Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mica Earrings Tutorial


I had several requests to write up a tutorial on how to make the Mica Earrings we have featured on Ornamentea.com. These earrings are lightweight and make a nice tinkly sound when the chains brush the mica. They are also just a tiny bit sparkly. Mica is a mineral that grows all by itself in these really flat, thin layers. It diffuses and reflects light and images and is very heat resistant; old wood stoves often have windows made of thick pieces of mica and blacksmith's goggles from the last century had eyepieces made of mica to protect the wearer's eyes.

Materials
Mica
8 brass eyelets
1 pair antique brass simple loop earwires
assorted chain, cut into 2 -2 inch pieces and 2-1.5 inch pieces
2 antique copper jump rings, 14 mm
optional, Diamond Glaze to seal edges of mica

Tools
1/8th inch hole punch
Awl
Ball pein hammer
Eyelet setter
craft knife (X-acto knife)
Self healing cutting mat
(note, I work on a self-healing cutting mat but for photographic purposes you don't see one in these images! Protect your table.)

To make the earrings:

1. Your packet of mica will contain several pieces that could be just right for earrings as-is, but you may wish to cut the pieces if they are too large for your tastes. A sharp craft knife will slice through a sheet of mica. Drag the knife across the surface slowly to cut through one layer at a time. Be patient, this takes a while.

Once you have a piece of mica in the shape you want you will need to split it into two identical pieces. Fit the tip of your craft knife in between the layers of mica and gently split the layers by twisting the knife sideways until you have two pieces. If the edges of the mica seem like they will continue to split you can put a thin layer of Diamond Glaze on the edge with a paint brush or your fingertip. Allow the glaze to dry at least 20 minutes before continuing.

2. Lay your mica shapes next to each other and decide where you want the eyelets. You may wish to mark the spots with a pen. Place the holes at least 1/4 inch (1/2cm) from the mica edges to make sure they don't pull through later.
Place the hole punch over the mica where you want the hole. Use the hammer to tap the punch through the mica layers. Be patient. You may wish to remove the chipped mica that accumulates in the hole you are punching with an awl or toothpick.
Thread an eyelet through the hole in the mica. Place the Flowered Setter over the eyelet and line it up straight. Use the hammer to gently tap the Setter until the eyelet splits and begins to curve outward. Continue until the eyelet is flattened against the mica. It is important to hold the setter perpendicular to the eyelet and tap the hammer gently to prevent the eyelet from bending or folding.

Repeat these steps to set remaining eyelets.

This is an eyelet that split into four groups of two 'petals' each. I couldn't reproduce this, no matter how many times I tried! Remember that your eyelets will look hand set, not perfect. Note that in the earrings pictured I set some eyelets from the 'front' of the earrings and some from the 'back' so that the eyelet flowers show in both directions.

3. Lay out your pieces of mica and determine where the top and bottoms of your earrings will be. Lay the chain out where you want it to hang. Use your chain nose pliers to gently open a jump ring. Thread the jump ring through the hole at the top of one of the pieces of mica and through both pieces of chain and the loop on the ear wire. Close securely. Repeat with remaining mica and findings to make the second earring.

Mica is a perfect forum for embellishment with stamps of all kinds. Consider using Staz-on inks to add words or images to the mica or split the sheets and place photos, watch parts, feathers or leaves in between them.

You can download a free PDF of this project right here.

You can see a video of how to punch mica here with a great necklace idea.