Meet the Artist Behind Several Of The Most Beloved Modern Chainmaille Weaves

Sara Sherlock Bastin, Chainmaille Weave Inventor Extraordinaire, Has Been Making Maille For 30+ Years

In this edition of Blue Buddha’s Meet the Artist series, we’re reaching out to the other side of the pond to chat with Sara Sherlock Bastin of Somerset, UK.

If you’re a mailler and Sara’s name isn’t familiar, you almost certainly will recognize her work. Known online as Corvus or Redcrow, Sara has been making chainmaille since 1988. She’s made 350+ weaves, of which 60+ are her own invention. She has thousands of images in her Redcrow flicker albums, so after you’ve read this post, head over there to check out all the amazing designs!

And now, let’s get to know Sara!

Sara Sherlock Basin chainmaille artisan headshot

You’ve been doing this a long time! Exactly how and when did you get started with this craft?

I was talked into joining a re-enactment society just after my 18th birthday. It was an 8th century re-enactment group so mainly consisted of Celts, Vikings and Saxons. Somehow I became a Viking and felt pretty naked compared to the guys in maille, so I talked one of them into teaching me basic Euro 4in1. He did and there was no stopping me, my first project was a shirt with sleeves for battle. In 8 days, I had a vest and several blisters. This was galvanised steel 2mm fencing wire wound on an old metal rod I found in my mum’s garden.

I soon realised I could make this stuff on a smaller and more wearable for everyday scale.

group of people wearing 8th century garb

Wow, 2 mm (14 SWG/12 AWG) galvanized steel is NO joke. I can only imagine those blisters!

How did you turn your chainmaille into a business?

Not sure how it became a business but might have had something to do with more and more commissions and my ex husband’s accountant mentioning issues with tax. So thought I’d better make it all official.


How would you describe your style and what made you different from other artists?

What is a style? I’m not sure. I always liked figuring things out for myself, so I supposed my style was trial and error. I still think it’s the best way to work as so many new weaves and variations on weaves are discovered this way.

As far as I know I was the only person in the UK making maille for something other than armour, at that time. That made me different from other artists.

I did shows, usually one or two a month and to everyone doing shows who feel disheartened, just keep going. Shows vary so much. I had for years a place in a local art gallery selling my things but again this can be disheartening as they add on so much commission.

Commission orders were what I did most. Nearly all my big sales were custom made things.


How has the industry as a whole changed since you started making maille?

The biggest change to me is the lack of sharing in the maille community. Ten years ago everyone shared their weaves, variations and tutorials freely, well most did. And we understood those things that weren’t shared were fair enough. I think now a lot of newbies are buying tuts they don’t really need to, either because their skill is enough or there’s another tut free somewhere.

Also there’s so much more supplies available now. You guys in the US didn’t really have this problem so much but in the UK the only suppliers were armourers.


You’ve come up with many, many weaves. Can you talk a bit about your creation/design process?

I used to maille in the evenings but I never really had a set time and I never really had to get into the right mindset. It was more a case of picking up the pliers and playing with rings.

As I said above most weaves were created by accident, usually while trying to make something else. Other times it’s a case of ‘I wonder what will happen if I do this?’


Ah, yes!!! That is my approach as well! It’s fun, isn’t it? What are some your favorite designs that you’ve come up with?

I love Aura most as it’s named after my daughter. And Persephone is pretty.  Honey Bee I love too.

Aura2 chainmaille necklace in silver with draping chains on dark grey background

I’m proud of JeanHP3Sheet5IR: it has a tech name, It’s a structural weave and something I never thought I would be able to make, let alone invent a new one.

JeanHP3Sheet5IR chainmaille weave in copper
On the flip side, is there a design that you just couldn’t get to work the way you envisioned?

There have been many I struggled with, especially Half Persian 3-in-1 joined. I struggled with this for several days, I eventually did it, but not before suffering a severe headache which actually is now thought to be the start of my health issues. I did join the weave eventually and then I wrote a tut on how to join Half-Persian 3-in-1 on M.A.I.L. The health issues were eventually diagnosed as MS, which is why I am now retired.

I’m sorry to hear that – chronic illnesses can be so very frustrating and challenging. I’m glad that even though you’re retired, you’re still a part of the community!


You’ve created so many weaves. Which are the ones you think most people don’t realize YOU were the original designer?

There are a lot of people who think Aura is someone else’s. As for the other weaves I doubt anyone knows they are mine. Nearly everyone on M.A.I.L. thought I was a dude for years 😁


*whistles innocently* I’m sure I was one of those people. (Though, to be fair, back in the day, I think the vast majority of the people on M.A.I.L. were dudes, heh…)

Do you have any go-to jewelry pieces that you’re nearly always wearing? If so, what are they?

Sterling Jens Pind Linkage bracelet, Aura necklace, Euro 4-in-1 ring


Your profile indicates you’re a retired maille professional.  So, tell me, are you ACTUALLY retired from maille, or do you still pick up your pliers and create pieces to sell? And what was it like deciding to retire from a creative business?

I do still make maille, just not everyday and not for hours at a time, my hands just can’t take it. It was horrible to give my business. It wasn’t just my living, it was my passion too but I’ve learned that chornic illnesses make you accept things you thought maybe you couldn’t. Plus I had so much going on in my personal life, I just couldn’t cope with any more.

I don’t sell unless it’s an exceptional circumstance but I still maille for myself and for presents.


Any other accomplishments you’d like to mention?

I’m proud to have taught in a jewellery university in Cornwall.


What was the best part of running your business? What was the most challenging part?

Best part was providing for myself and my children. Most challenging part was probably trying to keep it going in the slow times. And what to do about design stealers, don’t be one of those.


If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before starting your business, what would it be?

Don’t rely on anyone else for anything.


Care to share a current goal?

To stay alive, lol! Seriously though, I just want to be here and do the things that make me happy as long as possible.


Hear, hear!

What is one tool that you cannot live without?

Pliers that were modified by ZiLi.


I’m so used to your online names Corvus and Redcrow, and I’m wondering if there’s any significance to them?

