A Teeny Tiny Abacus You Can Wear Around Your Neck

Back in November 2022 I took an online workshop at the Smithsonian called Wirework Workshop: The Abacus Pendant. It was taught by Mia Vollkommer.

(As a note, the i should have two dots above it, but I don’t know how to do that in this post; and you say her name, Mya.)

You may remember I took some jewelry classes at a local art center before the pandemic. Remember these projects?

I enjoyed working with the materials but some of the techniques (the torch! terrifying. The saw! I break blades at breakneck speed) were not so good. I did love hammering and twisting and stamping metal.

And I like seed beads. So, when I saw this class advertised I figured, three hours, one afternoon, why not try it?

I assembled my supplies. I needed a couple of inexpensive tools which I ordered online, and ordered from Mia the small amount of wire we would need for this class. I chose seed beads myself, also online.

The day came and we got to work. I want to say right now that Mia is an excellent teacher. She had clearly-written instructions for us and her class presentation was equally easy and clear to follow.

Here are the two pendants I made. One in silver and one in brass.

Basically, you bend a thicker wire into a U-shape. You use a tool to make the rings at the end for the necklace to go through (I am very proud of how these look, and it all happened like magic with the right tool!).

Then you wrap wire all around the U-shape. And then you wrap wire across the shape and incorporate the beads.

I made the brass one first and then the silver one, and I can see already my skills have improved. I was worried that my eyesight might make it too hard for me to do this technique at all, but I learned that a lot of it is done by feel, and a magnifying glass helps with the rest.

I enjoyed doing this project and I like the look of the finished result. Maybe I will get enough skill to give some of these as gifts sometime. I do not think I will be embarking on a jewelry career anytime soon, but I did buy some copper wire and plan to settle down and try some more of these. I believe they will be a good evening-TV time activity.

Thank you to Mia and my classmates for a fun introduction to wire-wrapping!

12 thoughts on “A Teeny Tiny Abacus You Can Wear Around Your Neck

  1. Laura (PA Pict)

    These are great! I am glad you enjoyed the class and got such excellent results. I imagine these pendants would be very pleasing to wear, especially for those of us who quite like to fidget, as they look very tactile.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I liked the look of these, that is why I signed up, but once I had the actual object, I felt exactly as you said, it is so satisfying to spin and move the beads.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I loved the look of this when I signed up for the class because of the beads and how fun it is to wrap wires and I also liked the idea of the abacus shape. I also like how the beads can be moved and spun around. It’s a very satisfying little object.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      They are about 1″ more or less in each direction (they are slightly different shapes. I would not wear these as earrings, they are quite heavy. There are wire-wrapped earrings that are smaller that our instructor made that she showed us, using different techniques.

  2. Robin King

    Those are SO COOL! What a fascinating project! I’ll bet the technique can be applied to other objects. I have some of those beads but they have letters on them. Wondering if they could be good combined into words, as little “statements.” Thank you for sharing this!
    (Re the umlaut – the two dots – I can do that by holding down an appropriate letter on my keyboard. That makes a little popup of symbols that includes the dots, lïke thïs. When they appear you click on whichever symbol you need The letters that can have umlauts are the vowels + y. Not sure if this works on all keyboards…hope it helps.) 🤗

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you (and also for the umlaut info. I will try it). Yes, as long as the beads will fit on the wire, I think you could do anything you wanted with them. This pendant is quite tiny, though, if your beads are larger, you would need to take that into account as to the “frame” of the abacus, I think.

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