  3. any kind of watercolor or printmaking paper
  4. tape (stretching tape and/or painters tape to block off edges etc.)
  5. water
  6. brushes
  7. cotton balls
  8. hair-dryer (if your impatient like me and want things to dry quicker)


  1. Lay out your composition with light pencil (my students found tracing paper worked well as long as the transfer pressure was extremely light). Note: you may want to tape your paper down prior to the process as it will buckle later when water is used to wash away gouache.
  2. Use gouache to cover all areas that are to remain the color of the paper. Some people prefer to use a tinted gouache if working on white paper because it’s more visible but be forewarned, some color stains so if you use a different hue use one that’s really light and test it on the surface you are working on before using in an entire composition. Note: this is VERY much like reduction woodcut printing/screen-printing.
  3. Once the gouache is dry you should very gently coat the entire composition with a layer of solid ink. Light application is critical because harsher application with brush will pull up the gouache and you will see some bleed through (see the attached images – this may be something you desire!).
  4. Allow the ink to dry thoroughly and then take the entire piece to the sink or tub (or large bowl/bucket filled with water) to “wash-off” the gouache. Because the gouache is water-based and the ink is not, the gouache will wash off and the ink will not – rub the cotton-ball gently over the surface to pull up the gouache. If you do to much then the surface of the paper may start to peel up or the ink may start to smear – be observant and you’ll know when to stop.
  5. When the gouache is washed away allow the piece to dry. The paper will buckle is not taped down or pressed when drying.
  6. You can repeat steps 1-5 several times – you’re only limited by the paper you’re using. Cheaper, lighter weight papers will start to deteriorate from the process faster than heavier better quality papers. Just remember that with each new layer – whatever you cover with gouache will stay (relatively) the same as whatever is covered.

Tips: You can dilute the ink, use colors, play with alcohol effects, and even use salt tricks with this technique. For more hints and tricks see the images below.

Tips and Tricks:

In-Class Demos:

(Forrest Fire)

These are test images. I demonstrated different techniques using the same image each time; there are multiple layers (steps 1-5) on each composition. I used 180 lb. Strathmore watercolor paper for each of these. One was taped with blue-painters tape to preserve the “edge” and the other wasn’t. Painter’s tape works much better on this kind of paper than on the papers below.


These two bird compositions are also test images; there is only one layer (steps 1-5) on each of these. The little circles are from dried bubbles in the ink and the brush strokes are from “bringing up” the gouache during the application of the ink. The rough edge at the top is from ripping the tape off without care. Both of these papers are printmaking papers – Reeves BFK for the white and Pescia for the blue.

Finished Works by Students

Cindel Shuler, 2D Design, Fall 2009

Lauren Kirk, detail, 2D Design, Spring 2010

The following is an article in which I was interviewed about how to create recycled jewelry out of No. 6 plastic, the most difficult type of plastic to break down. The article was written by Monica Hooper in a magazine called FYI out of Jonesboro, AR. If you have questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section.

A big part of being able to unwind from the stresses of everyday life is the ability to have fun. Personally, I have fun by making things… making “fun” things…

This blog is dedicated to my creative process in the hopes that others will be inspired. It is my sincere hope that anyone reading this blog will learn something and then pass that information to someone else. In addition, I encourage everyone to contribute so that others can learn from you as well!

Knowledge should be free, not secreted away so that only one person can benefit. I’m a firm believer that as individuals we all make “individual” things. I’m not threatened by the possibility that someone else might be “better” or “more successful” than I am in a specific media – I am me and that’s all I can be – some people will love what I do and others will not (and that’s okay).

So, start a dialog, be inspired, and take what you want and pass it along – just make things fun!