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Making the Chinese Dragon Guitar Pick

Posted by Sally Lees on

I love music, particularly guitar music and wanted to make some products that weren't jewellery pieces. So I decided to use the printing and dying techniques that I use for making my Birth Flower Jewellery to make my new guitar picks. I made a whole batch of guitar picks in many different colours and designs to sell on my market stall at Greenwich Market and both budding rock stars and seasoned musicians loved them. Lots of customers bought them for the musicians in their lives as a really cool and original gift.

So this is how I made the picks.

The Chinese Dragon pick was created when I started by drawing some stylised pictures of dragons. The iconic dragon motif is a popular drawing amongst tattoo artists and is a beautiful image to draw. I liked the pictures I'd drawn so much that I turned them into linear drawings suitable to yield a crisp print motif. The images were scanned into my computer and resized and my favourite final design was made into a rubber stamp.

I use the stamp to resist print the aluminium. Using an acrylic ink the rubber stamps are inked and then the image is printed by hand onto a long strip of pre-polished and pre-annodised aluminium.

The dyes are industrial strength dyes specifically for aluminium similar to those used on colourful aluminium bikes, some keys and spectacle arms. They  produce colours that are durable in addition to being water and stain resistant.

Dying the aluminium is a messy business and requires a clean environment, a respirator and full boiler suit but is great fun. The results can be unpredictable as the process has to be timed and temperatures should be controlled. The black dye has to be strong enough to be as dark as possible and not go grey in the fixing process.

Until recently I cut all of the guitar picks out by hand, I am excited to say that I now have a hand tool and am now cutting them out using my lovely bench press. Yipeeee!!!!

After the fun bit comes the boring bit though! Sanding and filing down is tedious so at this point I find it good to listen to some music or the radio.

I sand the picks until they have completely smooth edges and at the end of all the hard work I can sit back and admire what I've made. It's great to see a while load of guitar picks I've made and admire the results over a quick cup of tea and a biscuit!

I run one to one courses in my South East London studio at Cockpit Arts. Have a look at the Master classes page for details.

Copyright for all text and artwork Sally Lees 2015


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2 comments

  • Wow this is such an epic plectrum

    Justin Levitt on
  • We have a friend you has several guitars and thought Sally’s guitar picks would be a perfect gift. We bought the Blue Notes, Dragon and the Union Flag. They are beautiful, well made and a fabulous gift for a guitar player. Thank you Sally.

    Indra on

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