Jewelry Design Challenge – Fairy Wing Fail

Copper wire earringsI signed up for a jewelry design challenge with the theme “Welcome to Faery.” I had visions of making delicate shimmery translucent earrings in the shape of wings. I was going to do a “light” fairy version and a “dark” fairy. Or maybe I was going to make fairy wings for each of the four seasons. Yep. Grand plans, I had.

Because all these diaphanous winged earrings looked so spectacular in my head, I didn’t worry about getting off to a late start with the actual making of said wings. I didn’t wait until the very last minute. Neither did I allow enough time for the “error” part of the trial-and-error process of designing something I’ve never done before. Nor for a plan B when things went pear-shaped.

Polymer clay wings

My first idea for the wings was to use translucent polymer clay tinted with alcohol inks and accented with mica powders and heat-set crystals. I wish I had taken a photo of version 1.0 before baking. The color darkened quite a bit as the clay cured. Which made the scroll-y filigree-ish details mostly invisible. You can’t tell with them lying flat, but they do let light pass when hanging. So, I got the translucent part right.

Polymer clay fairy wing earrings

My first pair of polymer clay “fairy wings” with Swarovski crystal accents. They’re not what I envisioned even though they are translucent.

For version 2.0, I decided to emphasize the filigree detail with some thin snakes of a contrasting color. And instead of brushing mica powder on top for shimmer, I mixed some opal effects clay with the tinted translucent clay. In hindsight, this idea might have worked better with a different color palette. Maybe more tonal, darker and lighter shades of the same hue, rather than silver on blue. At least I got the shimmery part right.

Unfinished polymer clay wings

After stepping back to look at the effect on the right wing, I didn’t even bother to add the filigree accents to the left one. Or put them back into the oven to cure.

Bead and wire wings

Rather than continue to experiment more systematically with the polymer clay variables until I came up with a version that worked, I saw a squirrel. Which is to say, I got distracted by a different idea. My muse and I decided that making a wing-shaped wire frame and weaving some shimmery beads into it was just what we needed.

Bead mat with wire wings in progress

I experimented with bead sizes and where to place them. I’m not great at sketching so I often fully assemble a piece in the jewelry-making equivalent of “thinking out loud.”

It was a good idea, except for the part where she and I both forgot that my nascent wire-weaving technique is still in what I fondly call its “rustic” phase. Rustic and fairy don’t really go together, do they?

As with the polymer clay idea, I made several variations on this theme. And at no point did I manage to create two matching wings. I blame my inability to create consistent open spirals. The outer part of every wing I made turned out the same. Because I wisely remembered a tip from a friend about marking inch-increments on my wire before shaping it. But the inner parts, with the spirals and the beads? Let’s just say there was some “natural variation” among the wings.

Copper wire fairy wing earrings

Of all the copper wire wings I made, these two came the closest to being a matched set. I guess if you didn’t know I was going for “fairy wing” they’re not so horrible. They could just be rustic leaf or abstract shapes.

The side you don’t often see

The deadline to submit designs has come and gone. I was tempted to drop out rather than submit my fugly fairy wings for all the world to see. But I signed up. And to not follow through just because what I created fell far short of spectacular would be discourteous to our hostess.

And as long as I was sending photos of these failed creations out into the social media universe (the reveal is on this public Facebook page, in case you want to see the other entries), I thought “might as well share them on my blog too.”  Because I’m sure my readers would appreciate seeing this side of the design process – the part where things end up in the trash.

I may try again, with the polymer clay or the wire. Or both. Probably not right away though. I have a few other commitments and deadlines to honor.  In the meanwhile, ideas for how to turn my original vision into reality will drift about in my subconscious until the time is right.

16 thoughts on “Jewelry Design Challenge – Fairy Wing Fail

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Michelle. I might wear the wire ones. And just not tell anyone I was aiming for matching fairy wings. 😉

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      LOL. I think it happens to everyone at least once or twice. But if we don’t stretch and try new things, we’ll never know what might have been.

  1. Beth Petricoin

    Though I think all your wings are perfectly fine. I really love the design of the first pair (I’m thinking if the filigree were “antiqued” using a thin coat of iridescent white acrylic paint, it might give you the contrast you’re wanting and still keep the translucence of the wings). I can understand though, when your project doesn’t match up with your expectations, especially when you’ve conceded that in the 11th hour of a deadline and realized you have no more time for trial… and boy, have I been there, countless times. Kudos to you, for persevering and for sharing, even if you were less than satisfied with your results.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Beth. Why didn’t I think to try paint to bring out those details? Your 11th hour creations always amaze me. I think even though you wait until the last minute to do the construction, your mind must be working out the details well before hand. Maybe I need to give more thought to things before diving in head first. 🙂

  2. Mary Detray

    Aaagghhh! Love this post! You crack me up! “My fugly fairy wings” ha ha, this whole situation reminds me SO much of me back when I was experimenting with polymer (i obviously never got good at it, hence the lack of it in my current work lol) it always kills me to spend a bunch of time on a piece only to end up not liking it, doesn’t happen too often, but when it does I always kick myself! I love how light hearted and funny you are about it, maybe I’ll try THAT approach next time it happens to me instead of the old kick in the ars! 😉

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      It is frustrating to have spent time on something only to have it fall short of expectations. I try to look at everything as a learning experience. Hence the trial-and-error comments. Of course I do get frustrated sometimes, and then I remind myself “this is not for a grade in school, no one’s life depends on it, and I make jewelry because it’s fun.”

  3. Shalini Austin

    I think the earrings you submitted are really beautiful.
    Rustic is always good because it has a stamp of your own personality and originality on it. Wire has a mind of its own and sometimes you just have to let things flow; it will work itself out. Yours certainly did. You got the final shapes near identical and that is big achievement in itself, even for the most experienced wire artist. So very well done 🙂
    Never stop playing, wire is very rewarding.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Shalini. I do like rustic. The funny part is, sometimes when I try to do “messy” on purpose it comes out too neat. And then when I want neat and tidy, I get rustic. I guess you’re right about the wire having a mind of its own.

  4. Linda Newnham

    It’s great to see the works in progress even if they didn’t turn out how you wanted. They are all valuable lessons and often inspiration for projects in the future. Thanks for sharing x

  5. Marica Zammit

    I actually like the wire wings. I’ve been meaning to try the translucent clay with inks for a while now. I’ve seen some incredible work by other artists but no idea how they do it LOL Me thinks my trial and error phase on this one is going to be super long haha

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks, Marica. The good thing about polymer clay is, it’s a very inexpensive medium. So mistakes aren’t as costly as the might be with something like precious metal clay. And if you’re clever, or adventurous, even mistakes can be turned into something wonderful. I didn’t throw those wings away. I’m thinking I might try some Swellegant metal coating. Or paint.

  6. Dana

    I like the wire ones! The one spiral is just a touch longer and nylon jaw pliers will straighten anything you’re unhappy with. Really easy fixes – I’d call them waiting for the final finishes rather than a fail. I also like the black ones, my daughter has black fairy wings these would’ve been perfect for her outfit.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Dana. I haven’t given up on the wings just yet. I submitted them as is for the challenge. With plans to try again when I have more time and patience. And maybe after I watch a few tutorials on how to tweak things with pliers.

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