Looking at DIY Jewelry Design With New Eyes
I spent most of the last week taking classes and walking the show floor of the Craft & Hobby Association MEGA Show. The show isn’t open to the public; it’s a chance for manufacturers, retailers and designers in the craft industry to get together to learn about the industry, showcase new products and network. I’ve been attending since 2011, and this year the show took on new meaning for me, since I knew I was looking at it from the eyes of, “Oh, crap, what am I going to do with my life now that Blue Buddha is closing?!?”
Panic quickly gave way to enthusiasm. Honestly, I felt as though so many doors were opening to me–doors I would not have been able to walk through if I were still needing to run Blue Buddha. The week was full of exciting conversations and possibilities. I was able to push past the tunnel-vision box I’ve been in for the past few years and have begun to see how I might be able to impact the greater craft industry, not just the tiny chainmaille niche. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love chainmaille and my ultimate goal is still to lead people to discover chainmaille (muahahaha…. ?), but I’m excited to get out of my comfort zone and flex my creative muscles in new and different ways.
Colorful Anodized Aluminum
First and foremost, though, chainmaille is where my heart is. I spent a good deal of time chatting with the folks at Weave Got Maille. And before I get into their rings, um, check out the back of their booth!
They gave me a few samples of their new 100% Made-in-the-USA anodized aluminum rings, with the disclaimer of, “these are prototypes and aren’t quite ready for prime time yet!” But you know what? They are FANTASTIC. And if these aren’t quite ready, I can’t imagine what the final product is going to be like!
They are coil-anodized as opposed to basket-anodized. This is the route that we were going to take at Blue Buddha, because the basket-anodizing was just too labor intensive on our end: to pull out all the “bad” rings (meaning rings that were different shades or were too blotchy). Coil-anodized rings are cut after they are coiled, which leads to much greater color consistency. The trade-off is that the cuts are not anodized. I wasn’t sure I could deal with non-colored ends, after having worked with fully-anodized rings for so many years. I’d stubbornly held off for so long in giving coiled-anodized rings the green light at Blue Buddha … but I finally did last year when I realized there was no viable way to scale up the business using basket-anodized rings. (I mean, right now, we are processing orders so slowly because we are hand-quality controlling all our premium aluminum rings, which takes oodles and oodles of time.) Ultimately the decision to move to coil-anodized rings was too late in coming to save Blue Buddha, but at least I was already warm to the idea of such rings when I encountered Weave Got Maille’s rings.
I was very pleased. All of the rings were shiny and vividly colored. I immediately went for the blue, red and black rings (since the contrast of the non-anodized cuts would show up more in dark rings) and was happy to see that the cuts are not as obvious as I thought they’d be. In fact, most people probably wouldn’t even know they were there. I’m a mailler; I look for the seams! But the average jewelry-wearer, well, they wouldn’t have any clue.
I also tested the 20-gauge rings, as those had been the bane of my existence at B3, with color coming off easily. The WGM 20ga rings held up perfectly. No color rub-off opposite the kerf; and a much stronger color consistency than is possible with basket anodizing. I’m chomping at the bit to see what the full product line will look like once they are launched, and I’ll keep you guys in the loop.
Colorful Pop Tabs
While walking the show floor, the new pop tab line by The Beadery caught my eye. I’ve done a bit of pop-tab jewelry work about 14 years ago, but was never motivated to take it up again. Well, that is, until last week when I saw these pop tabs! These aren’t available for purchase yet, but I am going to be stalking the company until this product line comes out!
These “pop tabs” are 100% Made-in-the-USA, and they come in a variety of colors. Because they are plastic, my first instinct was to think they looked a little cheap. I mean, I work in metal, not plastic, for a reason, right?
But then I saw this amazing corset made with their pop tabs, and was blown away.It got my wheels spinning, and I was excited about figuring out how to create beauty from plastic pop tabs. It certainly is a challenge, but now that I see it can be done, I’m eager to come up with some designs. The tabs are sold in 4 different mixes, plus solid silver-color, with a total of 19 colors overall. I didn’t get a good photo of the color palette, but here is a zoomed-in version from another photo I took of their display. I’m most excited to play with the black and white mix and the earthy-green mix, with a few of those green and turquoise pastels tossed in for good measure.
And … I’m curious. Now that I’m starting to dip my toe in some non-chainmaille projects (which I think will actually help me be more creative in chainmaille in the long run), are there any things you’d like to see me try? Are there media you’ve played around with and want me to join you? It’s like a whole new world for me, and I’m excited to try out new things! Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or messaging me here or on the Blue Buddha Boutique page on Facebook.