Doug Bucci is an acclaimed artist, professor, and board member at Art Jewelry Forum). He’s also a skilled artisan — and a Shapeways community member. When we visited his Philadelphia studio, he demonstrated the novel (but deceptively simple) dip-dyeing technique he developed to bring his Islet Necklace to museum-worthy life. Printed in Shapeways’ white Strong & Flexible plastic and hand-finished, the necklace was recently acquired by the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum as part of the Susan Lewin collection.

Want to recreate Doug’s dip-dyeing method? Read on!

Which materials will you need?

  • Strong and Flexible Nylon
  • Synthetic Nylon Fabric Dye (He used Black iDye Fabric Dye)
  • Distilled Water
  • Large Nonstick Metal Pot
  • Dye Stripper
  • Heating Source (Hot plate or stove top)
  • Gloves

1. Create Dye Mixture

In order to get started, heat water to the temperature recommended by the dye instructions you are using. Keep this temperature consistent throughout the process. Mix in the appropriate amount of dye as listed on the package instructions. Keep an extra bucket of room temperature water next to your dyeing vat. This bucket will be used to rinse the piece in between dyeing sessions.

Once your mixture is ready and heated, you are prepared to begin dyeing. Put on latex gloves in order to avoid dirtying the piece and getting the dye mixture on your hands.

2. Dyeing Process

Dip the piece into the dye mixture. NOTE: the longer you hold the piece in the mixture, the darker the piece will become. Dye the strong and flexible item in multiple steps. Hold the item in the dye for a period of time, remove, and dunk the piece into your vat of clean water. Repeat this process until you have reached the ideal color for your purposes.

If you find that you have added dye to the wrong part of the piece, dip the piece in the dye stipper to remove unnecessary color.

3. Air Dry

Once the piece has reached the desired color, let the piece air dry. The dye can still run, so make sure to hang dry the piece so that the color does not spread to undesired parts of the piece. Leave the piece handing until all of the dye has completely dried.

Dyeing SLS nylon plastic can allow you to create a completely custom piece in any color you choose. Doug Bucci dyes many of his pieces with an ombre effect to represent a deeper meaning. For more tips on dyeing Strong & Flexible nylon plastic, see this companion tutorial.

Inspired? Try it now

Doug Bucci in his studio