Corvus and Redcrow originally came from.just liking crows but in 2011-2012 a crow was part of my family. Jack lived with us for 18 months and then went back to the wild. He fledged too soon and couldn’t fly, so needed teaching. I had the business name Corvus before him but felt like destiny. 😄

montage of Jack the Crow with chainmaille artisan Corvus/Redcrow

Ahhhh! So cute!

And now for the quick questions that I ask all participating artists:

Do you listen to music/podcasts/tv/etc while mailling? If so, what are your favorites?

Yes Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Awol Nation, Porcupine Tree, Unkle, Queen …

What are your favorite artists (chainmaille or otherwise)?

Too many, really too many to mention cause I’ll forget someone and then I’ll feel bad. There’s you, ZiLi, Lloyd, Spiderchain, really this could fill the page.

What do you do when you’re not making chainmaille?

Think about making chainmaille, lol. I love walking when I can and I have dogs, so I’m usually outside and muddy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Care less about what other people think of you and concentrate on liking yourself.

What would your superpower be and why?

Flight. I used to have dreams of flying when I was a kid and that feeling is still with me. I want to fly.

What’s one thing Blue Buddha readers might be surprised to know about you?

I dunno! Maybe that I’m 49, or that I’m a beekeeper.

Before we let you go, please tell us where we can find your work!
M.A.I.L.: Corvus
Flickr – Redcrow

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Sara!


DIY Crochet Fail That Will Make You Feel Pretty Great About Your Last Craft Project

The End Product Is A Mess, But I Had Fun Trying!


nicely made crochet cowl at left, with heading "Expectation", and at right, too-tight, knotted, misshappen version with heading "Reality" written in comic sansI spend the vast majority of my creative energy on chainmaille, and while that will probably always be my focus, I love stepping outside of my comfort zone to learn a new skillusually jewelry-related, but not always.

Sometimes I take a class and wind up up creating something amazing in a classlike my first (and only!) polymer clay pendant or the silver knot ring made from a single strand of wire). Other times, the end result is, frankly, not nearly as awesome.

Last month, I attended the amazing Craftcation conference. I mostly took business seminars, so I was definitely excited about the sole craft class I signed up for: a crochet cowl. I’ve never done crochet nor knitting, so I had no idea what to expect. Well, no, that’s not quite true. Based on my chainmaille experience (and my experience teaching that artform), I figured I would probably have a steep learning curve right at the beginning, and then, once I “got it”, I would find my “zen” zone and settle into a soothing and meditative rhythm.

That’s, *ahem,* not quite what happened.

The class started easily enough. Our yarn came in a hank instead of a skein. (Hey, check me out, learning new crafts jargon!) The first thing we needed to do was turn the hank into a ball of yarn so we could easily pull from it as we worked.

chunky ball of grey yarnThis just took a few minutes and by then, I was feeling pretty accomplished and ready to tackle the next challenge.

We were going to do double stitch crochet, but first we needed to create a foundation row to work off of. It took me a while to get going on this. I’m a kinesthetic learner, which means I learn best by doing. I watched the instructor as best I could, but I had a real difficult time translating her movements into my point of view, and trying to get my fingers to do the same thing. Eventually I got the hang of it, and found it quite easy … BUT I had no idea at the time that what I was making was way too tight.

foundation row crochet in chunky yarn, too tightIt was downhill from here. We moved on to adding rows, which involved a lot of language like “yarn over” and “pull through” and while I dutifully repeated those phrases as I worked, I really had no idea what I was doing. There was someone at my worktable table who had done crochet before and she was very generous about helping everyone … but honestly I think I probably would’ve needed about 20 minutes of one-on-one time to learn to double stitch properly.

Seeing the clock tick down, I knew I wasn’t going to finish my cowl during class, but I wanted to get as much done as I could. I thought that if I could get the muscle memory down, then I could take it apart and re-do it once I got home. So, I kept going, mumbling “yarn over, pull through” along with a lot of expletives. At the end of it all, I had this:

tightly woven and knotted gnarly attempt at crochet made with thick gray yarn

I don’t even know what to call this thing. It’s definitely not a cowl.


Back in my hotel room, I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous it looked. I sent the photo above to a close friend who makes amazing crochet pieces. Her response had me cracking up even more.



But, you know what? Even though I had no idea what I was doing, I still enjoyed the challenge of learning something new. My brain was super happy doing this, and I even surprised myself with how little frustration I felt. I had no ego in the game, I was just in it to have fun. I can be such a perfectionist with my chainmaille work, it was liberating to let go of perfectionism and just embrace the experience for what it was. It was also valuable to me as an instructor to remember how students can feel when they take their first class; I believe it makes me a better teacher when I have sincere empathy in relating to “being a newbie”.

crochet fail - chunky grey yarn in a tight messI was hoping to finish off this blog post with a photo of my completed piece … but sad to say, after undoing it, I was unable to complete it on my own. (Heck, it took me about 10 minutes just to make the slipnot at the beginning!) I re-created the first row, and while it’s much looser this time around, there’s definitely a mistake or two in it. (How on earth does one screw up the beginning?!? Leave it to me…) Just for 💩 & giggles, I tried to start the double crochet part to see if could still do it, but it wound up being an even bigger mess than the first time around. So I’ve aborted for now. The next time I’m in Chicago, I’m gonna see if my friend will give me some one-on-one guidance, because I’m still convinced that once I understand what I’m supposed to do, I’ll be able to do it, and it will be easier than I’ve been making it out to be. And I am determined to finish this cowl. I don’t care if it take me 10 years, I will make this yarn submit!

Do you have DIY fails of your own? I know I’m not alone — feel free to share your stories in the comments section below.


That’s So Metal: Creating a Chainmaille Quilt Square

Disclosure: Some of the links to products below are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. It helps me create content like this for you, and I thank you for your support.

UPDATE May 2019: See the second square I made on the Rebeca Mojica Jewelry website.

A Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Planning & Weaving Of My Colorful Contribution To The Chainmaille Quilt Project

chainmaille-quilt-animatedFrequent readers of the B3 blog may already know about the chainmaille quilt – a massive collaboration between maille artisans all over the world. Artists are each contributing a patch, and all the patches will be stitched together to create the world’s largest chainmaille quilt! OK, to be honest, I haven’t verified that it’s the world’s largest … but neither I nor any other artisans involved know of a bigger quilt, so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! (If you do come across a larger chainmaille quilt, do let me know because obviously I’m going to want to blog about it! 😉)

The quilt project is spearheaded by Jenifer Lawrence Martinez of Steampunk Garage and Lis Guy of Linton Creations. One main purpose of the quilt is to showcase the diversity of chainmaille – the seemingly infinite number of designs that can be created from various colors, metals and weaves in this medium. You can keep up with the quilt’s progress in the dedicated Facebook group The Chainmaille Quilt – Started 2018.  If you look through the 70 patches posted as of this publication (with dozens more patches to go!), you’ll develop a newfound appreciation for the versatility of chainmaille.


Planning My Square

When I heard about the quilt, I knew I wanted to contribute. But first, I needed to figure out what to make. The requirements set forth by Jen and Lis are purposely very free and open: essentially, so long as each patch fits into an 8″x8″ square, is strong enough to handle weight and pressure from the rest of the quilt, and doesn’t closely duplicate an already submitted patch, the artist has free!

For help narrowing down my options, I turned to the Blue Buddha fans on Facebook and asked them what were the first weaves that came to their minds when they thought of me, in terms of patterns that I created. The results indicated one weave in particular:

RebecaMojicaWeaves-word-cloud That wasn’t surprising to me, since Rondo a la Byzantine has consistently been one the most popular patterns we sell, and it was also featured in my book CHAINED. So, Rondo a la Byzantine it is!

First, I needed to see if the ring sizes I had in mind (Blue Buddha’s H18 and N18) could be used to make a sheet version that was close enough to 8″x8″ without needing all sorts of crazy edging. I did some rough calculations based on a bracelet I had, and it seemed like it would work, but I wanted to render a life-size illustration to be safe. Plus, I knew I’d need to put together a mockup in order to figure out my color pattern, so this was a way to tackle both these projects at once.

Looking through the old photo files for the original Rondo a la Byzantine tutorial, I found an image that was exactly what I needed: a small, uncolored section of the weave.

Rondo-ghost-baseAfter lots of copying and pasting in Photoshop, I wound up with this image.

rondo-a-la-byzantine-sheet-coloring-paperI adjusted the size so that the printout would exactly match the real life version … and much to my astonishment the square measured in at 8″ x 7.9″. Woo-hoo!

Now that I knew the weave would work in theory, I needed to test it using actual rings. This part was important because I had lots of rings from different vendors, and sometimes the different suppliers’ components don’t play nicely together. I was also mixing two gauge systems, which is usually OK, but every now and then things get finicky.

I already had a bracelet sample of Rondo a la Byzantine, so I removed the clasp, extended it to 8″ and then added a second row, using rings from various suppliers in various permutations, just to make sure any combination I might want to use would work.

rondo-a-la-byzantine-ring-testingThankfully, all the rings worked perfectly with each other! (Note – if you want to know ring sizes, scroll down to the bottom of the post for full stats including ring sizes.)

The next step was to figure out my color pattern, so I could order any rings I didn’t already have in my stash. This was definitely time-consuming, but well worth the effort, because I would not have been able to weave such an intricate pattern without any planning. I wanted to use lots of color and also have a vaguely fractal-esque diamond-shape pattern. After pretty much a full day’s work (spread over a few days) in Photoshop, I was satisfied with my design.

rondo-a-la-byzantine-sheet-coloredThere are two main ring sizes used in this weave. For the large ring size, there are two positions (doubled rings vs singled rings). Each of these is in its own group in Photoshop, allowing me to create printouts of a single ring size. The large-ring printouts in particular were helpful as I wove, because it would’ve been too difficult to try to ascertain each ring’s color in the master printout above, especially for the single large rings which are essentially buried beneath all the other rings and difficult to see in the master printout.

all-jump-ringsAs I designed, I also created separate layers for each color within the size groupings. This allowed me to isolate a single size/color and view those rings by themselves, for instance, dark blue small rings:

H18-cobaltThe isolation was helpful when tallying how many rings I needed in each color/size. It also helped me clarify a color if I couldn’t distinguish between closely-related colors on the printout.

Tangent for designers, math nerds, etc.:

The design has 2 lines of symmetry. When counting rings, I just looked at the upper left quadrant and then multiplied by 4 to get a grand total. (Along the borders, there were sometimes half ringsor, in the very center, a quarter ringand because I’m a math nerd, I took that into consideration with my calculations. But really, if you’re doing a similar project, it’s not a big deal if you stick to simply multiplying by 4.)

I was already well into the design process before I realized that I could’ve also just colored a design for a single quadrant, and then copied and pastedflipping horizontally and vertically as neededin order to create the full patch. It would’ve saved a LOT of time trying to accurately color everything in. I took this approach on my next project (yes, I’m making another one of these squares, just because 😂). It definitely saved time and improved accuracy, though I learned something else: my brain isn’t very good at predicting what the complete design will look like once the quadrant has been mirrored along both axes of symmetry. I wound up periodically pausing to copy and paste the quadrant-in-progress into the full patch in order to see which design elements weren’t satisfying. Then I’d could go in and make tweaks before continuing.

Weaving The Patch

OK. Finally, the design was plotted. Rings were ordered and received. Now was time for the best part: weaving!!! *happy dance*

I’d guesstimated it would take about 20 hours to complete my patch, and I had a week in which to finish in order to make the soft deadline to have the patch on display at the national Chain Link Up gathering in Tennessee in March of 2019.

The first day, I made substantial progress and knew I’d be able to finish in time, unless some unforeseen disaster came up.

