Making a Good Impression, Part 1: This Is How We Roll

April 06, 2017

How do you think I got the cool look on these? Read on to find out!

If you’re anything like me, you find it it’s really fascinating that people can make artistic impressions in the surface of precious metals using something as thin and soft as paper.

I mean really…who’d have ever thought that’s possible?    

The process is pretty neat, and since people ask me about it a lot, I thought I’d explain how I use a rolling mill and show you some of the different looks you can create. Here goes!

What Does the Rolling Mill Look Like?

It looks like this. Kind of like an old-fashioned laundry mangle (or a pasta machine), really. 

You lay the stuff you’re getting the pattern from against the sheet of metal, adjust the space between the two steel rollers and use the handle to start to feed the "sandwich" between the space. If it goes through too easily (and, therefore, won't make an impression), you adjust the space downward until it "feels right." Thats where the skill lies! 

Let’s look at some examples, starting with Japanese paper, also known as washi. Have you ever seen washi up close? Like really close to where you see every detail? Let’s take a look.
Japanese Paper Up Close and Personal

Check that out! This paper is made from a combination of plant fibers (typically mulberry), and hemp fibers. The hand-making process of Japanese paper is fascinating, by the way. Sometime when you want to learn something cool, read through the history of how it came to be an art form in Japan and how it is put together from harvest to final bleaching. It’s very meticulous work! (See
But regardless of all that, this is what it looks like up close. And when you run it through the rolling mill, even the soft plant fiber pattern transfers beautifully to metal.
Isn’t that lovely? It’s hard to believe paper can do that, but there it is, right before our eyes.
Wire and Lace
I’ve experimented with other things to leave texture in metal too. I’ve used metal wire, and lace as well.

Wire that starts out on a plain spool can be laid across the metal in whatever pattern I feel like, then run through the hand mill so that the metal comes out looking like it does here. Isn’t that neat?

And lace? Yep, plain old lace like you would sew with or use in crafts. It sure seems like it wouldn’t be firm enough to leave its mark in metal, but it does.

Isn’t it gorgeous? I just love what I can create with my hand-mill. 

It’s hard to do. You don’t just throw some stuff together, give it a whirl and out it comes looking amazing. No, it isn’t that simple at all. But with practice I’ve gained the skill. And with that skill and a lot of patience, I’ve learned to make a good impression in my work.

1 Response

Susan Berman
Susan Berman

August 05, 2017

Fascinating and “charming” are the words I use to describe this mill process you’ve described in beautiful detail. I’m always learning from you. Your designs are unique and beautifully crafted. You’ve really made a name for yourself.

Thanks for sharing and I look forward to seeing more of you and your creative artistry. Love, Susan

Leave a comment

Also in Nina's News & Notes

Bone Up on Beads

September 28, 2016

The luminescent glow of Ivory has been prized across the globe since ancient times for creating beautiful objects. I have just created a collection of pieces with lovely white beads that glow with the patina of ivory, but are made with humane and responsible fair trade practices. The material is BONE.

Continue Reading

Making Rooms of One's Own

March 04, 2015

Before moving to Albuquerque over 16 years ago, I tried to pair down my belongings while still living in Atlanta, determined to make a "clean" start in my new home in the Southwest. I took bags and bags of things to local charities and disposed of tons of "stuff" collected over the years.

Continue Reading

The Fine Art of Metal Casting

February 11, 2015

Continue Reading

Join Our Mailing List And Get 15% Off Your First Purchase

Shopify secure badge