Why Not… Introduce Your Students to Tinsmithing!

I truly believe the media we present to students has a great impact on their enthusiasm for class. It’s great to shake it up a bit with unexpected materials. One of my favorites is tin.

In Mexico, brightly colored ornaments made of tin are found in many stores and markets. Tinsmithing was introduced to Central America by the Spanish, and many beautiful pieces are still being made today.

To introduce this concept, first share examples of real artifacts, if you have them. I ordered a few real tin ornaments from Mexico to pass around. Students were always impressed.
You can do many different projects inspired by these beautiful works of art.

Here are two project ideas that even young students can complete.

I find that purchasing thin gauge tooling foil is best, as students can cut it with scissors. In a pinch, you can use disposable baking pans, but do a price comparison. I find the tooling foil in the catalogs is usually worth it. Make sure students keep their metal on top of an old magazine or newspaper to allow them to create deeper impressions.


  • thin gauge tooling foil
  • dull pencils and/or clay tools
  • scissors
  • colored permanent markers
  • old magazines or newspapers

Project 1 : Tin Ornaments

Create tracers for students to use as starting points. Students can choose a traditional shape to trace and cut, and then add designs and impressions using a variety of tools. A simple hole punch turns these into ornaments. Encourage students to flip from front to back to create different types of impressions. Finish with permanent markers.

Project 2: Tinware Designs
Using a 6”x6” piece of tooling foil, divide it further in to nine, two-inch squares. Then, ask students to create a different design in each square. Use the Elements and Principles as inspiration. Finish with permanent markers.

Enjoy this exciting medium in your art room!


Have you done metal tooling in your classroom? What tips to you have to share? 


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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