This little clay honey bee flies “magically” on barely visible thread to visit a garden of clay roses, all on a wire frame hanging from your ear. You could make a bumblebee, a butterfly, a dragonfly, or any insect of your choice and the flowers can be made to your preference as well.
Also, I am entering this tutorial in the 2019 Jewelry Contest, so if you think that it is well-written or interesting, please vote.
Step 1: Supplies
1. Copper wire in 22 gauge and 26 gauge (I am using silver plated copper wire; use whatever color you prefer)
3. Wire Cutters, Flat-nose pliers and/or round-nosed pliers
4. Jewelry files or metal files to smooth cut wire edges
5. Cylinder to wrap your wire around (I am using a pill bottle that is about 1 ¾ inches in diameter or about 4 ½ cm)
6. Rubber mallet and a hard surface (to harden your wire form)
7. Clay of your choice (I am using air dry clay, but you could also use polymer clay)
8. Clay work surface
9. Corn starch to prevent your hands from sticking to your clay
10. Clay tools (ball tool, knife, pointy instrument)
11. Acrylic paint to color your clay for roses and leaves
12. Mod Podge (or another fast drying glue)
13. Fishing wire or Invisible Thread
14. Small sewing needle
15. Paint for honey bee (black, a dark brown, a golden orange, a light orange)
16. Paint brushes, sizes 00 and 3/0
18. Earring hooks
19. Reference pictures of roses and honey bees
* A few notes: The acrylic paints I am using are Hunters Green by Anita’s, Flag Red by Apple Barrel (for the leaves and roses), Black, Apricot, Golden Sunset by Apple Barrel and Burnt Umber by FolkArt (for the honey bee). The brand you use does not matter. You can use whatever colors you want for the leaves roses, and even the honey bee. That is what being an artist means! For realism, though, you want a dark brown, a light orange, a golden yellow, and black for the honey bee.
Step 2: Preparing the Wire
Taking you 22 gauge wire, measure out about 10 inches (25.4cm). This actually was more wire than I needed, but the first one I made I was just using wire from another project so it wasn’t measured. You can actually only use 7-8 inches, but you might appreciate the extra when you make your form.
After you cut your wire with your wire cutters, use your file smooth the cut ends of your wire. This makes it much nicer for the wearer and for you when you are forming the wire (it is always nice to get poked in the thumb by a sharp wire, ha ha). As you file the wire, run you thumb over it to see if there are any sharp edges. I find it helps me to rotate the wire as I file it so I get a rounded end.
Tip: When filing jewelry wire, always file down and away from yourself. The teeth of your file do not file when you come back towards yourself, so don’t do the sawing motion.
Repeat these steps until you have four, smooth, 10 inch wires out of the 22 gauge.
Step 3: Making the Twisted Wire Form
Now take two of you wires and, lining up the ends, pinch them together with the flat nose pliers.
BE GENTLE. IF USING PLATED COPPER YOU CAN MESS UP THE SURFACE WITH YOUR PLIERS IF YOU AREN'T CAREFUL.
Using the pliers to hold your wire ends, twist the two wires so that one is over top the other. Continue twisting the wires together to form a wire rope. I thought it was easiest to grip both the wires in between my finger and my thumb and just roll my hand over like you do when turning a key in a lock. As you move along the length of your wire, keep the pliers gripping just a little above where you are twisting. This helps you maintain an even twist.
Leave a bit at the ends untwisted. This will help you twist it around the other end of the wire when you make the circle.
And go slow! This can be a bit frustrating if you have never really done this or only done it a few times (me), so take your time. You will get it.
Once you are finished twisting the wire, wrap it around your cylinder. To help it stay, gently tap it with your rubber mallet. Now, taking a pair of pliers, grip the longer end of the wire where you want to trim it. Don’t trim it exactly to line up with the other end; you want a little excess so you can twist the two ends together to make a circle. DON’T cut the end that you left untwisted. Cut your wire where you gripped it with the pliers. Now you have a circular shape.
Insert the twisted end of your hoop in between the untwisted ends. Taking your flat nose/round nose pliers, twist the untwisted wires around each other and the other end of the wire. This makes it a circle.
Now lay your hoop on a hard surface and hit it with your rubber mallet. This is called work hardening your wire. It makes the wire stronger and harder to bend. Do this on a surface that can take it because your twisted wire will make an indentation on your soft wood table (oops, cardboard to the rescue as a cushion). I just banged on it until I got tired of that.
Repeat these steps for two circles.
Step 4: Making Leaves
Now we will make the leaves of our rose vine. I have to color my clay first because my clay is a translucent white. I do this by using acrylic paint (Hunter Green) and mixing it into the clay. It only takes a little bit (and this step can get messy).
I went ahead and colored my rose color (Flag Red). Both of these balls of clay are about one inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.
To make the leaves: roll out your clay until it is about a 1/4 inch (.64 cm) thick log. Pinch the end of the log between your forefinger and thumb and gently pull a teeny bit away. That is a leaf! This is an easy way to make little leaves for tiny projects. Repeat this step until you have a bunch of leaves. Set these aside on a nonstick surface to dry.
Step 5: Making the Roses
I have included lots of pictures for making the roses and the honey bee so that hopefully it will be easy to understand.
Take a teeny tiny bit of clay and flatten it onto your finger. Gently roll it into a tube shape. This is the center of the rose.
Take another tiny bit of clay and flatten it onto you finger, but pinch the end so that it makes a triangle or heart shape. You can use a ball tool to help flatten this into a heart-like shape, then wrap it around the center of your rose.
Continue to do this, overlapping your petals as you go until the rose is the size you want. As you make the petals, make the outside petals bigger than the original center petals. Use a ball tool or you finger to curve the outer petals downwards and open up the rose.
