Art Jewelry Elements Headpin Challenge

vase filled with headpinsWhen the team at Art Jewelry Elements announced “art headpins” as the challenge theme for August I was fairly certain I would join in.  But I did wait a few weeks before signing up, because I wanted to be sure I would actually have some headpins to show on reveal day.  The challenge is to create art headpins in any medium, or use art headpins in jewelry designs. 

While I have seen plenty of art headpins I admire, I don’t tend to buy them.  I don’t know what to do with them. They sort of intimidate me in a way other types of art beads do not.  When I get my hands on an art bead I tend to hoard it until I think I have The Perfect Design to showcase it.  If that design ends up not being the right showcase for the bead, I can always take the jewelry apart and try again. Not so with headpins.

With headpins, little works of art with a long piece of wire on one end, once that wire is bent and twisted and cut, that’s it. There are no second chances, no take backsies.  What if my wire wrap goes wonky in a way I can’t play off as “rustic” or “intentionally messy”?  If it were a bead, I could just cut the wire and start over. With a headpin, there’s only so much you can do to salvage the wire monstrosity you have created.

So I don’t buy art headpins.  Except I did buy this one. I couldn’t resist. It’s a lampwork feather by Genea Crivello.  I know it’s a feather because that’s how she described it, but I also think it looks like a sea creature.  I’m not sure what I will make with it. It’s carefully wrapped and stashed until I know.

glass lampwork feather headpin

When I saw this in Genea’s online shop I put it right into my cart. I didn’t even read the description until after checkout. She calls it a feather. I think it’s an exotic marine invertebrate.

I’ve also made a few art headpins recently, for a couple of other challenges.  The first were this batch of seed pod-inspired headpins, which turned into rustic earrings.  Something about certain seed pod shapes demanded headpins.  You know, because they dangle off vines and stems.

Seed Pod head pins in vase

These headpins, made from polymer clay, include shapes based on seed pods from poppies, cocoa, and snapdragons (can you see their little faces?) among others.

And earlier this summer I made these polymer clay strawberry headpins for another challenge.  I turned them into a simple pair of earrings, just the headpins on earwires. Mostly because I was too indecisive about what to add to them.

strawberry headpins

These ripe red strawberry headpins are made from polymer clay on copper wire.

If you follow my blog, you already know polymer clay is my go-to medium when I need to make my own beads.  It isn’t that I wouldn’t love to play with mud to make ceramic beads, or play with fire to make lampwork beads.  Rather, I use polymer clay because it doesn’t require special equipment – like a kiln or big scary canisters of gas to fuel a torch.

Even if I could make ceramic and glass beads, I think I would still work with polymer clay. It’s incredibly versatile, especially in its ability to mimic other things, like glass and ceramic. I’ve been tending toward faux ceramic finishes for my polymer clay lately.  For this challenge, I decided to do glass.  Specifically, lampwork glass.

To make my faux glass headpins, I started with white clay on copper or dark annealed steel wire. That was the relatively easy part.  I say “relatively” because the challenge of getting the wires into the beads without distorting them paled in comparison to some of the later steps.

Batch of plain white polymer clay headpins

These are my “blank canvas” polymer clay headpins. Step one in the faux glass process was to shape and cure white beads on wires.

The next steps in the process were to add color, texture, and then a glass-like finish. I used an assortment of alcohol inks,  Iced Enamel® powders, and liquid polymer clay to create the colors and textures on these headpins.  It was a rather time consuming process.  I imagine making actual lampwork beads takes a bit of time to create as well.  As fun as these were as an experiment in technique, I think I prefer something a bit less labor-intensive as a matter of course.

Red orange bumpy faux glass headpins

These faux bumpy lampwork headpins were the most difficult of the batch. They also didn’t turn out according to plan. The little white dots are not terribly uniform, for one thing. I imagine people working with glass have to practice getting the amount of “dot” just right too.

Coin shaped faux glass headpins with dots

These were my second attempt at dotted headpins. I only made two sets of headpins with raised dots. Maybe if I practiced [a lot] I could get them to look the way I wanted. But they would always be slightly messy, because I do not have steady hands.