Day1-ABy day 2, my supervisor had comfortably settled into his spot.

cat-supervisorHere’s an image that shows what the piece looked like about halfway through, laid on top of the master printout. It was at about this point I started adding the finishing rings to the edges (along the bottom and top of the piece as laid out below). This helped create a more flush edge, rather than the jagged lines of the original pattern.

rondo-in-progress-halfwayAnd so it continued, ring by ring, row by row. At the end of the week, it was finished!
01-quilt-square-holdingAs you can see, the quilt can be tightly rolled in one direction. This is the direction that needs to be flexible to comfortably wear a Rondo a la Byzantine bracelet.

rebeca-mojica-rolled-quilt-squareAlong the other direction, the weave is rather stiff, and cannot be tightly rolled. This is as snug as it gets:

rebeca-looking-through-rolled-up-quiltIt Wouldn’t Be An Epic Project Without A Mistake

As I was sorting and editing the photos of the finished piece, much to my chagrin, I noticed an error!

oopsieLuckily, out of all the errors I could’ve made, this was a relatively easy one to fix since the ring could be easily removed and re-positioned, especially with my trusty Lindstrom Stubby Nose pliers. (If there was an issue with one of those single large rings, sandwiched between all the other rings, it would’ve been a different story, and a lot more cussing would’ve been involved!)

Truthfully, I made other errors as I wove (usually a wrong ring color, but there was one row where I put three rings in the wrong place, and after the third, I knew it was time to call it a night!) I definitely wove this project much slower than normal, because I had to check each and every ring to make sure it was the correct color. All in all though, I’m quite satisfied with how few mistakes I made and also the overall speed in which I was able to work.

02-quilt-square-zoomLooking at the weave close up is extremely satisfying to me. Seriously, this photo makes me smile each and every time.



ring count: 3,398
weight: 209.5g / 7.4 oz
weaving time: approx 20 hours (includes un-doing and re-doing errors)

15 colors, 19 total different dye lots
5 exact ring sizes used (including 2 different-but-similar gauges – so it’s really like 3 basic sizes):
18 SWG 3/16″ (4.8 mm)
16 AWG 3/16″ (4.8 mm)
18 SWG 9/32″ (7.1 mm)
16 AWG 9/32″ (7.1 mm)
18 SWG 1/4″ (6.4 mm) <–used only in the outer black edging
Note: You can purchase jump rings in these sizes in the B3 Etsy shop to make your own Rondo a la Byzantine piece.

012-quilt-square-on-white-smallerI hope you enjoyed learning about the process behind my Chainmaille Quilt square. Follow my Instagram @rebecamojicajewelry for updates on a new 8×8 square, which I’ll begin weaving later this month. Why a second square? Simply because I had so much fun making the first, and this is what we crazy chainmaillers do. Always. Linking. More. Rings. 😂

If you’re a chainmailler who has contributed to this project, feel free to leave a comment below and let us know about your patch!



This Jewelry Artist Gives New Life To Discarded Objects & Adds Her Own Twist To The Historic Art of Chainmaille

Disclosure: Some of the links to products below are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. It helps me create content like this for you, and I thank you for your support.


Meet Steampunk Garage’s Jenifer Lauren Martinez, Whose Work Inspires Crafters Across The World

IMG_7820-2This month, Blue Buddha Boutique is sitting down to chat with Jenifer Martinez of Kissimmee, FL.

A longtime contributor to the chainmaille community, Jenifer is best known as the face of Steampunk Garage. She has a rigorous show schedule, vending at dozens of events each year, while also maintaining robust jewelry and supplies sales online. Over the past year, she joined forces with another mailler to coordinate assembly of world-wide effort to build a massive chainmaille quilt.

Enjoy getting to know Jenifer in this edition of Blue Buddha’s Meet the Artist series:


You’ve been doing this a long time! How did you get started making maille, and how did it turn into a business?

My sister came home from college with a chainmaille bra. I was in high school so it was literally the coolest thing I had ever seen. She learned how to do it by attending a few meetings of the SCA at the MIT campus. I wore it a bunch of times and it left grey all over my skin (obviously bright aluminum) and I didn’t care because it was THE COOLEST THING EVER! My dad took me to Home Depot, we bought galvanized fencing wire, and he showed me how to use the lathe in the garage. I spent ages out there winding coils on some old knitting needles I found in the house. Then the hours of pinch cutting by hand, and weaving during Chemistry class with whatever old nasty rusted Craftsman pliers my dad had in the garage. Made myself a tank top (which was way painfully heavy to wear and eventually rusted to death) and half a skirt before I lost interest in maille.  

I picked it back up after college when I took a stick-fighting class. The instructor was trying to get us to buy arm guards, and I was like “Hey… I can make my OWN arm guards.” So I sat around after class weaving myself some chainmaille bracers. One of the instructors saw me, and asked if I could make him a wallet chain. I only knew how to make Euro 4-in-1 and 6-in-1, so I refused. But I loaned him some supplies and told him he could do it if he figured out how. He learned to make Byzantine, decided it was “too girly” for a guy’s wallet chain, and learned “inverted round.” He continued to learn weaves and in turn, taught them to me.  I sold t-shirts at festivals at the time and eventually gave him 2 feet of space to sell chainmaille if he would work the t-shirt booth for free. He agreed. When Game of Thrones Season 3 came out, the steampunk/chainmaille jewelry started outselling the t-shirts. So it expanded to 4 feet at the booth. Then 6. Then when I got pregnant I stopped making t-shirts (too many solvents involved). Chainmaille just… took over.  It was a very organic transition.


How has your business evolved over the years?

It really was totally recycled hardware and jewelry at first. The chainmaille mixing started when we got juried into a show and they were like “Oh… you can’t just hang keys on chains. You have to add some of your own modifications to it, or you can’t sell them.” So we started adding chainmaille baubles to every key.


Where *do* you find such all those awesome keys, gears, etc to incorporate into your chainmaille?

Honestly? I love the flea markets. The dirtier the better. And I have a couple friends in Germany who scavenge old keys for me, so I’m never short on those. But I literally bought a “box of broken jewelry” on eBay like 10 years ago and still haven’t reached the bottom. There is so much good stuff in there! I can’t believe the things people throw away. They just need the right person to give them a new life.


