Friday, March 15, 2013

Enameled Penny Charm Bracelet

Yesterday I had a great time sharing my techniques for altering pennies and turning them into charm bracelets. My students at Monica's Quilt & Bead Creations made it through the full-day workshop and, although nobody finished a bracelet in class, we all had fun and learned quite a lot from one another.
Together we hammered out pennies (nickels and dimes too) to make thin metal disks for texturing and hole-punching. The disks were then turned into hanging charms with double-wrapped eye-pin loops and attached to a bracelet of twisted wire jump rings and figure-8 links, which we made ourselves. A handmade hook clasp finishes the piece.
What made this class super-fun for me was being able to share my latest endeavors with torch-fire enameling on altered coins. I had stayed up late on Wednesday night, hammering out pennies and punching holes in them, and then torch-fire enameling them with some of my favorite opaque colors. I love the results, and I was especially pleased to be able to incorporate some fruity beads into the charm bracelet. (I bought these beads many years ago in a bead shop in Laguna Beach, and never found a use for them—until now.)
After fashioning a bracelet with my beads and enameled charms, I did some research and discovered that newer American pennies minted after 1981 are very different from the pennies made in days gone by! Back in the late 1700s and early 1800s, our pennies were made of pure copper. The composition changed over the years, from bronze to zinc-coated steel (1943) to a metal composition of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc (1962-1981), and finally in 1982 to 97.5 percent zinc and only 2.5 percent copper. Essentially, newly minted American pennies are made of copper-coated zinc. Yuck!
Why should this matter to someone who wishes to enamel her pennies?
Again, research has revealed that heating zinc with a torch will release dangerous, toxic fumes. If you torch-enamel outside, this may not pose a problem, but I generally torch-fire in my studio. I have a professional fume-hood that sucks all the gasses outside, but still... now that I know what I know, I would never, ever use a torch on an American penny made after 1981.
Turns out, all the pennies I had torched last Wednesday were older—from the 1950s through the 1970s—so I was never in any danger of poisoning myself. But it rattled me a bit to learn this information only after I had already torched my pennies!
Anyway, I'm just thrilled with the results. I love enamels and using them in an artistic way to alter an ordinary piece of copper, turning it into a little work of art that can be worn and enjoyed for years. It just doesn't get much better than that.
If you'd like to learn the basics of torch-firing with enamels on copper, I offer an introductory course in using this creative method to make beautiful charms. I can't teach this class at a bead store because they're not set up for that, but if you sign up for one of my Wild Wire Women retreats in Idyllwild, California, you'll have the opportunity to try enameling in a safe environment. It's so much fun, it's truly addictive! But getting into enameling can be very costly at first, so it's nice to have the opportunity to take a workshop where everything is included in your retreat fee, including copper sheet, enamels, the use of my torch and mapp gas, and a professional enameling kiln.
If you'd like more information on my Wild Wire Women retreats, click here.
I hope to see you in Idyllwild soon.
By the way, for a great FREE video on torch-enameling beads with Barbara Lewis, click here!
And on Sunday (March 17) I'm teaching my popular Worm Bead Bracelet over at Brea Bead Works, in North Orange County, California. I'd love to meet you in this creative class. I believe there are still a couple of openings, so sign up soon...
Phone: 714-671-9976
Happy enameling,


sis5of11 said...

Your jewelry is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing with us.

Stephanie Butler said...
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