Coin headpins with faux silver streakes

I attempted a silver dots and streaks accent for this pair of headpins. Some lampwork beads have little bits of silver metal added to the surface and I was trying to imitate that effect. In this technique, my slightly shaky hands didn’t matter as much.

Six faux metal dipped glass headpins

These are my favorites of the headpins I made for this challenge. I was going for a glass topped with metal look. The blue set has a dark pewter top. The green and purple sets have copper tops.  The metal effect started out smooth. It got a little bubbly and crustic (crusty + rustic) during the final steps.  I like that even better.

I couldn’t resist making a few more pod pins while I was playing with the white clay. These don’t have a faux glass finish.  I colored them with chalk pastels and gave them a semi-gloss finish.  They are far easier (less time consuming and less fiddly) than the faux glass.

Tulip bud headpins in assorted colors

I think these pod-ish headpins look a bit like tulip buds. They have shimmery metallic accents and a semi-gloss finish.

I fully intended to turn all of my headpins into jewelry for this challenge. But I didn’t have any designs in mind. I stared at them and, in my fear or “ruining” them by making “the wrong” thing, I ended up making no jewelry. I really need to have a talk with myself about this headpin phobia.

That’s it for my art headpins. But that’s not the end of the eye candy. This design challenge is also a blog hop. Be sure to visit the other artists on the list to see more beady goodness.  And many thanks to the folks at Art Jewelry Elements for the open invitation to play along.


Alison Herrington
Renetha Stanziano
Karin Grosset Grange
Gloria Allen
Deb Fortin
Cate van Alphen
Mona Arnott
Shai Williams
Sarajo Wentling
Kathy Lindemer
Solange Collin
Brooke Bock
Melissa Meman
Patricia Handschuh
Tammy Adams –>You are here!
Melissa Trudinger

AJE Team Members

Caroline Dewison
Lesley Watt
Cathy Mendola
Jenny Davies-Reazor
Susan Kennedy
Laney Mead
Diana Ptaszynski
Lindsay Starr
Niky Sayers

50 thoughts on “Art Jewelry Elements Headpin Challenge

  1. Brooke Bock

    I am so intrigued by what you did. Your polymer clay really does mimic blown glass. I think you did an amazing job. I can’t wait to see what you come up with to work these into some designs.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Brooke. I’m still tyring to decide what to make with the headpins. I have what one television commercial calls FOBO. Fear of Better Option. Makes it hard to commit to bending the wire. 😉

  2. Kathy Lindemer

    Your headpins are lovely. I am amazed by the faux glass finish. Your pods are wonderful. You have certainly mastered polymer clay. Well done!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Kathy. I don’t know that I’d consider myself a master of polymer clay, but I do feel more confident about trying new things.

  3. Deb Fortin

    wow . very well done mimicry of real glass. I love the colours you used and I don’t think your shaky hands did any damage to your designs . it looks intentional to be wavy and imprecise, and casual.
    I think you hit the nail on the head with your fear of “ruining ” art headpins by using them . Perhaps that’s why I have never bought any. I too suffer from that ailment and also the one of using art beads. I have a box full and never use them as I am waiting for the “perfect time ” to use them.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Deb. I do like an organic look in general. But I’m sure you know how it is when you had something specific in mind and it didn’t turn out that way. I also have a large collection of art beads I am curating. It’s my own private miniature works of art museum. 🙂

  4. Karin G

    Fantastic! I love your headpins and reading about your experiments, the aspect of glass is unbelievable!

    1. Laney Mead

      I must admit I struggled with the idea of ‘what happens if I mess it up?’ which I did! but that top head pin, the feather is just beautiful, I can see why you purchased that and worry about spoiling it.

  5. Claire

    I just adore the organic and the glass-like (also organic looking) polymer clay headpins! The bumpy ones are my absolute favorites! 🙂

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Claire. The bumpy ones didn’t turn out the way I planned, but I must admit they are growing on me.

