Make a wire ring
Jewelry designer Sierra Bailey shows us how to make gobstopper-size baubles.
Tue Aug 12 2008
Photographs: Roxana Marroquin
If you see Sierra Bailey staring at your chest, don’t be offended, she’s probably just admiring your buttons. The designer behind jewelry line Manic Trout (manictrout.com), Bailey, 31, is always on the hunt for unique buttons to turn into wire rings. “Every time I travel I have to go to the local flea market or junk shop,” says Bailey, who handcrafts all of her designs in her Hudson Valley studio. “Every small town has an antiques shop someone hasn’t been through yet.” Most of her finds, including bottle caps, Venetian glass and chandelier crystals, wind up in her designs. “I start by finding pieces I like and then, by trial and error, incorporate them into jewelry,” she says. “Some of my most popular items, like the wire button ring, were created by accident.”
* Wire, $6 for 15 yards, at firemountaingems.com
* Wire cutters, $9, at Allcraft Jewelry Supply Co, 135 W 29th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves, no. 205 (212-279-7077)
*1 button, free, anywhere you can find one: thrift shops, flea markets, removed from your own shirts
* Ring mandrel (used for shaping jewelry), $15, at Metalliferous, 34 W 46th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, second floor (212-944-0909)
* Round-nose pliers, $6.50, at Metalliferous
STEP BY STEP
1 Cut a three-foot strand of wire (Bailey uses 20-gauge). Slip one end of the wire through a hole of one of the buttons, then take the opposite end and thread it through the hole in the opposite direction. Tug on both ends until you have a small loop, roughly the size of a quarter.
2 After measuring your ring size (you can download a free sizer at jewelrylist.com/sizer.pdf), place the loop on the ring mandrel, making it half a size larger. Wrap the wire on the left around the mandrel a few times. Then wrap the right wire around the base of the button. Repeat wrapping around the mandrel and button until you have about an inch of wire left on each side.
3 “You might have to use your muscles here,” warns Bailey of this step. Remove the ring from the mandrel, and using pliers, pull the remaining wire tightly around the band of the ring (where the base meets the band, right underneath the button) two or three times, and snip off the end with cutters. Repeat with the other side.
4 Slide the ring back on the mandrel and twist it around to stretch and reshape it. If it’s a fragile button, don’t put too much pressure on it.