I've always worked well under pressure. I procrastinate almost all the time and I seem to thrive in timed challenges, such as having to make a piece of jewelry in a specified (short) amount of time. So when we started doing a series of one-hour project DVDs (One-Hour Rings, One-Hour Bracelets), I was ready to challenge myself to see what I could make in under an hour.
I love pearls (maybe you've heard? ha!) and I especially enjoy designing jewelry with nubby iridescent stick pearls, flower jewelry in particular. It combines two of my faves–pearls and flowers–because to me, stick pearls just beg to be given new life as flower petals.
After a disappointment when I originally used this technique to make a flower brooch and ran out of pearls, first I wanted to make sure I had enough stick pearls to make the flower, so I used a lump of PlayDoh as a test base. My cuff was drilled with two rings of eight holes and a final hole in the center, so I tested placing two rings of eight pearls around the PlayDoh and decided I'd want to fit in a few extras in the center. I had enough, so I dismantled my test flower and moved on to the wire.
Note: My stick pearls were drilled lengthwise; you can find them top-drilled or drilled across one end, similar to how briolettes are drilled. Those would make a neater flower with hardly any wire showing.
I used a gold-plated cuff, but the only gold-plated wire I had to play with was memory wire–and my poor wire cutters weren't up for another round with them–so I used some brass wire. The brass had some good tarnish on it, which would add interest and pair nicely with the iridescence of the stick pearls, which were a little more brass-colored than gold anyway.
I started with about three-and-a-half feet of wire, because the pearls (I was planning to use about nineteen of them) are about an inch long, and the wire needed to go up one side and down the other (that's two inches each, for a total of thirty-eight inches) plus have some room leftover to go from hole to hole–so I needed a little over forty inches of wire.
I used 24-gauge but 26- or 28-gauge would've worked fine too). It hardens as you work with it, of course, so anything larger than 24-gauge would get pretty stiff and brittle–plus most pearl holes aren't large enough to take more than about 24-gauge wire. The brass wire was fairly durable so I didn't have any breaks, but using a softer wire like silver or copper would warrant more caution to avoid kinks or overworking it to a breaking point.
Tip: Rather than anchoring one end of the wire and working with the whole remaining length, bend the wire in half and insert each end up through two adjacent holes and work out from there, so that you're only working with about half the wire at a time. That lessens the amount of work-hardening each end of wire will receive by half.
Now simply slide a stick pearl onto one of the wires until it meets the cuff snugly, and bend the end of the wire over the top of the pearl to prevent slipping. Insert the end of that wire back into the same hole it came up through, pull it snug, and take it up through an adjacent hole, "snugging" again before you add another pearl and repeat. The "snugging" part is important–you want all the pearls to be as secure as possible but you also want avoid a wiry mess underneath.
When you've wired all your pearls, twist the wire ends together underneath, trim off the ends, and fold it under so it won't scratch your wrist. I had planned to secure and hide the ends under a crimp bead, but I found that I didn't even need to. You might want to, especially if you use finer wire. You could also finish by adhering leather or felt on the whole back or just over the wire part.
Now I have to decide if I'm done, or if I want to add a bit more fullness to the cuff. I'm considering adding some Crystal Clay in the center and pressing into it–what do you suggest, round pearls or crystals? Or maybe I'll wire in some smaller round pearls to resemble the seedy center of a flower–do you like the red, purple, matching gold, or peacock pearls? Maybe I should wire on just one large crystal, what do you think? I'd love to hear your suggestions on how to finish my flower cuff in the comments below!
I bought some cuff bracelet blanks at a bead shop in Baton Rouge a few months ago, planning just this kind of project, but this is also a great way to modify one of the cuff bracelets you'll learn to make in the new One-Hour Bracelets with Jeff Fulkerson DVD (also available as an instant download). Simply mark a pattern of holes on the cuff with a Sharpie and then drill or punch out the holes. Then you'll have a handmade bracelet blank like the one I used, ready to attach all manner of gemstones, beads, charms, fibers, any anything else you can wire or stitch onto it. I love the mix of metal and more–anything you can think of, really–all in less than an hour! So get going–there are twenty-four hours in a day, you know! That's twenty-four bracelets, or twelve bracelets and twelve rings, or ten rings and fourteen bracelets, or fifteen bracelets and nine rings, or. . . .
P.S. Happy Fourth of July! Maybe this isn't a flower at all but a firework cuff? Either way, don't forget to let me know how you'd finish it in the comments below!