What’s it like maintaining such an intense show schedule?

etsy6You have to plan really far ahead. Not just for the shows to get the early bird rates, but also for your supplies. What am I going to run out of, how long does it take to ship, add on a day to clean or sort those things… when does the yearly “titanium scale drought” at TRL start? Did I remember to stock up before then? It’s hard juggling these things and then making my weekly schedule insanely strict. I only have 4-5 days until the next show. Do I unload my van? That’s 20 minutes to unload and 30 minutes to reload it later in the week. Will that be wasted time? Can I just work around my tent all week? Do I need to take the baby seat out? How many post office runs will I be able to do? Stuff like that. I almost always spend my physical time AT events working on online orders when I’m not helping customers. And I spend the 7am-9am hours (before the kids wake up) making booth inventory.


How did you get into selling supplies as well as finished jewelry?

We studied other chainmaillers. EVERYONE wanted to know how to make a Stan Star 6. So we saw another high-demand design get released, got chummy with the designer, and tracked their sales of it via Etsy:
How many kit sales did they get in the first 3 months?
How many finished items of that design would they need to sell to match that income?
Is it easy to replicate en-masse?
Will the market be flooded with this design now?
How many other people were posting the finished design on Etsy in the following months?
Were those people getting sales?
Were they undercutting the original designer?

The numbers made the decision for us. We decided to release the design, and have basically stacked on other items to keep that store full. The nice thing about supplies, is every time you release a new item, people buy a few of the old ones too. So the sales are cumulative in the long run.

As a side note: The turnover rate for people who make maille is insane. I personally believe that the way maille is commonly taught wrecks people’s joints within the first 5 years and that’s why 90% of them quit. I know my future is full of messed up joints, so I needed to set up a lateral business. The supplies fits nicely into that model.

Readers, I recommend checking out the video How Jen Weaves Maille to see her grip technique.

A few years ago, you moved from California to Florida. Was it worth it, both for family and business?

etsy3(1)We’ve had a very rocky start here. The first year… well let’s just be glad it’s gone.  And having my partner, Stan, quit unexpectedly in 2018 was a huge blow to the business. A few months after he left, I heard “Stronger on Your Own” by Disturbed. It turned me back into my super-emo-high-school-self. I basically sing it at the top of my lungs in the car whenever I start to get upset about it.

There was a time where we considered moving back to stay with family while we recovered from financial hardship. But the comic con scene in Florida turned out to be COMPLETELY different from the California scene. People here are not afraid to get their geek on! And Steampunk Garage found a home on the festival circuit floating between art shows, biker shows, comic book shows, and tattoo shows.


Do you feel steam punk is turning a corner, heading for a new look? If not, why?

I have always put my own spin on the steampunk genre. I’ve always had a more heavy industrial look and not so flowery and Victorian. Yet, the medieval “look” is often considered ornate and flowery. Sometimes people call my jewelry “diesel punk” because of the use of hardware. Eh. I make what feels pretty. Everyone really liked this Steampunk Raincloud I recently posted. And it sold in less than a day, so that’s success to me!


How do you spend your time in the business? You know, like those internet memes like, “What my family thinks I do” “what my customers do” “What I actually do” …. what would be in that last square??

I’m sort of addicted to business.  I think about chainmaille almost constantly.  You could call it a passion, but it’s really more of an obsession.  I find it deeply and endlessly fascinating.  I check the Facebook groups constantly.  Before I check my email or text messages even.


What is your favorite part about what you do??

That moment when you get a ring in a tight spot and close it. I always make a victorious grunt and clench my fists. IN CELEBRATION. So damn satisfying. Then I have to show it to anyone close to me. Because SOMEONE HAS TO SEE IT.


etsy2(1)How do you have the energy to keep this up after so many years?

Sometimes I tell people that I’m like one of those accountants who find numbers really interesting but if they talk about their job your eyes will glaze over.
It never gets boring!

…except byzantine.
Goddammit but I hate making byzantine.
Janelle makes all the byzantine.
I don’t even want to think about how many miles of friggin’ byzantine I’ve made over the years.
It bores me to DEATH.


What is your current goal?

Expanding my titanium offerings. Especially the supplies. I really think there’s a lack of high-quality unique titanium jewelry out there.


Are you going to do any more YouTube videos like the ones you did years ago? Those were humorous and full of good advice.

As much as I’d like to, they are a HUGE time suck. Took me like 4 full days to make one 3-4 minute video. So while I still have tons of advice I could fill them with, having two toddlers makes that pretty much impossible.


If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before starting your business, what would it be?

Your product doesn’t sell itself. Your display sells your product. And YOU are part of the display.


What are your favorite piece (or pieces) of chainmaille that you’ve created?

I’m so proud of my Scalemail Turbines. I know you see them everywhere, but they’re hypnotic and eye-catching, and if you do them right they’re REALLY hard to put together. So every time I finish one, I’m like “Oh yeahhhhh.” I love how you can take the scummiest scales (see:  the blotchy scales in the middle one) and if you use them right, you can make a stunning turbine out of them. And I LOVE how weightless the titanium ones are. People always look shocked when they pick them up. I really wish I could get tiny scales in titanium.

three bigThe “D20 Cage Medallion” is also something I’m particularly proud of. I have always hated the little chainmaille ring configuration people use to carry a D20 around. It doesn’t make the dice look cool and it doesn’t make the maille look cool. It’s strictly functional. So I messed with ring sizes and weaves until I got a nice round flexible cage that would firmly hold a D20 and also “pop” it out when you needed it. AND still wear it like a static pendant without the die shifting around! Once I settled on a design, I made like two dozen before I got it to work consistently. And another dozen after that before I could adequately explain how I made it to another person. I still find it challenging to put together and extremely satisfying when completed

etsy9Oh my gosh, I love this! Because, honestly, every good gamer should have a d20 at-the-ready at all times!

What is one tool that you cannot live without? 

My Xuron 90-degree pliers. Best things that ever happened to chainmaille. I wish the handles were like 2 inches longer tho….

I’ve heard that you don’t have any feeling in your left thumb. Is this true? How..?

