Meet Karen Karon, The Author Of Two Of The Best-Selling Books About How To Make Chainmaille Jewelry

Karen Shares How She Got Started, Why She Wrote A Book, And Offers Practical Tips For Improving Your Chainmaille Technique

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.


KaronBooksThis month, Blue Buddha Boutique is sitting down to chat with Karen Karon of Boston, MA. She hardly needs an introduction, as most of you already know her as author of the best-selling chainmail books Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop: Techniques and Projects for Weaving with Wire and Advanced Chain Maille Jewelry Workshop: Weaving with Rings and Scale Maille.

Karen’s first book has consistently ranked as the #1 chainmaille book on Amazon for many years. (As a side note, I remember when my book lost its #1 spot to Karen’s book. Honestly, I was (and still am) OK with it, because her book is just THAT GOOD. 😊)

Find out more about designer, author and instructor Karen Karon in this edition of Blue Buddha’s Meet the Artist series. Enjoy getting to know her below!


Thanks for taking some time to let us get to know you, Karen! Before we get started, how do you pronounce your last name? I always pronounce it exactly like your first, because it sounds cool…but that might not be right! And is there a story behind the similarities of your first and last name?

Just as you thought, my last name is pronounced exactly the same way as my first name.  I married into that name.  I like to tell people that I found a husband by looking in the phone book.


How did you get started with chainmaille?

SilverCuffI’m a life long crafter/maker. I’ve tried many different types of crafts over the years.  Early in the 2000s, I was in a beading phase.  At that time, a local art center advertised a chain making class – not chain maille – woven wire chains similar to Viking knit. I thought that combining chains with beading would be cool, so I enrolled. I found that I really loved working with wire and making chains, so I started to research chain making in books and on-line. That’s how I discovered chain maille.  I’ve also explored Etruscan-style fused loop-in-loop chains.

My chain work led me to other metal-related pursuits. I completed the PMC (Precious Metal Clay) Guild’s certification program in 2007.  I’ve also had the good fortune to have been able to take many metalsmithing classes taught by some exceptional instructors/artists.

My first chain maille piece was this simple 3-3 chain bracelet.


Can you describe your creative process?

E41SpiralEarringsLOSI wish I had a process. Sometimes ideas just come to me – especially when I’m on auto-pilot, like when I’m in the shower or brushing my teeth, or when my mind is wandering, like right before I drift off to sleep.  If I can, I’ll write them down on the nearest piece of paper, or paper-like object, I can find.  I tried to train myself to use a notebook, but it is not always within reach and I’m not always that disciplined.  I’ve got lots of odd scraps of paper and napkins with illegible pen marks floating around.  Usually, I just write words describing my idea.  Sometimes I TRY to draw it out.  Drawing is NOT a talent I possess.  Some never get put on paper and just evaporate.

Many people say they are inspired by nature, architecture or fashion.  I’m more inspired by shapes and patterns.  I notice patterns and shapes everywhere.  I hope that makes sense – it’s hard to explain.

I often just start with a hint of an idea in my head.  Sometimes, I’ll try a new weave and just start weaving.  While I’m working on something, I’ll often turn it around, flip it over, hold it upside down, fold or twist it, and ideas often come from just manipulating a piece.

Other times, I’ll see an old piece in a new way, or see how I can combine an old or unfinished piece with something that I’m currently working on.

I’d like to add, that for each of the successful projects I’ve completed, there are dozens of failures or pieces that are just “not quite right”.  I’ve got containers full of UFO’s.


What made you decide to publish your first book?

The “perfect storm” of recession, unemployment and illness.  Before the recession, I had a day job, and I taught the occasional chain maille class when I had time off.  My students always commented on the quality of my instructional handouts.  Many suggested that I get them published, but I had no intention to do so.

Then, the recession hit, and my employer went out of business, leaving me unemployed.  During this time, I was also diagnosed with Meniere’s disease – an incurable chronic inner ear condition that produces tinnitus, hearing loss and vertigo (the worst symptom), making it very difficult to hold down a 9 to 5 job.  I had to find something I could do on my own terms.

I had all these handouts that I had created, and they had been student-tested.  Also, there were not many chain maille books on the market at that time, so I took a shot.  What did I have to lose?  My manuscript was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to.  I was VERY lucky!