Once your rose is complete, cut the excess off, leaving a nice smooth back. Cut about a 2 inch (5 cm) piece of your 26 gauge wire and stick it through the back of your rose. That is how you will attach the rose to our wire frames we made earlier.
P.S: For those people wondering, my 26 gauge wire is not actually copper. I put copper in the supplies because it would be very easy to work with and I have no idea what this stuff I have is.
To Make Rose Buds:
Take a tiny pinch of clay and form it into a teardrop shape. Cut your 26 gauge wire as you did for the roses and stick the rose bud on top of it. Ta daa!
Set your roses and rose buds aside to dry. I made three roses and five rose buds for each earring.
Step 6: Making the Honey Bee
Take a little piece of clay and pinch it until it is a tear drop shape. Curve the end downwards (that is the stinging end!). Now make a small ball of clay and press it onto the opposite end of the stinger. That is the thorax.
Make the head out of a smaller bit of clay than the bit that made the thorax. Shape this into a triangle shape. Don't flatten it, but it should have a pointy end similar to the abdomen we made earlier. The wider end is the base and top of his head.
Roll a log of clay and pinch the end off to make a flat backed oval/circle. This is the eye. Carefully press it onto the side of the head at the top and repeat. Stick the head to the thorax and bend the body into a slightly curved shape.
On to the legs! Roll out six very thin pieces of clay. Make them thinner at one end than the other (bees have tiny little feet!). The two that will be back legs will be longest, the middle legs will be slightly shorter, and the front legs will be the shortest. Using your pointed instrument (a toothpick would work), make the joints for the legs by carefully pressing the point into the clay in about the middle of the leg. As you press, turn the clay so that it makes an indentation. You don't have to do this step, I just like it for realism.
Now to stick the legs to the body, take Mod Podge (or another glue) and spread a little on the underside of the thorax. I use my pointed instrument to pick up the legs and position them on the thorax. All the legs connect to the underside of the thorax! To make the bee look like he is flying, let the back legs hang down and curve the middle and front legs up to the body. Just go carefully and don't sweat it. It is very helpful to use the pointed instrument or a toothpick to bend the little legs in place.
Roll out two more very thin logs to be your antenna. I also use the Mod Podge to help me attach them to the front middle of the head.
*I am not an expert in polymer clay. I would assume that you would make the entire sculpture before baking the polymer clay, but I have read that some artists like to bake their works in pieces and then attach them after baking.
Roll out a section of clay and "draw" little wings on it. Cut them out and then smooth the rough edges in your hands. Back to the glue stuff, use it to help you attach the wings TO THE THORAX. (Pretty much all bug appendages are attached to the thorax.)
Thread your small sewing needle with your fishing line/invisible thread. Don't tie it off, just pull it through so that it won't slip off the needle. Poke the needle up through the thorax between the wings (gosh, dang thorax again) and pull it through. Unthread your needle. Now your little bee is hanging on a thread. Put a dab of glue at the top where the thread comes out of the bee's thorax, and then.....
WAIT UNTIL YOUR CLAY CREATIONS DRY.
Mine takes about two days depending on the size of the project. These will probably be dry in one.
Step 7: Wrapping Roses on the Wire
Arrange your roses any way you wish on your frame. Using your pliers to help you, wrap the wire from the roses around the wire frame. I will tell you that the rose buds are the hardest to wrap. Use the pliers to smash the very ends of the wire against the frame, but don't worry about it too much. These will be covered in clay later. Make your design a mirror opposite (this isn't necessary, but it is how I like my earrings).
Step 8: Painting the Honey Bee
This is where reference pictures help a lot. Just google it if you don't have a book with pictures.
With the burnt umber, paint the entire bee, minus the wings. Now take the yellow (Golden Sunset) and paint the bee's stripes, thorax, and a tiny bit of its head. I use my tiniest paint brush for this and only barely get any paint on the bristles. I try to give it the appearance of being fuzzy. The yellow coat is very light, and I follow up with the light orange (Apricot) over top the yellow. This helps give it depth and a fuzzy appearance.
Paint the wings using the littlest brush and the Burnt Umber. Photos of bee wings are great.
Paint the eyes and the stinger black.
P.S: If you knock off a leg or the antenna (like I did), don't freak out, just glue it back on.
Step 9: Finishing the Earring
Once the bee is dry, tie him onto your wire form. Make sure that your bee is facing the way you want him to be facing. My bees face are facing the opposite direction (looking at each other) so that they will be facing forward when I wear them.
Tying the string can be hard. I tie the top first, one time in a regular knot, then I wrap the string around the wire over and over until there is only a tiny bit left. I coat this with glue and hold it until it will hold itself. I repeat this for the other end.
Now fetch your green clay. Make a thin green log and wrap it around your wire frame, covering the wires of your roses. Cover the string end, too, to help it stay tight. Wait for this to dry (a few hours, depending on your clay).
Add the dried leaves by glueing them onto the green vine. Placement is your preference. They can also cover any gaps that show the wire. Use a decent amount of glue.
After your glue has dried, varnish all the clay. I use a gloss varnish for the bees' eyes and wings, then a satin varnish for everything else.
Step 10: The Finished Earrings
These are the finished earrings. I have included a photo of the first one I made because I made it with white roses.
I will say that the hardest part is tying the bee to the frame. The rest of the project is relatively simple, depending on your clay abilities.
I think these would be really nice with a variety of flowers or flying insects that are what you really love.
If you like the idea but the hoops are a bit bigger than you like, just use a smaller cylinder and make a smaller hoop.
Good luck in all your clayventures!