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Metal clay origami tulip necklace

Metal clay paper tulips take traditional origami from ephemeral to permanent.
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Each delicate tulip in this necklace is made from a 1 3⁄16 in. (30 mm) square of metal clay paper. The full necklace length is 20 3⁄4 in. (52.7 cm).
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Practice folding with copy paper before you move on to metal clay paper.
Full necklace
Sterling silver wire is embedded into the bottom of each tulip and then shaped and looped together to create a chain. 

The word origami is derived from the Japanese oru, meaning to fold, and kami, meaning paper. Paper was invented in China in the first century A.D. and brought to Japan by Buddhist monks five centuries later. Although it’s unclear whether the practice of paper folding originated in China or Japan, there is little debate that Japanese culture has embraced origami as an expressive and accessible art form. 

Using traditional origami techniques, you’ll fold metal clay paper into a series of petite tulips. You’ll also use wireworking skills to shape links so you can connect the tulips into a necklace. You can modify the design by varying the size or number of the flowers or by skipping the liver of sulfur patina.

SUPPLIES

  • Metal clay paper: 16 1 3⁄16 x 1 3⁄16 in. (30 x 30 mm) squares
  • Metal clay: 2–3 g
  • Metal clay slip
  • Sterling silver wire:
    • 20-gauge (0.8 mm), round, dead-soft, 32–40 in. (81.3–101 cm)
    • 18-gauge (1.0 mm), round, dead-soft, 5 in. (12.7 cm)
  • Copy paper
  • Kiln, kiln shelf, fiber blanket 
  • Craft knife
  • Burnisher or knitting needle
  • Wire cutters
  • Scotch-Brite pad
  • Needle file: round
  • Flexible Teflon sheet
  • Acrylic roller
  • Olive oil or natural hand balm
  • Paintbrush: fine tip
  • Tumbler, steel shot, burnishing compound
  • Liver of sulfur (optional)
  • Pliers: chainnose, needlenose, roundnose

INSTRUCTIONS

Tip!
For all below references to "Figures", a "How to Fold" PDF is available for download!
Origami_step 1
Step 1
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Step 2
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Step 3
Tulips

Practice your origami skills. Before you make the tulips out of metal clay paper, practice making a few models out of copy paper. See “How To Fold an Origami Tulip” on the downloadable PDF, and review the following folding instructions. Be sure to fold on a flat surface, and expect to make a few wrong folds when you’re making your first model. When you’re ready to begin the project, see “Properties of Metal Clay Paper” (also on the PDF) for tips on working with metal clay paper.

Cut the metal clay paper. Keeping the metal clay paper in its package, use a craft knife to cut the paper into 16 1 3⁄16 x 1 3⁄16-in. (30 x 30 mm) squares [STEP 1].

Make a “water bomb” base. Like many origami designs, the tulip model begins with a series of folds known as a “water bomb” (paper water balloon) base.

Place one 1 3⁄16 x 1 3⁄16-in. (30 x 30 mm) square of metal clay paper on your work surface. Fold and unfold the square to make two diagonal valley folds that form an X [Figures 1 and 2]. Turn the square over. Make a horizontal valley fold across the center of the square. Unfold the square and turn it over [Figure 3].

Push the outer edges of the horizontal crease toward the center of the square [Figure 4] and [STEP 2]. Then press the top and bottom edges together. The square will collapse into a double-layered triangle [Figure 5]. When viewed from its widest side, the water bomb base should look as shown [STEP 3].

Make a tulip. Position the water bomb base so that its widest side is closest to you. Valley-fold the left and right corners of the model [Figure 6]. Turn the model over and repeat. You now have a square that is rotated 45°.

Valley-fold the square’s left triangle flap to the right, as if you were turning a page [Figure 7]. You now have a square with a centered vertical crease. Turn the model over and repeat. 

Valley-fold the square’s left triangle flap just past the vertical crease [Figure 8]. Repeat with the right triangle flap. Use a blunt-tip burnisher or a knitting needle to gently tuck the right flap into the opening of the left flap [Figures 9 and 10]. Turn the model over and repeat.

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Step 4
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Step 5

Expand and shape the hollow tulip. Set the metal clay paper tulip on its base, and gently press its tip to expand the bottom of the flower. (Editor’s Note: To inflate a tulip model that’s made of copy paper, blow a puff of air into the small hole at the base of the tulip.) Use your fingers to gently peel the four petals away from the center of the tulip’s tip [Figures 11 and 12] and [STEP 4]. Repeat to make a total of 16 tulips. 

Fire the tulips. Unlike other forms of metal clay, metal clay paper does not need to be dried prior to firing.

Place two strips of fiber blanket parallel to each other on a kiln shelf. Support the tulips between the two strips of fiber blanket [STEP 5]. This prevents the folds in the tulips from relaxing during firing. Place the kiln shelf in a cold kiln, and fire the tulips according to the metal clay paper manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the tulips to cool.

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Step 6
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Step 7
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Step 8
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Step 9
Wire links

Cut the wire. Cut 16 2-in. (51 mm) pieces of 20-gauge (0.8 mm) sterling silver wire. Use a Scotch-Brite pad to clean the surface of the wire pieces.

Prepare the tulips.
In the bottom center of each tulip is a small hole that is part of the origami design. Use a round needle file to redefine these holes [STEP 6]

Attach the wire to the tulips. Working over a flexible Teflon sheet, roll a small lump of metal clay into a ball. Use a craft knife to cut the ball into quarters [STEP 7], and then roll each quarter into a ball.

Push one end of a wire through a metal clay ball, allowing the wire end to protrude a little beyond the clay. Repeat until you’ve added a metal clay ball to each of the wires.

Use a fine-tip paintbrush to apply slip around the hole at the bottom of a tulip [STEP 8].

Insert the wire end protruding from the metal clay ball into the hole in the tulip. Make sure the clay ball covers the hole and is securely bonded to the bottom of the tulip [STEP 9]. Add slip if necessary. Repeat to make a total of 16 tulip-and-wire components.

Fire the components. Place strips of fiber blanket on the kiln shelf, and lay the components on the blanket. Allow the metal clay balls and slip to dry completely (check out the Metal Clay Dryness Chart if you need more info). Fire the pieces according to the metal clay manufacturer’s instructions. Allow the pieces to cool.

Complete the finishing. Use the Scotch-Brite pad to remove firescale from the surface of the wires. Tumble-polish the components in a tumbler with steel shot and burnishing compound. If desired, apply a liver of sulfur patina according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and then retumble the components to restore some of their shine.
Origami_step 10
Step 10
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Step 11

Shape the links. Hold a component in your nondominant hand. Using the tips of your chainnose pliers, grasp the wire below the tulip’s base and make a slight bend in the wire. Switch to roundnose pliers and grasp the wire at the bend you just made. Wrap the wire around the lower jaw of the roundnose pliers, bending the wire into a U that is perpendicular to the bottom of the tulip [STEP 10]. Use chainnose pliers to grasp the wire 3⁄4 in. (19 mm) from its end and make a 110° bend in the wire [STEP 10]. Repeat for the remaining wires.

On the end of one link, make the first half of a wrapped loop [STEP 10].

Connect the links. Slide the U bend of another link into the loop, and finish the wraps. Make the first half of a wrapped loop on the end of the second link. Continue attaching the links [STEP 11], until all 16 are connected, making a garland that is approximately 15 in. (38.1 cm) long.


For the rest of the instructions, including making the clasp and shaping the petals, please view our free, downloadable PDF!

For other tips and tricks on working with metal clay paper, see our article on what exactly this material is and how to best handle it.

FIND MORE: metal clay , wirework , necklaces

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