Congrats! (I mean, I know it’s pretty late of me to be saying that… but it’s such a great testament to your expertise, artistry and hard work that your proposal was accepted right off the bat!)

What was the hardest part about creating that first book? And what was your favorite part?

I never really set out to write the first book, it just kind of happened.  I already had the bulk of the text and photos completed, in the form of class handouts. To turn my handouts into a book, I organized them in a logical progression.  Then, I added an opening chapter covering tools and materials, and a concluding chapter covering finishing techniques.  I could only work when I was not suffering from vertigo. It took me a few months to finish the writing, and then I had to put together and submit the proposal package.  After that, the hardest part was waiting.  My favorite part was experiencing the publication process for the first time, even though it was challenging at times.

What was hard and easy about the second book?

The easy part was knowing what to expect. Since I had been through the publication process once before, I knew what my responsibilities would be.

The most difficult part about making the second book was proofing the diagrams.  The weaves in the second book are more complicated than the weaves in the first book. The complexity made it more difficult for the illustrator to create the diagrams and for me to review them. I had to follow each ring in every diagram with my eyes, ensuring that the “unders” and “overs” were correct – many, many hours of very tedious work.

Having published a few books, what would you say are the benefits? And drawbacks?

TinyScaleFlowerNecklaceIn short, if you’re looking for fame and fortune, you’ll be disappointed! 😊  I’d like to say that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to publish two books.  It was challenging, but also rewarding.  The pros are mostly intangible – like the sense of personal accomplishment you get from being a published author and the boost to your professional reputation provided by the publication of your work.  The process of writing and working with an editor was a valuable experience that pushed me to improve, both as an author and as an artist.  And, it’s fun to see my books in a book store or library!

The pros and cons of working with a publisher are:

Pro: They have a team of professionals; editors, photographers, illustrators, layout designers, etc. that make your work look attractive and professional.

Pro:  They have a network of industry contacts that will get your book in stores and out to the appropriate audience.

Con: The publisher has a lot of say regarding the look and content of your book: whether to use diagrams or photos, the lay out, the fonts, the cover design and title, the length, the price, the date of publication, what stays in and what gets cut.  They will listen to your opinion, but ultimately, they make the final decision.  So, you have to be OK with giving up some of your control over the material.

Here’s a link to an article I stumbled across a few years ago called Is It Worth It to Write a Craft Book?  I bookmarked it because I thought it provided a realistic description of some of the issues involved in publishing a craft book in the internet age.


Of course, the question everyone wants to know: When will your next book be published?

TinyScaleAsymS-EarringsI don’t know if I’ll do another one.  Shortly after the second book was released, I completed a third book that focused on using Tiny Scales.  I shopped it around to a few publishers, but the consensus was that the subject matter was too niche.  So, after sitting on the material for several months while searching for a publisher, I decided to break up the book into individual projects and offer them as separate tutorials on my website.

I’ve recently begun to make some chain maille tutorials available as well.  So far, a few Dragonscale projects and Hoodoo Hex Earrings – I plan to add more.

DSMermaidTail_8556I find that I like the ability to release material at my discretion.  When writing a book or a magazine article, the publisher expects the writer to keep things under wraps until publication.  It’s difficult to resist the urge to post pictures of new projects that I’m excited about on my website or social media because I’m waiting for the publication date to arrive (which can be a year or more from the creation of the project).  I also like having total control of my content.

Having published both a book and stand-alone tutorials, I must say that I agree with ALL of what you just said!

What is/are your current goal(s)?

Just to stay healthy and keep on weaving.

What’s your favorite piece that you’ve created?

My favorite piece is always the newest one.  Here’s my newest – the Mermaid Necklace.


What is one tool that you cannot live without?

FavePliers-Xuron483I guess that would be my pliers.  I’ve got lots!!!!  Lately, I find myself most frequently reaching for my set of Xuron 483 short, wide, flat-nose pliers. I’ve slightly modified the jaws, making them thinner (not narrower), so they are just right for most of my needs.  Some of my students have done the same.   If you want to know more, check out my blog post: How I Modify My Plier Jaws.

