Introduction: RECYCLE YOUR DINNER! Mussel Jewellery

About: Artist, Poet, Author, from the seaside town of Cardigan in Wales, UK

Extreme recycling!
I am always on the lookout for interesting things to recycle and this is one of my favourites: RECYCLED DINNER!

Step 1: What You Will Need

Mussel shells
Washing up liquid
Scrubby pad
Metal pan cleaner
Clear rigid plastic glue
Small awl and hammer
Marker pens
Nail file
Small shells
Small fish beads
Small leaf charms
Clear nail polish
Coloured and sparkly nail polish
Nail Caviar
Earring findings or ribbon necklace

Step 2: Acquiring the Mussel Shells and Cleaning Them.

I usually buy the mussels in sauce because they taste great and they have nice clean lightweight shells. The mussel shells I buy from the fishmonger tend to have heavier shells with a variety of crustaceans on them which are hard to clean off. They are only really suitable for making brooches and necklaces as they are too heavy for earrings. The packet mussels are wonderfully light and if you simply paint them, you can wear huge earrings that are barely noticeable.

First you must eat your mussels. Try to do this without separating the shells, that way, if you decide to make earrings, you will have a matching set. Once you have finished your meal, pop your shells into some water with a little bleach added and leave for a day or so. This will stop the fishy smell and loosen any debris. It also helps the irridescence to shine through. After they have soaked, wash them in warm soapy water and give them a scrub inside with a scrubby to make them nice and bright and on the outside use a metal pan cleaner to remove any slimy or crusty bits. (Try to still keep them in pairs.) then leave them to dry.

Step 3: Making or Breaking

Putting the holes in the shells. This part of the process is a bit haphazard, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I find that this is best done on a cutting mat. Take a sharply pointed, narrow awl and position it where you want your hole to be, then give the top of the awl a smart tap with your hammer. This should result in a small neat hole. If you tap too hard you smash the shell, too lightly and nothing! It may take a few attempts to get it right. It’s a knack and even with the knack there are shells that just say no! So, if you manage to pierce a pair, make earrings, if you smash one and save one, make a necklace and if you smash both, hammer them into small bits and use them to keep the snails away from your plants. Once you have completed your holes sand off sharp or jagged edges with a nail file then paint the backs of the shells. I use black enamel paint but there are many other choices, colours etc. Once painted leave them to dry.

Step 4: Colouring the Inside of the Shells

Colour the inside of the shells with sharpies or permenant marker pens.. I usually use two different colours , lighter at the top and darker at the bottom. Once they are fully coloured, give the shells a coat of clear nail polish. You will find that it is possible to blend the colours quite easily and create a beautiful effect. If you want the colours to be darker or more solid, wait for the polish to dry and repeat the process.

Step 5: Preparing the Pieces for the Mini Diorama.

There is no end to the different things you can put into these mini dioramas but I like to use a little seaweed in the background and for this I bought some cheap leaf charms. (They were £2.00 for 100 on eBay) I coloured them with marker pens and varnished them and I had some plastic fish beads that I also coloured in.

Step 6: Assembling the Dioramas

To glue all the pieces into the shell I used ridged plastic glue that dries clear. I like it because it holds it’s shape and dries quickly. I put a large dollop at the bottom of the shell and position all my pieces. As I live near the beach I have ample opportunity to collect shells and I have a drawer full of bits and pieces to rummage through. Once all the pieces are in place I use nail caviar to fill the gaps. I could use coloured sand or glitter instead. When it has dried I use pens, coloured nail varnish or paints to colour any other bits I think need brightening up. (When I am putting larger shells into the diorama, l tend to colour them first.) to complete the pieces I put a line of glue around the edge of the shell and dip it into fine iridescent glitter.

Step 7: Completion

Attach a jump ring through the hole in the shell and add either earring findings or a ribbon necklace. Again there are endless possibilities.
When I am making a gift of my pieces, I present them in a little sardine tin that I decorate for purpose.
I hope you feel inspired by this project. There are many, many things you can recycle. Not just to save the planet (although a very fine cause) bur. because it is cheap, rewarding and fun!

Trash to Treasure

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Trash to Treasure