Saturday, September 16, 2006

Glass Vial Art Charm Technique & Give-away!

I just finished making 26 of these art charms and soon will be shipping 25 of them off to the host of a MMCA charm swap I'm in.

I'm having a drawing on October 1st for the extra charm so if you are not in the MMCA swap and would like to enter just send me an e-mail (see my profile page) or leave a comment here and I'll put your name in the hat. And while you're at it let me know if you're interested in joining my mailing list, I'll be having a drawing for a different charm exclusively for those on my mailing list in a couple of weeks.

Don't forget to check out my Etsy store. I've just added lots of new treasures for you to create with!

If you'd like to try your hand at making a charm of your own, just follow the instructions below.

Gather your supplies:

  • Glass vial with cork stopper (I've used antique watchmakers vials)
  • Pre 1909 image or text (must be this old to insure this technique will work)
  • Any craft varnish
  • Metal leaf adhesive
  • E600 or small amount of epoxy
  • Metal leaf
  • Wire, bobby pin, or paper clip
  • jump ring

Gather your tools:

  • Cup of water
  • Sewing needle
  • Jewelers needle nose pliers
  • Jewelers wire cutter
  • Thin paint brush
  • Dry paint brush with dense thick bristles

My work space tends to get very messy, so it helps to grab something to keep track of my smaller supplies. I like to pick up vintage mini muffin tins at estate sales:

Gather the images you will be working with & cut or tear around the section you will use for your charm:

You will need to thin the paper image for this project. This will give it a nice translucent quality and remove any text from the back. The type of paper used in pre-1909 books works well with this technique. After this date paper manufacturing changed. You can try a newer image but it may just turn to mush.

Dunk the paper in your cup of water and turn the image face down on a small piece of glass. As you begin gently rubbing with your finger, the paper will begin to pill and rub away. You will rub off any text on the back of your image and begin to see the image through the paper.

This is a real trial and error process, when you feel the paper has been thinned enough, stop rubbing and lay it on a paper towel to dry.

CAUTION! Just when you think you are almost there, you will rub a hole right through your precious image. I do this frequently. Practice Practice Practice before you try it on the image you want to use.

While your image is drying create the wire loop in the cork top for hanging.

Cut the top of an old bobby pin or paper clip or bend wire in a U shape. Press the ends into the top of the cork to create an indentation. Remove and use the sewing needle to pierce all the way through the cork at each indentation. Now push the U shaped wire, bobby pin, or paper clip all the way through until the ends are protuding from the bottom of the cork.

Use jewelers sized needle nose pliers to bend the wires at right angles and clip with wire cutters as necessary.

Curl the dry image around a nail and insert into the vial:

Thin your craft varnish with equal parts water. Only a few drops are necessary for one little charm like this. I tend to put a few drops on a flat surface and drop water off the end of my paint brush. Mix well.

Brush the reverse side of the image pressing it to the glass as you work. Be sure the paper is saturated, but do not use an excessive amount. Lay the vial on its side, image side down until it is dry. This may take an hour (good time to clean the work space or better yet, start another project!)

Next you will metal leaf the bottom of the vial. Brush the metal leaf adheasive over the outside bottom and around the bottom edge where you want the leaf to be. Remember this is glass and the adhesive may drip so use it sparingly.

Turn the vial upside down to dry. When the adhesive is clear it is ready.

Gold leafing is a lot of fun!

Stick the vial bottom side down on a sheet of leaf and press it around the edges where the adhesive has been applied. Using your stiff dry brush, brush off the excessive leaf. I like to brush it off over a cup or container in order to reuse the crumbs for another project.

Next insert the cork, securing with a glue such as E600 or a small amount of 2-part epoxy. Wipe any excess off after the cork has been inserted.

Now repeat the steps for the metal leafing around the top of the vial and the cork:

Your charm is ready for the jump ring. Enjoy!


  1. Waaaaaaa!!! I'm so excited to be getting on of these in the swap! These are awesome Crystal and how sweet of you to provide such great instructions.

  2. Just lovely! Please enter my name in the draw!!!!

  3. Jennifer Rowland10:41 AM

    Oh How LOVELY!!! Thanks too for posting how you made these charms!


  4. Crystal, what a facinating technique! Wow. I am eager to give it a shot sometime. You never cease to amaze me with your talent and finished creations.
    Your greatest fan...
    Cara :)

  5. how fun to see you making these!
    I can not wait to see them all in person!

  6. What great instructions! That's so generous of you to share :-)
    I wish I had gotten in on this swap... but stick my name in "the hat" for the drawing please!
    "Mimi" Deb

  7. I'm a very visual learner and I loved your directions !!!!
    I'd love to be in your drawing...thanks a bunch.

  8. I'm with Beth on that Crystal!...that was so cool! Thanks for have such a great imagination!

    Kat :D

  9. Rande5:07 PM

    What a great idea for a charm! Just beautiful, and thank you so much for showing us your technique.

  10. What lovely & generous post. These charms are simply delicious & I know everyone is going to wanna try their hand at making at least ONE! I am sure your charms will be the hit of the charm swap.


  11. WONDERFUL charms, Crystal, and wow...what a lot of work! I love how you shared the instructions with everyone, although I have to admit that I am glad that I will be getting one of YOUR lovely creations! This finished bracelet will be something that I will cherish always!!

  12. I am overwhelmed with the positive response to this post! Thank-you all so much for your kind words and encouragement. I've got quite a few names in the hat for the drawing, but you still have a chance-the drawing isn't until October 1st-so let me know if you want in!

  13. Your charms are beautiful! Thank you for the tutorial. I can't wait to try the technique. Please put my name in the hat!

  14. What wonderful and easy to follow instructions!So sweet and so YOU! I would love it if you would add my name to the hat....oooooooh how neat to win one!
    huge hugs
    Patti V

  15. ohhhh, pick me, pick me! :) I want to win one of these lovely charms!!

    I can't believe you made so many of long did it take you to make them!?

    love your "how to" instructions! thanx 4 sharing~ xo~Izabella

  16. Crystal, everything you do is so lovely and these charms are no exception! I'd love to have the chance to win one. Thanks, for sharing the directions, too--they're just great! Blessings! --LaRinda

  17. oOOOOooOOOO! tHESE ARE bEAUTY fULL! Please put my name in the hat!!! Woooo Hoooo! Thanks! Crystal, I've never used gold leaf before!