I’ve also applied adhesive “jewels” to mine so my students don’t accidentally walk off with them (which happens from time to time, because our pliers all look the same).

OMG, I love the bejeweled pliers!

So, when I did a call for questions on FB for this post, in addition to several questions already asked, you received two VERY specific questions from the audience! They know you well. 😉

1 – Do you plan on or have done a hoodoo hex tut or a moorish rose tut?

I recently added a Hoodoo Hex Earring tutorial to my website.  I’ll leave the Moorish Rose to Lisa Ellis!


Haha, fair enough. To me, Lisa is Queen of Moorish Rose!

2 – How do I improve my closures? I’m already better than I used to be. Do you have suggestions on how to get even better?

Practice, practice, practice! That said, it is difficult to diagnose what your exact issue might be without seeing how you work.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The right tools are important. I like flat nose pliers best because I feel the amount of surface contact they provide gives me greater control.  Use armorer’s style pliers when weaving with large rings, thick gauges or stiff metals. Use smaller jawed pliers (I like Xuron 475 short flat nose or Xuron chisel nose pliers) when weaving with small jump rings. Make sure the handle length and shape feel comfortable in your hands, and that the spring is not too springy.
  • Brace your arms on your work surface when weaving to keep steady – no “air weaving”.
  • Support your work so that the full weight of the piece is not working against you.
  • Remember to use good form – pliers placed at approximately 10 and 2 o’clock positions, inside surface of jaws parallel to the surface of the jump ring and apply inward pressure evenly to close the kerf (ends should overlap). For difficult to close rings, applying inward pressure when opening can be beneficial.  Don’t pull, push or roll your wrists.  The “death grip” is not helpful.  Try choking up a bit on the pliers.
  • Always check each ring, vertically and horizontally, to ensure it looks good before moving on to the next. I usually run my finger over each closure as well, to catch what my eyes might have missed.

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?

Sometimes I watch TV, sometimes I listen to music, and sometimes my husband reads to me (usually articles from the Boston Globe about the Red Sox).  If I have the TV on while I’m weaving, it’s usually something that I don’t really need to look at (re-runs, news, favorite old movies).  It’s just on for background noise, which takes my mind off my tinnitus.  My favorite music will date me – Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Beatles.


What are your favorite artists (chainmaille or otherwise)?

I’ve got a very long list of chainmaille artists whose work I admire.  I’ll begin with you, Rebeca Mojica.  Your book, Chained, was one of the first chain maille books I bought!  Here are just a few more names that come to mind: Lisa Ellis Joshua Diliberto, FeMailler, Corvus, ItIsKnown, Scalesmythe (Forge & Fleece), Spider, Brilliant Twisted Skulls, Rapt in Maille, Steam Punk Garage, Hanibal King, Stephen Hoffman, Tony Moeller, Brigitte Chainmaille, Zili, Chainmailbasket, Hyperlynks, Dawdling Dragons, 202east, Punklette Originals, Kristina Griffin, Asia Azran OIH Design

[Editor’s Note: Some of these artists have been featured in our Meet the Artist series, and you can read those interviews here: Lisa Ellis , Joshua Diliberto, ItIsKnown, Tony Moeller and Spider.)

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

I’m either knitting or crocheting!  I find a lot of similarities between knitting/crocheting and chain maille.

What would your superpower be and why?

Teleportation, because I love to visit new places, but my inner ear condition makes travel difficult. 😄

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

The thing about me that usually surprises most people is that I make chain maille for a living, but you already know that!

Before we let you go, please tell us where we can find your work!

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Karen! I really enjoyed learning about how you got started and your experiences writing your books!


And thank you, readers and fans of this series. While you’re here, be sure to check out the previous “Meet an Artist” posts: and let me know if there’s anyone you want to see interviewed and any questions you have for them. ‘Til next time, happy crafting!

The Complete List Of All Purple Power Chainmaille Kits

These Limited-Edition DIY Chainmaille Kits Were Created To Honor Pantone® Color of the Year 2018 Ultra Violet

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. All opinions expressed are my own.

power to the purple banner with ultra violet chainmaille designsInspired by the lovely Ultra Violet Color Of The Year from Pantone®, Blue Buddha Boutique launched limited-edition chainmaille kits throughout 2018 that prominently featured purple anodized aluminum jump rings.