We used to get milk delivered to the house in glass bottles. It was my job (as a first grader with chores) to bring the empties back out to the milk box. One night I was walking backwards yelling back at the house, and I tripped off the deck, and landed on the bottles I was carrying. I got a big chunk of glass lodged in my left wrist. It severed the nerve to my thumb and nicked part of the nerve to the index finger.  Never healed properly. So my left thumb and the side of my index finger are numb.  People are always “testing” me to see if it’s true. So there’s weird trivia about it like: If you poke at it, I know you’re doing it because I can feel the skin at the base of my thumb shifting around.  Fun, right?

Wow, now I’m even more impressed that you have a career working with your hands!


You’re one of the main folks spearheading the massive Chainmaille Quilt project. Could you tell us a little about that?

The idea of a Chainmaille Quilt has been around for ages.  When most people hear the word “chainmaille” they think 1) Knights in armor!  or 2) Dude, don’t send me chain letters. Let’s be real:  Hollywood pretty much only show 5 kinds of chainmaille: Euro 4-in-1 (or 6-in-1), Full Persian, Japanese 4-in-1, Half Persian 4-in-1, and Box and Byzantine.

The driving force behind the quilt is to show how diverse our medium has actually become. The idea is that maillers all over the world would each donate a square of different maille that would be stitched together into a big ol’ tapestry that showed how varied chainmaille actually is. Lis Guy from Linton Creations brought up the idea again in early 2018 and I thought “Dude.  Someone should really do that.  Dude.  Why don’t WE do that?” So I contacted Lis to find out if she was serious about getting the project going, and found she was ready and willing to commit wholeheartedly to it. I have a small cult following and when Lis and I announced our intention to give the idea a real go, we got an overwhelming number of signups. Over 100 people that first month!

seam1Imagine my surprise when the first patch was on my doorstep in less than 2 weeks. Not only was it the first, but Tony Moeller’s photorealistic portrait of Tesla MADE IN CHAINMAILLE was a HUGE hit. He really set the tone for the whole project. The fires of inspiration were lit, and people ran with it.  We wanted to have our first showing of The Quilt at the CHAIN Link-Up (a chainmaille gathering in Tennessee in March of 2019) because that would give people a year to make and send something in.  We estimated getting about 40 patches when that first soft deadline hit. As of today, Feb 1st, 2019, I have over 80. And they’re still coming. Even if they won’t all be added in time for the Linkup, we will keep adding patches to this “living project” until it finds a permanent home. Right now we are in talks with a few places around Orlando (since it’s a heavy tourist hotspot) to try and get it on display.  But we have to finish the seams first!  If anyone still wants to sign up, you can go to the Facebook page and add your info to the pinned thread.


OK, Onto the quick questions that I ask all participating artists:

Do you listen to music/podcasts/tv/etc while mailling? If so, what are your favorites?

I like books on tape.  My favorite narrators are Luke Daniels (Off to Be the Wizard and the Iron Druid Chronicles), Ray Porter (The Ex-Heroes Series and The Bobiverse), and Wil Wheaton (Ready Player One, and most of John Scalzi’s books like Fuzzy Nation) are my current favorites. Plus basically anything by Orson Scott Card.

What are your favorite artists (chainmaille or otherwise)?

Good gravy.  I’m a bit of a “collector” of handmade art that I love.  Ummm.. I love the art of Joe Havasy (all over my house), R.S. Connett (I actually have TWO originals of his), Dogzilla Lives (she needs more christmas ornaments!), Spiderbite Boutique (everyone should have a Nightmare Snatcher), Damsel in This Dress (my wedding dress), Samiah (best coats EVER), Kirk Nelson is a design GENIUS for chainmaille pendants, Casey Harroun is completely gifted at chainmaille animals, meeting Heinrich’s Sauron is a life goal, and can I just give a quick shoutout to Jason Ronquillo?  That dude is seriously underrated.  He makes some really fascinating and spatially challenging chainmaille patterns.  Have you even HEARD of Triffids?  The weave is sic.

IMG_4128What do you do when you’re not making chainmaille?

Grocery shop.  Shower.  Sleep.  Play with the kids.  Everything else is related or done at the same time as something maille-related.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“Why would you spend so much time and energy hating someone you don’t even like?”  – The Dad.

What would your superpower be and why?

I’m vain. Can I be wolverine so I can stay young and full of energy without having to diet or exercise? That would be great. Also: not having to sleep ever again would be great superpower. Is winning the Powerball a superpower?

What’s one thing Blue Buddha readers might be surprised to know about you?

I’m pretty conservative. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, never even tried any drugs.  NONE. The tattoo on my face makes me seem like a party animal, but I’m all work and no play. I do have a weakness for milkshakes though. Oh, and the Damascus scales TRL carries were my design. They bought it off me after I placed a custom order.  So that’s sort of a cool feather in my cap.  😊

Anything else you want to add?

I have a partner, Janelle, who is pretty awesome. She’s more of a “back of the house” partner since she can’t come work at the booth, but she definitely pulls her weight in keeping the display stocked. I’m also an official Nailmaille distributor. I love to mix the Nailmaille Unbreakable Hearts with chainmaille and steampunk elements. I feel like it goes perfectly with my heavy-duty “hardware” aesthetic.


Before we let you go, please tell us where we can find your work!
Facebook: Steampunkgarage (this is where my show schedule lives and what I update the most)
Instagram – @steampunkgarage
Etsy: and

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Jenifer! After so many years of “seeing” you online, it’s truly been a pleasure.


I Lost My Creativity To An Autoimmune Condition. And Then I Got It Back.

Hashimoto’s Disease Made Me Tired, Depressed, Sore, Foggy Headed, And Worst Of All, Unable To Find Joy In My Art

Disclosure: Some of the links to products below are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. It helps me create content like this for you, and I thank you for your support.

micromaille by Rebeca MojicaFor artists, “being creative” is central to our identity. Losing that creativity can feel devastating; it really is an identity crisis. In my case, it wasn’t until I became ill, and then started to heal, that I realized my symptoms had stealthily hijacked my creativity.

January is National Thyroid Awareness Month and I want to take this opportunity to share my story with you. When researching Hashimoto’s, I found so many articles about body shape and energy levels and diet and hormones and many, many other topics. But I had difficulty finding personal stories about how it affects a creative person. I wrestled for a long time with posting my story before finally concluding that if my experience could help even just one person, it would be worth it.

