C.S. Alexis works in an art gallery located in the Calumet region of Northwest Indiana. Come see her at One Best Life at Tinker's Attic.
Natural Is All the Rage
I like to mix it up when it comes to designing art, and my jewelry-making is no exception. I came up with a couple of very interesting ideas I wanted to try while turning a small piece of driftwood over and over between my fingers.
Why not try one-of-a-kind jewelry pendants made from driftwood to make a unique fashion statement? My plan for making handcrafted wooden pendants out of driftwood turned out quite interesting. I felt it was worth sharing with other artists and jewelry makers.
Each piece turns out to be totally unique as driftwood is found that way. Natural wood being all the rage makes driftwood pendants a fun thing to make and wear. Let's take a look at what you will need to make your own pendants from driftwood for a unique fashion jewelry statement.
Materials Needed for This Project
- Small pieces of driftwood
- Jump rings, cord, jewelry findings by design
- Acrylic paint
- Wood sealer
Tools Needed to Make a Driftwood Pendant
- Dremel rotary tool
- Drill bit for Dremel tool
- A wood-burning pen
- Small paintbrushes
- Sanding bit for Dremel tool
- Small bench vise
- Misc. hand tools, depending on decorating application
- Safety glasses
- Metal tray or holder for wood-burning pen
Set Up Your Work Area
Set up all your supplies, materials, and tools in an area to work. You might have a shop or studio where you work. If you do not have a regular place to do this project you can work on any table. Be sure to place the table where you will have adequate ventilation and good lighting. This project can be done outside if the weather permits.
Remember to practice good safety habits as you work. Read all labels on paint, glue, and sealer before using. It is more fun when you can accomplish your motive accident-free. Be especially careful with the rotary tool and wood-burning pen when you use them. Work on a surface that is safe for the job at hand.
Always protect your eyes. Wear safety glasses when you are using the rotary tool. Small pieces of wood can fly into your eyes when sanding and drilling. It is advisable to wear old clothes or a smock when you work to protect your clothing.
Step 1. Get the Driftwood Prepared
Now that you have all your materials and tools you will have to prepare the driftwood by cleaning it up. Make sure to pick pieces of wood that are solid and sturdy. Driftwood is often very soft and almost rotten, so you have to be careful in picking a piece to make your pendant out of. I suggest picking several pieces in case one of the pieces breaks or crumbles when you start to work with it. You can work on a few pieces at the same time since they will be rather small.
You only have to do as much as you see fit as far as cleaning goes. You are designing this pendant so make it to suit your desire. Having several pieces will give you the option to experiment as you work. so clean the wood and go on to the next step.
Step 2. Drill a Hole to Start the Pendant
Before you decorate the driftwood it is best to drill the hole that will turn the piece of driftwood into a pendant. Then when the pendant is decorated it can be suspended from a cord or chain. Making the hole first will help determine if the wood will hold up to making it into a design. The force of the drill could possibly break or shatter the small pieces of driftwood. This is the best reason to make the holes first and to pick several pieces of wood.
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It is also a good idea to drill first because you will want to know exactly where the holes will be when you decorate. You do not want to decorate and then find that the hole has to go through your design. Or worse yet, spend time decorating and then have your work shattered when you start drilling.
Step 3. Decorate the Driftwood Pendant
This is the step where you can get very creative. I tried several different applications and ideas when making my first few pieces. It depends on the look you want to achieve and the style you decide on for your design. I like to experiment and I would suggest you do the same.
I tried some wood-burning application to some pieces and painting with acrylic paint for others. I tried lettering and drawing with the wood-burning pen. You can see in my photos some of the different ways to decorate your pendant. It is totally up to you when you start to finish the driftwood. Have fun and explore your options. Whatever you do, do not be afraid to explore.
Finishing the Driftwood Pendants
Out of five or six of the pieces, I started with there were three pieces I went on to finish. This is because of the driftwood just not working as I proceeded to apply different methods of tooling and decorating. This is the reason I urge you to work on several small pieces at the same time.
The Peace Sign Pendant
I started this one out as the rest of my driftwood choices to become a pendant. After working it up and finishing it I went on to experiment with the application of this pendant to a piece of functional jewelry. Keep in mind that I was experimenting and mixing things up a bit as far as media and materials go.
