“Chain Maille Armour and Jewelry” or “I do THIS, too!”

When I was 16, I began courting “my first mistake”, but that particular horror-story is not appropriate for all audiences. Anyway, during that relationship I got to know a man whole I’d known for a while, and his brother was making chain maille. Fascinating, I thought. You see, my brothers were both members of the SCA (The Society for Creative Anachronism) and I was already painfully aware of medieval history through my middle brother, Kris’, vast education in the area. I knew what Chain Maille was, I knew how it was made (theoretically, like so much else) but had never seen it done in person; that said, I knew he was doing it wrong. He was stripping copper coaxial wire and using a corded power drill in one hand, with a rod jammed in the chuck, and using his other hand to stabilize as he spun the wire into a coil for later cutting into rings. He got it right, in principle, but I knew there had to be a better way… so I started doing it myself. Little did we know that he created a monster that day.

10301300_10152095628212197_7757746213318885138_nDavid Stous was among the first people to help me learn my craft, nearly 15 years ago, and I made the mistake of feeding him once so he never left. I made my jewelry for sale at flea markets, given as gifts, and sold online and through personalized commission-requests for years and years. It had always seemed to be a part of my life, no matter how often I had tried to get away. I almost exclusively use “The Ring Lord“, who recently moved shop from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, to Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This old man has been working tiny metal rings since 1995, and despite occasional lapses of senility, he’s still going strong. He taught me all about ring aspect ratios, selling techniques and gave so much advise on different weave patterns that I frequently reeled from the learning. He’s my patron saint of armour and jewelry, and I’ll never forget his contributions to this particular skillset.

One of my first major projects was a chain maille vest for my high school graduation, back in 2003. I was such a newb. I’m wearing the incomplete vest, mid-constduction, and it can even be noticed in this pic that I made the ring bias (orientation) 90 degrees off, so the whole vest didn’t constrict like a snakeskin on me when I wore it, it more fell loose like a curtain. Hideous, horrible, heinous rookie mistake, but it worked out alright in the end. It would have been even more fun had it not been nearly 40 degrees on the day of graduation, and I was wearing 10lb (~4.5kg) of galvanized steel under my tuxedo during the graduation march. That kinda-sorta-really-sucked. It was, however, a learning experience! Do I look really young in this picture?

I moved on, however, and transitioned away from armour (due to the significantly lower price-to-product ratio than it is for jewelry, as you can imagine) and started making more delicate work like earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and wall hangings, as well as the occasional belt, coif (head hood) and watch straps. I taught classes in high school, as well as university, and even had a few knitting guilds on the go over the years. I’ve had several active websites, but so many have come and gone, it’s always a mobile thing with me, since I’ve been in college/university for 40% of my life, to date and have been living in a constant state of transition for so long. But that’s alright, at least I learned a lot!

I’ve learned hundreds of weaves, and was responsible (If not made myself) tens of thousands of pieces over the fifteen years since I first discovered all that there was to love about this particularly addictive pass-time. M.A.I.L. (The Maille Artisans International League) is a fantastic resource for those who wish to learn the hobby, and I recommend it. The Ring Lord has great prices and wicked-fast shipping, their customer service has always been second-to-none in my dealings with them. Of all the patterns that I’ve learned, this one is my favorite; Dragonscale.

There are tens of thousands of different weaves, with many jewelers/knitters making new ones every day. There are many other communities like B3 (Blue Buddha Boutique) that does a fantastic job of showcasing what can be done with this work, but there are many thousands of stores/sellers/guilds around to explore. I was able to get involved in many of these groups with the support and camera work of a friend of mine, a teenager in Englee. Herself and two of her friends were a huge help in getting my work photographed and begin a beautiful assortment of images with Englee in the background. Stunning work from some very talented youth. I really make a concerted effort to get young people involved in my projects, like the woodworking shop, Chain Maille jewelry or anything that I work on. Rianna, the pouting photographer featured on the left, does some amazing landscape and scenery photography of the region, you can drop a comment down below for more details on her work; you really would be stunned by her skill with a DSLR.

There are many examples of the fine work that other people have been doing, really amazing things, and there are several groups on Facebook and other social media that showcase the amazing creativity that some people have, and that I had occasionally been able to stumble upon for my own work. I happen to love dream/sun catchers, they really take some geometric prowess to get right.

I’ve got over ten-thousand rings, by my estimate, in brass, bronze, aluminum, copper, steel, neoprene rubber and plastic, with various bits and bobs like earring posts, french hooks, hair clips and broach pins. It’s one of those things that I tend to drift around in, spending time for a few years trying to make a dollar peddling my creations, and drift away towards other hobbies when I fail miserably. It’s all good though, I’ve got a marketable skill, and often teach classes in how to make jewelry at the Englee Youth Centre. I even spent a great deal of time studying/practicing the fine craft of wrapping beach glass as jewelry accessories, like seen here, though definitely not my best work. I’ve donated a bookbag-full of tumbled beach glass to the Youth Centre and will begin teaching classes in October. We use softer galvanized wire or copper wire off of spools to wrap around the bits of glass, and are able to make earrings, pendants, hangings, etc. It’s a cut, clean, innocent hobby that can sometimes make a little cash on the side. Also my way of trying to help the local kids learn that they don’t need to go to Alberta for work when there are things to do here. It just takes a little effort and creativity, both of which is unfortunately also lacking in today’s youth. (sad-face)

I just wanted to toss this up here as another example of “Something ELSE Gossie does”, but then again I had to EARN my title as “serial hobbiest”, did I not? Where’s the fun in going through life only ever watching telelvision or playing farmville when you can explore new interests, develop new hobbies and try to find what skills you enjoy or don’t enjoy!? In a universe as infinitely diverse and vast as ours, we owe it to ourselves to rend every inch of exploration and joy we can from our little corner of it.

So keep dreaming and keep exploring yourself for those lovely corners of curiosity that can bring so much delight and so many clever nicknames given to you by sarcastic friends.


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