The Bugpin - and how to make one
by Aisling D'Art
This started as a plastic bug that I purchased at a rubber stamp store.
Since the July/Aug 2000 issue of Somerset Studio, where embellished plastic
lizards were made into brooches (on page 12)... well, these critters have been popular.
However, when I tried wrapping a painted plastic bug with wire and beads, it was
unattractive. Beads-and-bondage, I called my first effort before I hastily unwrapped it.
So I thought about the problem, and remembered one of my favorite images: Military medals,
and similar pins given in Catholic school, and at old-time sporting events, and so on.
I knew that I wanted the beads to hang down from the bug, with a slightly Egyptian flair.
This pin, above, is the result.
I started by casting the bug in Fimo, to create a mold for future bugs.
(I used the actual rubber bug for this particular pin.)
If you're going to cast from a rubber bug,
dust your bug with cornstarch (using a watercolor brush) so the Fimo (or Sculpey, etc.) won't stick.
Also, when you want to remove the original bug from the Fimo, tug gently on his legs, first one leg, then the next,
and so on. If you do this carefully, the bug will eventually lift out of the Fimo without distorting the soft clay.
Next, I tested pins. Dritz Applique Pins produced the best results. These are small pins,
similar to dressmaker's pins but shorter. You'll find a box of 350 in the fabric store, next to the needles,
pins, and related notions.
I used small, needle-nosed jeweler's pliers to insert seven pins into the lower edge of the bug. Then I used the tip of the
pliers to twist the head of the pin into a loop to hold the beaded wire.
Next, I painted the bug with Lumiere paint. I used a misty green color as an undercoat.
Finally, I used 34-gauge brass wire (bought on a spool at the crafts store) for the beads. I strung one large
bead or a charm on the end of the wire, looped the wire around and twisted it in place.
Then I strung beads on the wire.
On my next bug, I'll try beading string, a fine (but waxed) thread used to make beaded necklaces. Most
fabric stores and crafts shops carry it. It will give a softer look to the strings of beads.
When I do this, I'll tie a knot in the end of the string, and glue it inside a larger bead to hold the end in place.
Next, when the glue is dry, I'll string enough beads to make two lengths, according to the dimensions I've decided upon,
ahead of time. I'll leave a little extra string, knot the other end, and glue it inside a bead.
Then, I'll pull this through the eye pin that's in the bug, and tie it in the middle so there are two equal lengths of
beaded string hanging from the eye pin. I'll put a dab of glue on the knot at the eye pin, to secure it.
Remember when selecting beads, the way to make a bead look brighter, is to place the opposite color
next to it. So, I put copper-colored beads next to blue ones, and white next to black.
I left a good end on the wire to work with, and strung that free end through the loop formed by one of the
I fed the wire back through a few of the beads, cut off any extra wire, and then used my pliers to twist the
wire around itself, to secure it.
When the seven strings of beads were finished, I painted the bug, using a variety of metallic acrylic paints.
I tried to match the colors in the beads, to provide unity to the piece.
When the paint was dry, I glued a simple pinback on the underside of the bug, using a tacky glue.
If you cast bugs from the mold you made before working on this bug, dust the mold with cornstarch before
pressing the clay into the mold. You can use any kitchen-baking clay, such as Sculpey or Fimo.
Or, if you prefer
an air-drying clay, Crayola's Model Magic works well. You may want to emphasize details before this clay dries.
I use a piece of wire, and simply press it into the clay where a line should be; then I lift the wire back out, and the line remains.
No matter which kind of clay you choose, don't try to include the legs when you cast the bug. The legs and antennae are too fragile to make, with the clay.
If you want legs, add them before baking the clay. For example, you could suggest legs with simple wires.
Next, add eye pins to hold the strings of beads in place.
These pins are called various names. Basically, they're brass or silver wire, sold in the bead
and jewelry section of the fabric store. Each pin is about an inch long, with a loop at one end.
The wire of these pins is too soft to use with the plastic bugs, but they're perfect when you're working with uncooked
Insert the pins into the lower edge of the bug (however you choose to position him) so only the loop sticks out. It may
be necessary to trim the pins so the other end doesn't stick out of the bug.
When the clay is cooked, it shrinks slightly, so the pins should be held securely in place. If they are loose after baking,
simply coat them with tacky glue, and reinsert them into the bug. Wait for the glue to dry before continuing.
After baking, you may want to paint your bug, or highlight him with gold wax or gold leaf.
Otherwise, follow the directions above for stringing the beads and then adding the pinback.
Shopping note: Halloween is an ideal time to shop for plastic bugs. After-Halloween sales are
also worth browsing. The glow-in-the-dark plastic cockroaches (in bags of 10 or more) are a good deal, and--when
painted with blue and green metallic acrylic paints--they look like the scarab-type bugs in The Mummy.
This bug pin sold to a collector at eBay, in 2000. It was accompanied by a small,
collaged & embellished wooden box for it to live in, when it's not being worn or displayed.