Below is the complete list of all the Purple Power kits. Shop now, because once they are good, most of them are gone for good. And, if you’re making some of these as gifts for your favorite purple-loving person, check out these inexpensive purple satin gift bags and purple jewelry gift boxes for the ultimate purple gift packaging! (Additional packaging ideas at the end of this blog post.)

Shop all Purple Kits:

pirouette chainmaille weave by rebeca mojica in lavender seafoam and purple Pirouette (Lavender Fields)
Pirouette (Goth)
Pirouette (Sunset)
elfweave braid chainmaille weave in purple Elfweave Braid
Sleek Cuff weave by Blue Buddha Boutique in purple Sleek Cuff (Purple & Violet)

Sleek Cuff (Purple & Black)

jens pind chainmaille bracelet in purple, violet and lavender Jens Pind
Celtic Spikes
purple, pink and turquoise dodecahedron Purple Dodecahedron pendant
pink to purple to black fade mngwa bracelet on mannequin arm Purple Mngwa bracelet
Zig Zag Byzantine
(purple is a regularly stocked color for this kit)

If you just can’t get enough purple, check out this curated list of purple tools, accessories and packaging supplies:

This NYC Fashion Designer Creates Exclusive Metal Couture For the Modern Warrior

Meet Sally, The Artist Behind The Scalemaille Work of It Is Known

Scalemaille designer Sally of It Is Known wearing iridescent blue and green statement necklace

Photo by Austin Hill

Medieval armor meets high fashion in the meticulous work of It Is Known. They specialize in wearable art made of “scalemaille”—small, leaf-shaped metal components individually linked by hand in their atelier in New York.

I’ve been fascinated by their creations and stunning photoshoots ever since one of their spaulders popped up on my Instagram feed. Of course, I then proceeded to lose myself down the rabbit hole of the entire @ItIsKnown IG page!

Find out more about It Is Known’s founder and designer Sally R. in this edition of Blue Buddha’s Meet the Artist series.

Unlike previous interviews, which were all conducted remotely, I was lucky enough to meet up with Sally while she was here in LA for a few days. It was great to pick her brain in person as well as online. Spoiler alert: I think she has my favorite response ever to “What would your superpower be?”

Enjoy getting to know Sally below!


Thanks for taking some time to let us get to know you, Sally! First off – how did you come up with the name for your business?

“It Is Known” is a reference to George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones series. It’s a saying used throughout the novels by the Dothraki people to explain knowledge and myths that have persisted throughout the community for centuries but don’t require rational explanation. For me, it’s a nod to the series (I’m a fan of it), the long and storied history of chainmaille, and in a way, an explanation of artistic inspiration … How do creators know when a piece needs to be edited or if it’s unbalanced? How do they know when it’s beautiful? When it’s finished? In all these ways, a creator may respond, simply, “It is known.”

Woman in scalemaille collar and chainmaille skirt and winged headgear standing in water

STYLING & CHAINMAILLE: It Is Known Photo: Andrew J. Bacha Model: Lady Leanen Sidhe Gown: Moresca


How did you get started with chainmaille/scalemaille?

Woman with purple hair wearing purple and silver scalemaille necklace

“Mesh and Rosettes” necklace—Sally’s first chainmaille piece. Photo by Austin Hill.

I started making chainmaille on a whim. In 2015, I was in the midst of preparing for a big trip to Castle Burg Finstergrun in Austria. Fantasy/high-concept formalwear is a big part of the event, and I decided to make some chainmaille accessories by following the “Mesh and Rosettes” tutorial from Blue Buddha Boutique.

The tutorial instilled so much confidence in me that I enthusiastically began to make a scalemaille panel corset to go with it, figuring I would teach myself scalemaille using The Ring Lord tutorials and YouTube in the few weeks before the trip. Since I had experience making corsets, I figured this would be easy (which, in retrospect, is funny and a cliché)! I almost had to eat my words, but I did finish the project―a handmade corset, 3,000+ scales in the front panel and all―24 hours before my flight, and gained some humility in terms of the intricacies of chainmaille. My fiancée, Austin, professionally photographed my projects and I shared the images online.

