Saturday Studio: Pop-Top Jewelry

Jenna Gilley, FWMoA Curatorial Intern

After recently installing the 2021 Scholastic Art & Writing exhibition, I realized how many young artists utilized recycled and found objects in their work. From old books to bullet shells, everyday objects were given new meaning by manipulating their form to create art that makes the mundane magical. 

Of course, this practice is not new. The concept of assemblage was a favorite trope of the Abstract Expressionists in the mid-century, and has spurred the success of famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, and Louise Nevelson. These artists would scavenge for materials on the side of the road or in their homes to literally turn trash into treasure. Modern iterations abound at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, notably in our 2019 exhibition Reclamation: The Art of Lucien Shapiro, Ben Venom, and Ravi Zupa, and currently in the Paradigm Gallery through the art of Art Farm and Sayaka Ganz. 

In this Saturday Studio, we’ll create some fun and quirky recycled jewelry made out of pop-tops! Feel free to get creative with whatever you have lying around the house: add beads, rhinestones, or whatever strikes your fancy to create one-of-a-kind wearable pieces of art.

Supplies:

Bracelet

  • Pop-tops, about 20-30 
  • Elastic string, yarn, or ribbon
  • Binder clip
  • Scissors
  • Beads, glitter, or rhinestones for decoration 

Earrings

  • Pop-tops, 10 per pair
  • Embroidery thread
  • 2 earring hooks
  • 2 jump rings 
  • Beads, glitter, or rhinestones for decoration 
  • Jewelry pliers (helps for more intricate work, but not required)

Bracelet Steps

  1. Cut a 40in piece of string and fold in half. This will serve as our “weaving” material to hold all the tabs together. Elastic string is best if you want a continuous look to your bracelet, but ribbon or yarn is fine as long as you tie the ends each time you wear it or add a clasp.
  1. Begin by sliding one tab face side up through both loops and pull to the end.
  1. Grab another tab, flip to the wrong side (backside), and weave the string through the overlapping spaces.

4. Add another tab, face up, this time crossing the strings as you weave through the overlapping holes. You can also go straight across, but I think the x adds some interest. 

  1. Add one more tab to the back, this time crossing horizontally up through the back to the bracelet’s front. 
  1. Now it’s time when the binder clip comes in handy! Pull the first loop you made out about 3 inches, and secure with the clip. This will help us finish off the bracelet later.
  1. Continue adding tabs, repeating steps 3-5, until your bracelet is long enough to reach comfortably around your wrist. As you can see, I added some red accent tabs for a pop of color! 
  1. To finish off the bracelet, remove the binder clip and cut the end, leaving two free strings. Be sure that the tabs are facing opposite directions at both ends for a seamless joining. 
  1. Now comes the tricky part. As a preliminary step, I flipped over my bracelet to the back and tied off the end with the strings facing the back. I found this super helpful in keeping the tabs from sliding off as I worked.
  1. To join the ends, with the bracelet still wrong side out, cross the strings and weave them through the last tab.
  1. Then, weave the strings back through the first tab. Pull and knot to secure. Two tabs should be face side up next to each other on the back of the bracelet. Don’t be discouraged if this step takes you a couple tries, it took me a while to get it, too!

12. Finish by tying the two knots tightly together. I used the binder clip again to hold the two tabs securely together so I could pull the knot tight. You can also hot glue or super glue the knot for a more secure bond.

13. This is when you could get crafty, adding beads or any additional decorations.

Earring Steps

  1. Begin by knotting two tabs together using about 40 in of embroidery floss. Try to keep the knot tails even during this process, so you don’t run out of string!
  1. Loop one tail back to front through the overlapping section, and knot again.
  1. Continue this process until you have made 4 passes through the tabs. You should see four baby knots forming.

4. Grab another tab. Join it to the chain by looping one tail across and through the overlapping sections of tab 2 and 3.

  1. Knot like on the first chain.
  1. Continue adding tabs and completing 4 knot passes until you have a chain of 5 tabs.
  1. Bend the chain until it makes a circular flower shape. Loop one tail back to front through the tab overlap to join the circle, and the other tail through the center.
  1. Knot 4 passes once again, double tying the last knot for extra security. 
  2. Repeat steps 1-8 to have a matching pair of tab flowers. 
  3. Once again, now that you have the base, you can add whatever embellishments you want to your earrings. I added a simple bead in between my tab flower and earring for a little extra pizazz.

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