The Loop Earrings and Pendants are undoubtedly the most popular pieces I make, and some of my favourites too! They are incredibly versatile and suit absolutely everyone that loves unique contemporary jewellery. Because of the materials they are made from, they are so lightweight you won’t even notice you are wearing them. They come in a beautiful array of colours and colours gradients, and a variety of sizes depending on your taste and ocassion. This journal post is a detailed insight into every part of the process of making the beautiful Loops, including laser cutting to obtain the raw materials, card forming to make flat card into the classic loop shape, spray painting to give them vibrant or monochromatic colours, and lastly making the silver elements that make them wearable. I hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look!
Rhino and Illustrator
I create the designs for the laser cutter in Rhino and Illustrator, which are graphics and design programmes. The files contain simple strips with horizontal lines, with every line translating to a cut with the laser.
The laser cutter is a large machine that reads the file I create and cuts each line into a material. In my case, the raw material I use is thick recycled card. I strive to make my practice as eco friendly and sustainable as possible, and using recycled materials whenever possible is very important to me. A large sheet of card takes between an hour and two hours to complete, as my designs are incredibly detailed. Figuring out the speed and strength of the laser is a balancing act, and if it's not exactly right the cuts will either not be deep enough and the card is engraved instead of cut all the way through, or it can cut too thickly and burn the card, resulting in the lines being too thin and unusable. Thankfully, I work with incredibly skilled and experienced craftspeople who can get it just right! Once finished, I pick off all the cut out bits, and I'm left with long strips of card.
Laser Cut Card
All of my Loop pieces and other card jewellery are made from laser cut card. It's really exciting being able to make my own unique raw material and use it in a fresh, original way. After laser cutting, all other processes are done by hand, and I love the combination of industrial, modern techniques, methods developed by me, and traditional metal making practices.
Sections of Card
In order to make the classic loop shape, I cut the long strips of laser cut card into smaller sectiones. I use 3 different widths of card to create Loop Earrings and Pendants in 4 sizes (small, medium, long and large).
Card to Loop
In order to make the loop shape, I bend the laser cut card around on itself by hand. It's a process I developed over time and it took a lot of trial and error! Because they are all formed individually, each loop is unique, even when made in the same size.
In order to make earring loops, I have to make two shapes that match each other as closely as possible, while for pendants all I need is one singular loop. I allow them to dry for at least a day before getting on with the next process - spray painting.
Before starting to colour the loops, I have a little spray painting uniform. I usually put on a spray painting jacket and shoes so I don't get my clothes filthy from spray paint and the dust. I also always wear a protective mask. I tend to either spray paint outside, or in a small garden shed, as doing so inside the house would make a huge mess. It's quite a pleasant activity when it's summer and I can relax in the garden inbetween layers. It's a different story in winter when I also don a hat and scarf and my fingers are so frozen they feel like they might fall off!
I use Liquitex spray paints to colour all of my jewellery, as they are water based which means they are more environmentally friendly and better for my lungs. I have a selection of a few core colours (black, neutral grey, mint green, sky blue, yellow), and occasionally introduce other limited edition colours.
I hang all of the loops from thread to make them easier to spray paint. This way I can cover every angle and section, and I can colour a number of them at the same time. I usually spray paint groups with the same base colour together. I made my own spray paint booth out of a large cardboard box, which is perfect for fastening and suspending structures from, and for catching most of the excess paint.
I always have a plan for what colours I will use on which loops, and I often create colour gradients using the spray paint. I have to let the loops dry for about 15 minutes between each thin layer, and usually apply 5-10 layers of paint per loop.
The spray paint is an intergral part of my process, as it not only gives the loops beautiful colours, it also makes them strong and waterproof. The paper absorbs some of the paint during the process, creating a sturdy material. The spray painted finish is watertight, so if you accidentally get the jewellery damp or wet it will be absolutely fine!
SILVER ELEMENTS AND JOINING
Once the loops are formed and spray painted, I make the silver elements in my studio. I have a lovely jewellery workshop in The Briggait in the heart of Glasgow, sharing the space with 3 super talented jewellers. I absolutely love spending time at my bench, it feels like a home away from home! I usually listen to music or podcasts while making, and I always have a plethora of snacks to keep me going all day.
Scoring and Folding
Every loop has a clip that goes over the middle joint, with either an earring post, or a gap for a chain to go through. I make the clips from a thin sheet of eco silver, which is a recycled, traceable and audited alternative to sterling silver. I score the sheet with two lines and cut it into thin strips to make the clips. I then fold over the scores to make U shaped clips.
Soldering and Filing
The gaps where the scores are need to be soldered for the clip to become solid. To prevent the clip from closing in on itself under heat, I use coins to keep it open! Once soldered I file the clips until smooth from every side. For earrings I attach earrings posts on the back of every clip.
Clips on Loops
When all the elements are ready I can join the loops and clips to create the beautiful wearable Loop Earrings and Pendants. It's so satisfying to see the jewellery come together after so many lengthy processes! I usually create the Loops in large batches to allow me to restock my online shop, or to send them to lovely galleries and take them to craft shows. They are definitely the most popular products I make, they make a perfect treat for yourself or a loved one. You can take a look at all of the Loops currently on sale in my online shop here.