I used acrylic paint to paint a simple wood-burned peace sign on the driftwood. I applied two coats of paint and after drying overnight I applied two coats of a satin finish polyurethane to the wood. This took another night to dry. Then I attached an antique gold-toned jump ring to the pendant. This was the turning point for this pendant in my mind. Instead of using this piece sign as a pendant, I adapted it to be used as a charm for an antique gold-toned bracelet. Turned out a little funky cool, very different.
The Peanut-Shaped USA Piece
This one was just for fun, and its unusual peanut shape made a nice bauble and a place to stretch some creativity with my wood-burning pen. I added one star, some lettering, stripes, and a signature all for fun. The piece was coated with a coat of polyurethane to lock in the wood burned areas and to help keep the paint from running. Then after that was dried overnight I painted the areas as seen in the photos with acrylic paints. I applied one coat of paint and then finished the necklace.
I used a couple of natural tube beads made of wood to carry the natural driftwood style. Then I added a couple of red, white and, blue beads to a leather cord. The natural color for the leather and the wood make this a fun necklace. It would be perfect for the Fourth of July holiday and go nice with casual attire. It is also ready to be worn by either sex with its middle-of-the-road appearance.
Mixing Up the Medias
Again, I want to urge you to try different ideas. If you do not like the way something is going you can always try something different. The pendants you make can actually be finished in so many different ways so this is the time to have some fun. Let your imagination run with your ideas and remember the sky is the limit.
You can use an assortment of wires, chains, cords made of different kinds of materials to finish the pendant into a piece of one-of-a-kind jewelry. Play with it until you reach a point with something you like.
Don't be afraid to make things that do not turn out. Experimenting sometimes leads to failure but it is the best way to learn the more you experiment the better understanding you will gain about this craft.
Painted Driftwood Flower Pendant
This piece of driftwood had an interesting, crude shape to it with a nice flat surface to paint on. Red flowers are fun, happy, and warm weather-related, so I decided to simply paint a flower. I used several colors of acrylic paint on this piece and no polyurethane. I drilled the hole, added some paint, and then let it dry between colors.
I continued adding different colors until I felt like I could call it done. This one slides nicely onto a leather cord. I did that to show the application for my photo here but, this one I am keeping for later use. It can be finished in many ways, and I am not sure what I want to do with it yet.
Detailing a Lizard Pendant
I first wood burned this lizard to make a bold design on the driftwood. Then I added a coat of polyurethane to seal in the charred wood. This dried overnight and then many applications of acrylic paint were added to give much detail to the work. The festive colors and the natural wood with a unique and interesting shape lend themselves nicely to the choice of a lizard as the subject. This turned out to be my favorite one in this run of exploration in making jewelry pendants out of small pieces of driftwood.
Again, I have not made this pendant into a piece of jewelry but did add a black leather cord to the pendant for the photos. I did this to give ideas as to how it looks strung and what the possibilities for a final product are to consider before finishing. There are so many different things that can be done to enhance a handcrafted driftwood pendant.
I want to take time to consider them all or at least all I can think of. Exploring is one of the wonderful things about handcrafting jewelry, and this driftwood pendant project is one to fly with. The sky is the limit, and you should let your creativity run rampant!
Anthony Altorenna from Connecticut on November 03, 2014:
You are a very talented artist, and I really appreciate your driftwood art.
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on December 23, 2013:
Wow this is such a beautiful craft idea. I've always loved driftwood and am pinning your hub so that I can refer back to it at a later date.
C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on June 16, 2010:
You will have to write a hub about the spear chucker. It sounds interesting.
Fayme Zelena Harper from Lucerne Valley, CA on June 16, 2010:
As I was reading this it dawned on me that you might really enjoy making atlatls. I'm carving one now. It's a primitive spear chucker. You can even make them out of a branch with another branch coming off of it. But most of them are carved from wood. So why not driftwood?
Helen Straw from Tasmania on April 15, 2010:
I had never thought about making jewelry from driftwood, so creative!
chris_deltise on August 22, 2009:
First I have heard of this. An excellent way to get unique items at no cost whatsoever!
newsworthy on August 11, 2009:
I really enjoyed reading about your driftwood jewelry. Happy to see another peace symbol fan. You've made this look so fun!