I’m not a doctor, and I’m certainly not offering medical advice or solutions. (Frankly, I don’t have even half of everything figured out myself!) I’m simply sharing my story with the hopes that it can be insightful or inspirational to other creatives. Feel free to reach out via email or leave a comment below if you have any questions or just want to connect and say, “Hey, me too!”

If there’s interest, I’ll consider interviewing other artists/makers with chronic illnesses who are willing to share their experiences and how they keep their creative juices flowing. Especially with autoimmune conditions on the rise, I think more awareness, community and normalization could be beneficial to all.

In The Beginning

It’s hard to pinpoint when I realized that something was “wrong.” I think it’s like that analogy of the frog in a pot of water that slowly begins to boil: it happens so gradually the little guy doesn’t realize the water is getting hotter and hotter and then all of a sudden, he’s an item on a French menu.

I remember I needed naps almost on a daily basis. At the time, I’d written it off as my body being tired due to pushing myself so hard at the gym. Similarly, I’d often wake up with a very ache-y body, and I attributed it to powerlifting soreness. I bore my muscle aches with a sense of pride, as proof of my dedication to my athletic activities.

Sometimes the aches reminded me of how I’d feel just before I got the flu: my body felt weak and tender and it required great effort and concentration to lift things and move myself around. Occasionally, my mind would feel exhausted too; it was almost as if I was out of my body and just watching myself go about my tasks, moving slowly, as if through water. (I’ve since learned this is called “brain fog.” Makes sense!) Whenever I’d have days like this, I’d assume I was fighting off a cold or the flu, so I’d rest and do all sorts of preventative measures … and lo and behold, the cold or flu wouldn’t ever come to be! I’d be so proud, thinking my body had fought off a nasty bug!

Over the span of several months, I’d purposely gained weight in order to put on muscle, but when I went to lose the fat, I just couldn’t. I’d done this cycle of “bulking and cutting” several times, so it seemed odd that what worked for me before, wasn’t doing anything now. I didn’t understand how I could be eating in a caloric deficit and not losing weight, but I wrote it off as, “Oh, I guess now that I’m in my 40s, my metabolism has slowed down!”

But what I couldn’t just write off was the fact that I’d lost passion for my craft. I’ve been making chainmaille jewelry since 2002 and always thought it would be part of my life. But now, even though part of me wanted to make chainmaille, I was utterly de-motivated to do so. I remember telling my sweetie, “You know, I think I might be depressed,” not because I felt sad, but because I felt apathy, which I know can indicate depression. I wondered if I was still feeling weighed down from closing down my business in Chicago, and the stressful years that preceded it. Was I still burnt out, a year and a half later?

It wasn’t just that I wasn’t interested in chainmaille, I wasn’t interested in any creative endeavors. I found myself not wanting to dance, nor create music, nor write, nor make artall things which I thoroughly enjoyed doing for my entire life. For my job, I was working on a kid’s craft project and maintaining my crafts supplies business, but it was a real struggle to do anything creative on either front. And beyond my jobs, I had zero creative mojo.

Before this time period, I was used to having SO many ideas, even if I wrote half of them down, I still would have far more projects in my queue than I’d ever have time to tackle. I’d see weaves and patterns when I closed my eyes to go to sleep. My brain would involuntarily see chainmaille structures underlying nearly every object around me, and a voice in my head would constantly ask, “Oooo, what if I made THAT out of chainmaille?” But now, the voice was eerily silent. I’d lost my spark and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d never make beautiful jewelry again.

I’ve always identified as a “creative” person, and now that I wasn’t being or feeling creative, it was as though I’d lost a core part of my identity. It felt very foreign and surreal and I wondered how to go about re-defining who I was.

The Diagnosis

Early in 2018, while trying to pinpoint the cause of unrelated chronic pain that plagued me for years, a blood test reveled that I have an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis). With all autoimmune conditions, the body attacks itself. Different autoimmune disorders are defined based on which body parts are being attacked.


Thyroid illustration by Don Bliss. Courtesy of National Cancer Institute.

In the case of Hashimoto’s, the body produces antibodies to attack its own thyroid. Over time, usually many years, those attacks cause the thyroid function to decrease. This leads to a condition called hypothyroidism, which means that the thyroid gland can’t make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. In the US, Hashimoto’s is the leading cause of hypothyroidism (but note that not everyone who has Hashimoto’s develops hypothyroidism). There is no cure for Hashimoto’s, however, symptoms can usually be managed quite successfully. Medicine boosts your levels of thyroid hormones, allowing your body to operate as though your thyroid were functioning well. Diet, stress-reduction and other lifestyle changes can improve the autoimmune response, reducing inflammation and the production of antibodies so your body isn’t constantly trying to destroy itself.

Interesting fact: More than 120 million prescriptions were written in the USA for hypothyroidism medication in 2017 (making it the second-most prescribed medication in the country). Needless to say, if you aren’t taking thyroid medication yourself, there’s a very good chance you know multiple people who are.

So what’s the big deal with the thyroid? Well, thyroid hormones affect every cell and all the organs of the body. The thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped organ located in the base of your neck, releases hormones into the bloodstream so the hormones can reach the body’s cells. These hormones control metabolism—the way your body uses energy. When thyroid hormone levels are too low, the body’s cells can’t get enough thyroid hormone and the body’s processes start slowing down. Common symptoms include: unexplained weight gain, feeling cold, fatigue, dry skin, constipation, forgetfulness/brain fog, and depression.

Signs_and_symptoms_of_hypothyroidismAll of a sudden a LOT of things made sense to me: All those naps I needed? The body aches? The inability for me to lose weight? These are all quite common for Hashi’s and hypothyroidism. My bloodwork indicated that my thyroid function was ever-so-slightly below normal, my inflammation markers were above normal, and I was producing both types of thyroid antibodies. Luckily, this was caught in the very early stages, before serious damage was done, and I could begin the healing process.

