Hello AJE world! My name is Karen Snyder and I’m the jewelry designer/maker behind O. Sebastian Chainmaille Jewelry. I’m so thrilled to have been invited to do a guest blog post for AJE. I’m a wife, mother of two, and have been making jewelry for about 15 years. I started with simple stringing because I wanted to make myself a bracelet that would actually fit (5 ½” wrists here). About three months after making that first, simple strung bracelet, I came across an article in a jewelry magazine that showed a necklace made from chainmaille. It was a mixed weave of Byzantine and Queen’s Link (also known as box chain) and that was all it took – I had to make that!
My first project was made in sterling silver because it was incredibly cheap to buy the wire back then (about $7 an ounce if I remember correctly). I coiled the rings myself around a plastic mandrel and then cut each and every ring with flush cutters. I was so proud of the finished piece but even more importantly, I was completely hooked on chainmaille. I spent the next several years searching for information on weaves to conquer and eventually bought the equipment to cut jump rings with a rotary tool. I’ve been in love with the art form since I found it. As I began to understand the mechanics of working with rings, I began to design original pieces.
I’ve learned to write down what I use in every attempt so that I don’t repeat attempts and have a clear “recipe” for what finally does work. Sometimes I simply sit down with a bunch of rings and start playing with how to interconnect them. I often do this when I’m blocked for ideas or am just worn out from doing long or repetitive projects. I also find myself inspired by certain weaves when I learn them. The way the weave moves, the way the rings are oriented or even something that I find displeasing about a weave can trigger ideas of what else could be done with it.
Unit weaves are a series of steps that produce a piece that can certainly be linked together into a chain but can also be used as a focal or a design element. I find that I am constantly asking myself what I can do with those chainmaille units.
Maillestrom is an example of a chainmaille unit:
So I decided to challenge myself with my own designs to see what I could come up with beyond the basic pendants and earrings.
A choker is a good idea because people have different length preferences and this single unit makes a great focal for a choker. I always have pre-made chain around for a variety of uses.
Several of the large units make a gorgeous statement bracelet.
I had quite a bit of fun going beyond simple pendants and earrings with these units! Instead of stopping when I had a finished piece and adding a bail or ear wires, I pushed myself to get even more creative and it was incredibly satisfying. I hope you will have the same fun, satisfying experience with the techniques you already know!
Maillestrom tutorial plus kit
Phaedra© tutorial plus kit