RedElf from Canada on July 14, 2009:
Great hub, C.S. Very easy to follow, and chock full of information. Thanks for sharing it with us. Will be back to read more...also loved hummybird hub - love hummies :)
C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on July 13, 2009:
LondonGirl...the work here was done for this hub. Thanks for commenting.
MaryD008......give it a go, best thing is each piece of wood has it's own character to start you off and creating. Thanks for reading.
MaryD008 on July 13, 2009:
I really your idea making jewelry out of driftwood. I live about 2 mins walk from the sea maybe I should consider doing this
LondonGirl from London on July 12, 2009:
there is some gorgeous stuff there, great photos!
I love sea glass, it's one of the most beautiful things.
C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on June 25, 2009:
I would like to work on using some recycled plastic and other recycled materials. I need to email you soon and catch up.
SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on June 24, 2009:
You are right I use too much plastic in my jewelry pieces, and I would like to start using wood like you. It is kind of hard though since I do not really live in a rural place anymore, but when I go back to the mountains maybe I can bring back some wood :).
C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on June 24, 2009:
Don't know but personally I am bored with everything plastic. I love NATURAL and wish that we would get away from all of the plastic stuff.
Naima Manal from NY on June 24, 2009:
Very interesting art, and certainly, no two pieces will be the same! I'm thinking it may also be healthier to wear, over plastic jewelry, as well--not that I wear plastic jewelry, though. For children, this may be an excellent substitute to the typical plastic beads (there you go).
C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on June 23, 2009:
Thanks for visiting and hope that your thoughts are positive in your favor!
Enelle Lamb from Canada's 'California' on June 23, 2009:
Me too...loved the lizard :D
great hub - excellent directions and enjoyed the originality of all the pieces certainly made me think :D
C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on June 21, 2009:
Will do Sweetie, if....I can find some time.
TexasChick.....like your name.Glad you stopped to comment and give it a try. You will have some fun and make yourself something nice to boot.
TexasChickiMama from Texas Gulf Coast on June 21, 2009:
I like the lizzard and that you make all of us think!!! what coud we do??? Thanks
SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on June 20, 2009:
I hope you make more of your Fourth of July jewelry, and maybe another hub on it before this date passes :).
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on June 16, 2009:
Even Ol' Klutz here could make something pretty from driftwood from these instructions! Thanks!
C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on June 15, 2009:
Raven King....thanks for the positive feedback
SweetiPie...you inspired me for that one.
frogdropping.......glad to have you stop and comment. i do think people need to get back to more basics and stay out of the mass produced markets. I also think you would enjoy hunting the driftwood. The beach is a great place to get lost in the sand and water.
Maybe you could share some of your string and bits of clay with us, that would be fun!
Andria on June 15, 2009:
C.S. - Your driftwood art is wonderful. I make a fair bit of ... stuff and love to see how others imagination is turned into something unique. I love 'handmade' objects.
One of my favourite pastimes is playing with string (because that's what it amounts to) and adding bits of sculpted clay or whatever I find to it.
The world at large needs to get more crafty!
Great article C.S. and thankyou for taking the time to put it together :)
Oh yes and I live near a beach. I may have to go driftwood hunting!
SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on June 15, 2009:
I love the idea of even making jewelry out of driftwood. The American themed necklace is perfect for the Fourth of July!
Raven King from Cabin Fever on June 15, 2009:
Wow! You really create fine pieces of art. That's incredible, you even signed the pieces. You must really have steady hands! My favorite is the USA moccasin. :)
C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on June 15, 2009:
Monique...this is something that most people could do for their own enjoyment and have a lot of fun too.
rnmsn...thankful you are enjoying my hubs and good to hear you are inspired to reach for your wood burner. This craft is hard to put down when you get started you are right.
rnmsn on June 14, 2009:
cool CS Alexis!!! the peanut USA pendant looks like a moccasin to me! ery good hub...easy to follow...made me reach for my pyrography project...just a few lines....ha always turns into longer with the wood burner doesn't it? l really enjoy your hubs!
MoniqueAttinger from Georgetown, ON on June 14, 2009:
Interesting idea! Certainly a much more eco-friendly approach to jewelry and a chance to be creative... Thanks for an inspiring read... (I might just have to get working on some of my own home-made jewelry again! LOL)