Origami Pinwheel Earrings

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I once owned an origami jewelry company that used found, recycled and fair-trade materials. This pinwheel earring design was, hands down, my best seller. Since deciding to focus on a writing and editing career, I've wanted to share the (surprisingly simple) steps for making these versatile, minimalist earrings. They make lovely gifts and excellent projects for beginner jewelry makers and origami artists.
Materials and supplies:
Scrap paper (these are gum wrappers!)
20 gauge wire (.925 sterling, 24 ct gold, or low-allergy brass)*
Scissors or crafting knife
Small paintbrush
Round nose pliers
Wire cutters
Chasing hammer and metal surface
* Looking for recycled metals? Rio Grande has recycled sterling silver and Hoover & Strong has recycled gold for sale.
** You could use Mod Podge as a sealant, but if you want your jewelry to last through the years — and perhaps some dancing in the rain — you'll want something hardier. I use this versatile VOC-free sealer from Earth Safe Finishes. I once dropped this necklace into a cup of water without noticing and found it totally undamaged the next day, thanks to this sealer.

Step 1

Have all your materials?

Step 2

You'll begin by making tiny origami pinwheels. You'll need flat nose pliers to make 'em this small! I find that starting with squares of paper about half an inch wide makes for delicate, minimalist earrings.
New to origami? Pinwheels are a fun project to start learning with. Check out this video from Traditional Origami for a free origami pinwheel tutorial.

Step 3

When you've got two pinwheels ready, use your small paintbrush to coat the interior of the pinwheel with your sealant. It's important to start with a very thin layer on the interior before you start sealing the exterior. This makes for a longer-lasting earring.
Use the very tip of your pinky finger to secure the center of the pinwheel, leaving the tips' interiors coated in sealant but slightly open for body (and the impression that they're catching the wind).
Once the interior is sealed and dried, seal the exterior, front and back. One trick is to pierce the center of the pinwheel with a needle so you can paint both sides of it and let them dry simultaneously. I put at least two coats on the exterior.
If your origami begins to unravel because of the moisture from the sealant, use your flat nose pliers to reform it. Paper is very forgiving.

Step 4

Stick the needle with your pinwheels somewhere free of debris to let the pinwheels dry. Meanwhile, use your wire cutters to cut two 2 1/2 inch pieces of 20 gauge wire.

Step 5

Use your chasing hammer to flatten about a quarter of an inch on the end of each wire. With round nose pliers, twirl the flattened edge up to make a loop. These are your ear wires.
An alternative to this for those of us with butane torches is to make ball-end head pins.
When your pinwheels are totally dry, take them off the needle and poke them with the ear wires so the folded side touches the curled up end of the wire. With your round nose pliers, bend the wire 90 degrees about a quarter of an inch away from the pinwheels. Hammer the entire wire for durability. Experiment with hammer textures on the long end of the ear wires.

Step 6

Whimsical, aren't they? Be sure to make the ear wires long enough so they don't slip out of your piercings!

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