  6. Caroline

    Fantastic work! And I love that your dots aren’t perfect, I think that gives them a wonderful organic feel. If you hadn’t said, I’d have thought they were glass!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Caroline. I will admit the organic dots do look good. I was initially disappointed because I had a whole different vision of how they would look when I made them. Learn to embrace what is, right?

  7. Alison Herrington

    I so understand your fear of designing with artisan head pins, there are no ‘take backsies’! Lol! . But you did a fabulous job of making your own and I actually said Oh wow when I saw the first pair that looked just like glass! Great job!

  8. Jenny

    Whoa Tammy – those really look like lamp work! Such patience for so many layers! Umm those seed pods though? I just want them in a vase in my studio. They are STUNNING.

  9. Lindsay S

    I love your faux lampwork, and everything else, but my favorites are the poppy pods! I knew exactly what they were before I even got to the words! Great job! Thank for playing along with us!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you so much Lindsay. Those poppy pods were tricky, and I have one in my fugly box that went horribly wrong. I’m saving it for an “aliens” design challenge, should one every come up. LOL.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you so much, Beth. I would love to see headpins by you. Your imagination and sculpting skills are so amazing, I know whatever you come up with would be stunning.

  10. Jen Cameron

    My first response is REALLY COOL! I love how you made the pc look like glass. You might put us lampworkers out of business. My second response is WHO CARES if your dots aren’t uniform? I like them the way they are! People get too caught up in the pursuit of uniformity and perfection, when wonky is actually more interesting sometimes. Great job! Thanks for participating and for reading AJE

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Aw, thanks so much, Jen. You are absolutely right about the pursuit of perfection thing. It’s funny I can easily appreciate imperfectly beautiful things others create, but I tend to get hung up on when my own works don’t go according to plan. Also, there’s no chance I would put lampworkers like you out of business. For one thing, I lack the patience to make something like these, with all the fiddly steps, very often. I don’t know how you all do it.

  11. Mona Arnott

    Well then Tammy. I most certainly was correct in saying I was looking forward to seeing your creations. The headpins you made are all works of art. And remember something made by an artisan will be made with love and passion and will be full of soul, best exhibited by the lack of perfection. After all, if it was perfect it would be made in a factory.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Mona. I appreciate the reminder that handmade is not supposed to look perfectly uniform. 🙂

  12. niky sayers

    I completely get what you are saying about no second chances with the head pins and at first that used to scare the sock off me, the responsibility not to mess up a beautiful piece of art work someone else had created! But then I did mess up a few and quiet a few more then I came up with creative ways to save them and now it dose not bother me! I love your Genea headpin and can see why you could not resist that and your head pins and amazing! I can’t believe you got polymer clay to look like glass they are wonderful!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Niky. Maybe I need to build up some metal working skills so I can find creative ways to salvage any headpins I might ruin. 😉

  13. Diana Ptaszynski

    That faux glass is really cool. Also, I know how you feel about the headpins and no second chances. I always practice my design on scrap wire before I actually use the headpin…lol!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you, Diana. I thought about practicing with scrap wire. My fear is that it will go fine with the scrap and then I’ll lose my mojo when working with the real thing. LOL. I just need to let my inner child out more often for these type of things.

  14. Lesley

    You have some great designs here Tammy – I love the seed pod. I think we all fear wrecking our head pins and I’ve certainly done it. Now I try mi ideas out on a piece of scrap wire first before I star cutting or wrapping…. Seems to work.

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thanks so much, Lesley. The way you used the wire on your headpins was so amazing and inspiring.

  15. Susan Kennedy

    WOW, great job on the faux glass, it really looks like glass! Love that you made your own. That headpin by Genea is awesome, I would be nervous to make something with it too! Thanks for playing along!

    1. Tammy Adams Post author

      Thank you so much, Susan. I wonder how many more years Genea’s headpin will be awaiting a design by me? Maybe I should just put it in a shadow box and display as is. It really doesn’t need anything more.

  16. Julie Sontag

    How gorgeous are your headpins??? Wow!!! Everyone else has said this already BUT they really DO look like glass! Love the organic nature of them, they are truly cool! xo

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