Many Indigenous civilizations in the Americas used a metalworking technique called repoussé or metal embossing, in which metal is shaped by hammering or pressing from the back side to create a design that pops out on the front. These civilizations often used repoussé to create beautifully designed pectorals and pendants out of gold. Artists often depicted animals and plants in their surroundings to represent the power of the sun and nature. What design will you make?
You will need:
38-gauge two-tone tooling foil or aluminum foil
hole punch (optional)
Ask an adult to help you use scissors to cut your tooling or aluminum foil into a size and shape you like. Be very careful of sharp corners and edges! If you don’t have tooling foil, you can use two or three layers of aluminum foil stacked on top of each other.
Cut a piece of paper that is the same size and shape as your foil shape.
Using a pencil, draw a design or picture onto the paper. Your image will come out backward, so if you want to draw words, spell them out from right to left and reverse each letter like you’re looking at them in a mirror.
If you’re using tooling foil, decide if you would like to use the gold or the silver side and place the side you want shown face down on a piece of cardboard. If you’re using aluminum foil, make sure both sides are smooth when you layer the pieces, and then place them on cardboard.
Place your drawing on top of the foil and use a pencil to trace the image. Press down hard!
Once you’ve finished tracing, lift up the paper and see your design on the foil! You can trace over it again, directly onto the foil, if the marks are not deep enough.
Flip the foil over—your design should now pop out on the other side. If you’d like, add details with permanent markers, crayons, or colored pencils!
For an optional final step, you can turn your design into a pendant by using a hole punch or sharp pencil to make a hole in the top of your foil. Loop a piece of string through the hole and tie the ends together to finish it up. You can even do our Jewelry Making activity and add your own bead creations!