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Dorothy Cross is an Irish artist who often uses objects that she has found in her artworks. Look at one of those artworks that was shown recently at IMMA, Fingertip Pearl and Tooth Pearl (2011). To make this artwork, the artist visited an oyster farm in Tahiti, and with the help of an oyster farmer covered a baby tooth and also a tip of bone with oyster nacre, also known as mother of pearl.

Following a similar process, this project looks at covering ordinary, everyday objects in a beautiful crystal coating. For younger participants, with the help of a parent/guardian, you can get a few items found in the garden such as dry leaves or sticks, covered with sugar crystals!

Introduction: Make your own crystals at home

An art project for first-time alchemists who want to make crystals out of sugar. Also a good one for photography students that would like to play with light, crystals and macro photography.


1. Collect dry objects such as leaves & sticks, you can also use other objects as long as they don’t have a smooth surface.

2. Once you have chosen the item, wet it and the coat it in sugar, this will create an anchor for the sugar crystals to form. Leave the coated item aside and let it dry completely.

3. To make sugar water, boil 500ml of water. Once boiling reduce the heat until bubbling stops and slowly add 1kg of sugar, stir constantly. Once the sugar dissolves bring the mixture to boil again and when bubbling remove from heat.

4. Distribute the mixture accordingly in glass containers and let it cool. If you wish to add a teaspoon of food colouring to your mixture, do it now.

5. Place the sugar-coated item in the cooled mixture, using the method that fits your object best. You can either tie a string to your object and tie the opposite end to a skewer or secure the object with a peg. If the item keeps rising to the top, gently push it down with a skewer as the crystals will generally start forming thicker at the top, and them item may become stuck.

6. The Crystals will take about a week to form, it’s normal for the crystals to first start forming at the surface of the mixture and the bottom of the glass. To remove the object gently break the hardened surface, wash the object with cold water and let it dry. If you want bigger crystals to form just leave the item in the mixture for another week. Finally, remove the glass and add boiling water to dissolve the sugar crystals stuck to the glass.

We look forward to seeing your responses and invite you to share them with us online. Make sure to tag us with the #ExplorerAtHome hashtag so we can include your art on our website.

The work Fingertip Pearl and Tooth Pearl (2011) by Dorothy Cross was on show in the exhibition Desire: A Revision from the 20th Century to the Digital Age.