Interestingly, even though I started looking back at the past 6-24 months and realizing how many things I could attribute to Hashi’s, I still hadn’t made a connection between my condition and my lack of creative energy just yet.

Getting My Spark Back

Two days after getting diagnosed, I immediately went cold turkey into a new lifestyle based around getting better. This primarily involved changes in diet and self-care. (I didn’t start medication until 3 months later, after another round of blood work.)

I was immediately sold on a diet change. For several years, I’d watched as a close friend managed Multiple Sclerosis through a regimen of diet, medication, exercise and meditation. The successful results she had, along with the scientific research she cited, convinced me that diet can be crucial to managing illness.

I’m not going to include too many details about my diet, because every person is different and what worked for me may not work for you. (And again, I’m not a medical expert!) Here’s the thing: the foods I had been eating weren’t necessarily unhealthy in and of themselves. But when I took a food sensitivity test, I discovered that I was sensitive to many of the foods I was regularly consuming in large quantities. Even though the foods weren’t bad, they were possibly bad for me, and could be exacerbating my body’s inflammation. I decided to eliminate everything I’d tested sensitive to. (Even though food sensitivity testing isn’t 100% accurate, I felt it would be a good place to start … and also, I’ll be real, there were some items I knew I was sensitive to years ago, but I just kept eating them anyway. Because: CHEESE!) I read that 50-80% of Hashi’s patients feel better by eliminating gluten, and both my doctor and my naturopath mentioned a gluten-free diet. Liking those odds, I decided to go gluten-free, even though I hadn’t tested sensitive to gluten. I cleared my fridge and pantry of all the verboten foods and stocked up with new veggies and proteins.

I was already exercising 4-6 days per week, mostly heavy weightlifting. I decided to keep my routine, but promised myself I’d pay better attention to how I was feeling and wouldn’t push myself on days when I felt too tired. It’s hard for someone with an athlete’s mentality to cut back, but I knew I needed to be careful. I started noting which workouts left me overly exhausted versus which ones gave me energy.

Finally, I started incorporating meditation back into my life. I’d gone through phases of meditating before, but had stopped meditating sometime after I moved out to California. I think I felt much less stress, and I probably assumed meditation was something I no longer needed. When in fact, the meditation was likely helping me keep my stress levels low!

Within several weeks, I had noticeably higher energy levels. I no longer needed to nap every day! I stopped having “brain fog” days. I was eating the same number of calories, but with my new foods that weren’t contributing to inflammation, I slowly started to lose the excess weight. My extremities often still felt cold, but well, I’ve been cold my whole life, so maybe that’s just here to stay. 😉

N-VT-1068-largebib-hanging-webImportantly, though, I had the urge to create again! Slowly but surely, my brain felt like it was “firing” again and within a few months, my brain was flooded with the familiar sensation of nonstop ideas. I wanted to sit at my craft table and weave for hours. It was electrifying.

It was now, finally, that I looked back and realized how slowly and subtly this condition had taken over my life. It wasn’t some acute injury that is obvious. Instead, it happened so gradually that I kept writing off the symptoms, convincing myself it wasn’t really anything. It is not surprising to me that so many Hashi’s patients are misdiagnosed with depression. (Well, let me clarify: depression can be a symptom of Hashi’s/hypothyroidism, but it is not the root cause. Simply treating depression in this case doesn’t solve the problem.)

What comes Next

So, what’s next now that I have my energy and passion back? Well, first off, self-care is now my number one priority. Autoimmune conditions often travel in packs, and it is quite common for patients to have multiple disorders. So I am taking care of my body and trying to fuel it with proper nutrition, medicine, exercise, and pampering in order to feel as well as I can now and to put myself in the best possible position to manage anything that may come up. Sometimes life happens and I don’t adhere to my diet for a few days, and I wind up having a flare-up (body aches, brain fog, exhaustion). I forgive myself, thank my body for everything it is doing for me, and get right back into my routine.

I’m still keeping up the Blue Buddha Boutique Etsy shop, but I have decided to focus my energies on developing my own jewelry line. Ever since the early days of my business, my jewelry took a back seat to my other endeavorsrunning the chainmaille supplies business, writing a book, teaching, developing a line of craft kits for kids. Other than a few years back in 2003-2007, I wasn’t focused on promoting my jewelry and I’d always lamented the fact I kept putting my designs on the back burner.

NECK-warrior-metallic-flatHaving lost my creativity made me realize how special and valuable it is to me. This is my chance to give it my all. In the past half year, I finally put together a wholesale catalog and was accepted to vend on Faire. I created an Instagram page for Rebeca Mojica Jewelry and relaunched my jewelry website. I started working on new designs and challenged myself to weave a quilt square in 7 days. I participated in my first art fair in years, and am looking forward to applying to more shows in 2019.

I’m grateful to have a wonderful support system of friends, doctors and fellow crafters throughout this journey. Let’s just say I “took the scenic route” the last few yearsand I’m sure I’ll find myself meandering down the scenic route again! This scenic route reminded me that many, many people deal with invisible illnesses, and it’s always good to treat all people with compassion, especially strangers. This journey has also caused me to finally embrace self-care in a profoundly deep way, and to feel good, not guilty, when I set boundaries and make time for myself.

It’s amazing to feel like me again, and I am excited about what the future holds!


Due to my other chronic pain issues, I had already started reading ChronicBabe 101: How to Craft an Incredible Life Beyond Illness by Jenni Grover before I was even diagnosed with Hashi’s. Jenni is a friend who created the Chronic Babe community back in 2005 to help sick chicks all over the world “ROCK their lives.” Her book was immensely helpful to me as I struggled with undiagnosed pain (sidenote: the pain has since been diagnosed and treated!) and the book was even more helpful after I learned I had an autoimmune condition. I can’t recommend this book and her educational resources enough. She’s my #1 Chronic Babe!

The American Thyroid Association has a wealth of information on hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s and other thyroid disorders. is another website with a ton of information about thyroid issues.

The National Academy of Hypothyroidism has an informational page to help spread awareness of hypothyroidism, along with many other resources on their website.

Find out more about the thyroid gland on EndocrineWeb.