Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.


I've probably mentioned it before (and the picture by my blog heading might have tipped you off), but The Shawshank Redemption is one of my all time favorite films, and a wonderful Stephen King novella as well. I've been to see the tree from the movie near Mansfield several times and I've always found it a source of inspiration and a testament to the power of perseverance. Not long ago the tree was struck by lightning and only about half remains, but still, it stands. I figured it was time for me to design a piece of Shawshank inspired jewelry. I used some techniques that were new to me so I wasn't sure how it would turn out, therefore I didn't really do any "action shots" of the process, but I do have some of my practice pieces so I can show you the general progression from start to finish.

The first technique that was new to me is embossing, and the second is glass etching. They sound a little scary and complicated, but after a little fumbling I started to get the hang of it.  The necklace that I made starts with a memory glass frame, made by Inkssentials. These products are so great for crafters; you can do so many things with them! They're perfect especially for those who like to incorporate text/pictures into mixed media items. My idea was to encase a picture that I had taken of the Shawshank Tree in the frame, and etch the text "get busy living" on the glass, so the picture would be slightly frosty from the etching while the text would show up clearly only at certain angles.

As I began working on this project I realized there were tons of tutorials on glass etching crafts, and plenty using text. But these were all pretty large, easy to work with stencils, used in such projects as, for instance, etching "flour" or sugar" onto your glass baking ingredient jars. I couldn't find anything on how to etch teeny tiny letters, or where to find really tiny letter stencils or stickers that actually peeled off cleanly with only the outline of the letters showing. So, I improvised and attempted to make my own stickers by printing out the text, using spray adhesive to attach the printed paper to contact paper, and then cutting out the letters, removing the contact paper's adhesive backing when I was ready to etch. This proved to be incredibly cumbersome and time consuming, and the results weren't ideal. I arranged the homemade stickers on the glass to form the words, and then prepared to etch.

Basically what you do with glass etching is seal off the area you don't want etched with a stencil or sticker or crafting tape, and then cover the surface with etching cream. Etching cream is serious business, folks. This stuff eats through layers of the glass (which affects the way light shines though it, giving it that frosty appearance ) so it does skin no favors. Be careful, and wear gloves. You have to completely cover the surface to be etched, thickly and evenly, in order to get reliable, noticeable results. I left the etching cream on for about 3-5 minutes, and then rinsed the piece of glass in a bowl of water I had nearby. I added baking soda to the water to neutralize the etching cream I was removing. The homemade stickers rubbed off pretty easily, and after I dried the glass the etched letters started to appear. The process technically worked, but the letters looked much too sloppy for the amount of time and effort it took to cut them out.

I thought there had to be another way. So I turned to embossing the letters onto the glass first. This allowed me to purchase a teensy little alphabet stamp set that I can use indefinitely rather than laboring over stencils I can only use once. I used clear embossing ink to stamp the letters directly onto the glass. This is slightly tricky only because the stamps want to slide and smear the ink over the glass, so I had to do a few of these before I got one that looked neat enough. After I had the text down the way I wanted it, I poured on embossing powder (the color doesn't matter, as it will be rubbed off anyway), and then poured off the excess.

The picture below is one of my first attempts, where tiny smears of ink caught the powder and kept the letters from looking crisp and clean.

When I had a version I liked, I used a heat tool to emboss the powder on the glass. It was my first attempt so I wasn't sure what to be looking for, but it was pretty easy to see the powder start to melt and sort of rise off the glass slightly. I let the glass cool and then etched the glass just as I had when the letters were stickers. Only this time at the end of the etching time I scraped off the embossed letters, and it worked smashingly.

The memory frame that I had was bright and shiny new silver in color, which just didn't work for my style. So I aged the frame using the salt and vinegar potato chip-patina method that I describe in this post. I knew raw brass and copper would patina well with this method, but I didn't know what the frame would do. It worked beautifully and looked suitably rustic.

I printed out the picture of the tree sized to fit within the frame and used spray adhesive to attach it to a reverse image (that shows if you turn the frame around.) I fit the picture between the glass slides, sealed them all within the frame, and then assembled the rest of the necklace using a purple/light green color scheme.

Finally, after all that rambling, here is the final piece:

What I love about it is that at certain angles, the text is barely visible, all you notice is the tree. Then, at others, the light catches on the words and they stand out, shining.

Then, for the back of the pendant I found a piece of scrapbook paper that I thought was very appropriate: an old-fashioned looking dictionary definition of "hope".  The quote I used for this post is from the film, and sums up the whole message, so I think this works.

This was such a challenging piece for me to make, but I absolutely love how it turned out!

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  1. Wow, hats off to you! I always love your jewelery posts, and this is no exception. The effort and love you poured into this piece absolutely shines through. It's breathtaking! I love everything about it, from the symbolism to the piece itself. The message of hope on the back is such a lovely touch too. Bravo, dear one! ❤

    1. Thank you doll! I appreciate all of that so much. I really am sort of smitten with this piece, it turned out just how I envisioned it. I feel like I'm getting better with my designs the more techniques I learn and the more mistakes I make. I use pre-made elements that you can find in any craft store, but I think I altered them enough to where it does look pretty unique. The etched letters that catch the light sometimes look like some sort of neat 3-D effect! Thanks again, glad you like it!


Please leave me comments if anything strikes your fancy or if you have any helpful suggestions. Remember, I'm no expert and am just sharing my truth. Hopefully you will find something useful to take with you!

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