Thursday, October 22, 2015

Motor agate & Detroit egg

If those words sound weird or unfamiliar, I am referrring to Fordite. For those of you who may not be familiar with this uncommon material used in bead and jewelry, it is now a rare find and is one of my foremost favorites. I have always been drawn to materials that seem quite ordinary but have been revived with new light and treasured for their peculiarity. 

I was introduced to Fordite by the fascinating lapidary rockhound, Gary Wilson, at the 2010 Bead & Button show in Milwaukee. This was a very memorable bead show for me as I was an exhibitor alongside my mom, and I was 8 months pregnant with my second child! 
I wobbled about the show in search of treasures and discoverd MANY at Gary Wilson's booth. Sadly, his website has very nil to offer so it's best to find him at a trade show.

So...a little bit about this fascinating substance.... *Fordite is a unique automotive enamel material with an interesting history. The original layered automotive paint slag "rough" was made incidentally, years ago, by the now extinct practice of hand spray-painting multiples of production cars in big automotive factories. 

The oversprayed paint in the painting bays gradually built up on the tracks and skids that the car frames were painted on. Over time, many colorful layers built up there. These layers were hardened repeatedly in the ovens that the car bodies went into to cure the paint. Some of these deeper layers were even baked 100 times.

Eventually, the paint build-up would become obstructing, or too thick and heavy, and had to be removed. As the story goes, some crafty workers with an eye for beauty realized that this unique byproduct was worth salvaging. Sadly, the techniques that produced this great rough years ago, are no longer in practice. Cars are now painted by way of an electrostatic process that essentially magnetizes the enamels to the car bodies. This leaves little, or no overspray.*

Fordite in its raw 'slag' form
Image taken from

I hope that you are just as intriqued by this material as I am. I may have an affinity for the material because it is quite reminiscent of the polymer clay technique of 'mokume gane'. I think it's simply magnificent and I have panic attacks thinking about it's rarity. I feel the need to purchase tons of slabs for safe keeping (a.k.a. hoarding)

Have you used Fordite pieces in your jewelry?

What rare material are you most fond of and why?

Please comment below as I would love to know :)

Here are a few pieces that I made a few years back with Fordite slices. If you ever come across these slices for sale, PLEASE email me!! Otherwise, I hope that you can get your hands on some.

Design by Heather Wynn Millican

*Fordite history excerpt


peacockfairy said...

OMG, I simply love Fordite too and have used it in my work. It is especially special because my hubby is a car guy and works in the automotive industry. I remember getting some at the Jess Imports booth one year......

carolyn said...

I love Fordite and have a piece from Gary! My mother's side of the family hails from Michigan, and many of my relatives worked in the factories, so there's an added appeal for me there.

Malin de Koning said...

Super cool! I am certainly as intrigued as you are. I really wish I one day might come across some Fordite. Thank you so much for sharing.

Katherine Thompson said...

super duper cool, I love it!

Ann Schroeder said...

I didn't know anything about Fordite before reading this article and one other recently. It's fascinating and beautiful! I recently bought a polymer piece from named Fordite, and it has that gorgeous look. I love it!

bairozan said...

This is one of the most fascinating things I learned this year! And so beautiful!

Cory Tompkins said...

This is so cool! I had no idea, I thought Fordite was a natural type of rock.