Reused Plastic Oyster Earrings




Introduction: Reused Plastic Oyster Earrings

About: A crafty college student that sometimes tries to sew!

Hello my crafty eco-warriors! In the recent months, I've seen a new trend pop up on Instagram and in fast fashion retailers like forever 21 and H&M: quirky earrings. They'll take any shape from cute fruit slices to unsettling tiny hands. If you're in love with this trend like me but aren't willing to face the ethical dilemma of supporting fast fashion chains, I have just the craft for you. In this instructable, I'm going to be creating earrings shaped like oysters with a recycled juice bottle and a few other things that I had lying around.


For this project, you will need

  • A juice or other drink bottle with thick plastic- For this project I used a Northland cranberry juice bottle, but an Ocean Spray bottle or another bottle with similar plastic thickness would also work. It's important to use a bottle with thick plastic because they won't catch fire in the shaping process.
  • utility knife
  • needle nose pliers
  • candle (and something to light it with)
  • two jump rings
  • two earring hook findings
  • mod podge
  • a spare paintbrush to apply mod podge-- make sure it's not one you like!
  • a good paintbrush
  • paint: black, white, warm red, magenta, yellow ochre (a brownish yellow), burnt umber (brown), and blue
  • something to mix paint on- I'm using a tray but a piece of wood or cardboard would also work
  • hot glue gun
  • two pearl beads

Once you're finishing gathering your supplies, let's get started!

Step 1: Prepping Your Plastic

Before any cutting, you'll need to clean your bottle thoroughly with soap and water. When cutting pieces out of your juice bottle, remember that your plastic will shrink when you warp it with your candle. Because of this, you'll need to cut out your oval shapes considerably bigger than the size you want them to be. The ovals I cut out were about 3 1/4 inches long, and the final earrings were 2 inches and 1 1/2 inches long. I marked out the two oval shapes with a permanent marker and then carefully cut them out with a utility knife. remember to always cut away from your body and keep your fingers out of the way!

Step 2: Shaping Your Plastic

Now it's time to get out your pliers and set up your lit candle outside. Make sure you don't do this inside in case your plastic catches fire from holding it too close to the flame. If there is dried brush around your area outside like there was in my situation, I recommend putting your candle in a teacup for extra stability and safety. Holding your plastic oval in your pliers or tweezers, hold it about an inch from the candle flame and watch your plastic begin to warp. Keep in mind that the side of the plastic that is closest to the flame is going to curl up faster than the sides that are further from the flame-- you can use this strategy to control shaping your plastic oval into that of an oyster shell. If your plastic catches fire don't panic: just blow out the flame and keep going. Even if some of the plastic turns black, don't worry because you'll be covering it in paint anyway. Just try to avoid getting the plastic so hot it bubbles and starts to melt. Once you're satisfied with the shape of your plastic shells, it's time to move on!

Step 3: Prepping Your Shells

In this step, we will prep the plastic shell shapes for the more detailed painting process in the next steps. First, refer to the note on the picture to see where to poke a hole in the plastic with an awl, sturdy needle, or tack. Then, coat your plastic shells in a coat of white acrylic paint and follow with a coat of mod podge when the acrylic paint fully dries. Once everything dries, you're ready to get into detail.

Step 4: Beginning to Paint

To start this step, find a reference picture of the back of an oyster shell and get your paints ready on your palette. I'm using this one in the images above. Start with yellow ochre (if you don't have yellow ochre then mix yellow with a little brown) and start covering any space on the shell that doesn't appear white in the reference picture. Layering your colors effectively is an important part of the painting process, so this yellow ochre will essentially be your base layer for the rest of the colors. Notice how the oyster shell is patterned with rings rippling outward towards the edge. Make the end of your plastic with the hole poked in it the starting point of these ripples. Throughout the painting process, remember that oyster shells are organic objects and that none of them look exactly alike. So it's okay if it doesn't look just like your reference picture! I've attached a picture of all the colors I ended up using in my painting process for reference if you wish.

Step 5: Deepening the Shadows

Now we'll need to use our brown and a little bit of black to darken the parts of the oyster shell on our reference picture. Try to use horizontal brushstrokes that follow the pattern of the ripples, which are the most defining feature of the oyster shell.

Step 6: Highlighting the Ripples

Now we'll need to mix a light grey color to accentuate the rippling pattern and make our shadows more purposeful. Put these light marks towards the top of each shadow, and never in the middle of them. The light part of the shell is what is causing the shadow, so think about how we see objects cast shadows in real life.

Step 7: Getting Messy

But our oyster shells can't be too neat, can they? To get a "pulled out of the muddy ocean" kind of look, come back with some dark greys, brown, and even a little blue to finish off your shells. You'll notice that my shells look completely different than the reference picture I used, and that's okay! Reference pictures are there to serve as an example of what your object can look like, but the artistic liberty is up to you. Besides, this side isn't the pretty side that people will pay attention to-- so even if your outside didn't turn out exactly the way you wanted, the inside is what really counts. After your painting process is done on the outside, you may notice the small hole you poked in the shell has been clogged by the paint. Take some time to re-poke the hole in your shell-- it'll be much easier than the first time!

Step 8: Painting the Inside

Don't worry, this is a much simpler painting process than the outside! I found it helpful to gather a reference picture for this step too, which I attached above. I mixed a purplish blue using the red, magenta, and blue and painted some light, horizontal stripes in the middle of the shell. I also added the blue splotches in the reference picture towards the bottom of the shell shape. Once I was done with this, I added some brown streaks for depth and thought it would look better to paint the outer edges of the shell with these same colors. Now feel accomplished! All painting is done!

Step 9: Adding the Pearl

Get ready, because this is the most satisfying part of this whole project. Warm up your hot glue gun and carefully place a dot of glue exactly where you want your pearl to go. I referred to the previous reference picture when deciding where to put mine. When you place the bead onto the dot of glue, make sure any holes in the bead aren't visible from the front. Set your completed shells off to dry!

Step 10: Making the Earrings

It's time for the final push! Open your jump ring by pulling one half of it to the side with pliers, and thread the earring finding onto each jump ring. Make sure that the earring hook and the inside of your shell are facing opposite directions unlike in the picture I attached-- you'll want the inside of the shell to face the same direction as you! If you make the same mistake I did, it's an easy fix, but if you're giving this to someone as a gift you'll want to make sure the hook is facing in the right direction!

...And you're done! Congratulations on undertaking this project and learning how to reuse your waste to make beautiful jewelry. Wear these with pride!

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    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    2 years ago

    That's pretty impressive! Sure looks like a real oyster shell to me :)


    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you so much!!