In September of the same year, a photographer contacted me to make him a custom “Red Sonja” style bikini set, based on corset and necklace projects I posted online. I spent about 6 weeks constructing the bra and skirt prototypes, and, again, my fiancée photographed them. The photographer was happy with my work and photographed the pieces extensively, and from there on out I fell in love with chainmaille, spending a great deal of my free time prototyping women’s wear on my dress form and envisioning new styles. I soft-launched It Is Known in late 2015 on Etsy―just a few spaulder styles and my bikini design―and things evolved from there into the current line of offerings.

Fashion designer Sally wearing scalemaille corset

Can you walk us through your fashion/chainmaille career over the years? (For instance, how has your work/focus evolved? How does your fashion background influence what you do? etc)

When I officially launched It Is Known in 2015, I decided to focus on women’s clothing and large-format accessories, primarily scalemaille with chainmaille accents. I chose to focus on that area because I already had experience with apparel design (flat pattern design/draping/stitching), so it made the most sense to do I already was drawn to. I also noticed that while there were established artists offering custom chainmaille on an individually-commissioned basis, fewer artists were offering prêt-à-porter or semi-custom designs with clear prices. I thought a selection of prêt-à-porter maille clothing and large accessories, beautifully photographed, had the potential to excite a different sort of customer, one who would otherwise think of chainmaille as only for Renaissance Faires, be intimidated by the custom commission/quoting process, or be unfamiliar with chainmaille’s potential as a medium. I was also really interested in having the photos of my work be as beautiful as possible: I am on a bit of a perpetual quest to get an Internet audience to see chainmaille clothing/accessories in the way that the people who make it see it―as wearable art.

magazine article and photo with Joan of Arc style chainmailleSince I started It Is Known in 2015, I’ve produced two fashion shows, added quite a few publishing credits to my name (the one for Faerie Magazine was a favorite as I wrote an article for them, too), worked several film projects (recently Ocean’s Eight), and learned a lot in the process.

A few things have changed: I started working with another, very talented artist, Dan of Forge and Fleece on select projects and wholesale orders. That’s been a nurturing and rewarding partnership―Dan is such a talented and seasoned artist who is professional, kind, and generous with his knowledge. I’ve also expanded the product line beyond womenswear and began to develop some designs for men and unisex products. So far, quite a few people have been interested in the male and unisex line, so I’m looking to expand it even further. I’ve also had the opportunity to commission or collaborate with some other creatives (designers, models, photographers, etc) that I profoundly respect, and my own work is the better for it. I really can’t say enough about how much making art is a collaborative effort for me, and how enriching it is to work with other artists.

Your photos with models are amazing. Can you talk a bit about what’s involved with a professional photo shoot?

Woman wearing scalemaille and fancy headpiece in front of hieroglyphicsThank you so much! I’m excited to say more about that. In recent years I’ve realized that shoot coordination and creative direction is as much a part of what I do as chainmaille, so I lean into that in my business model. In my mind, the most successful shoots are the ones that involve a great team—in addition to the model and the photographer, a hair stylist, makeup artist, assistants, etc—whatever the project requires to fully realize the intended outcome. As such, I spend quite a bit of pre-shoot prep time sourcing coordinating wardrobe/doing pulls, developing the concept or negotiating it with the other creatives, making moodboards, location scouting, etc. When organizing a photoshoot myself, I like to take a hands-on approach so that I know everything fits well and coordinates. On the day of the shoot, it’s important to me that other members of the crew feel respected and comfortable—my work is often nearly done by the time I arrive on set, so I want to make sure that they have the space to do theirs.

The other sorts of photoshoots I do are rentals and pulls. Since I know how much work goes into creative direction and wardrobe styling, it can feel like “magic” when those clients are kind enough to circle back with images!

Although professional photoshoots require an investment of time and money, I think the results are worth it. I’m inspired by seeing other professionals execute their art in real-time, and I learn something new every time I shoot.

woman with scalemaille collar and bustle holding glowing orb

“Myth” Series Scalemaille: It Is Known Model/MUA: Kara Markley Sterling Photographer: James Sterling Photo Skirt & Corset: Reminisce Shoppe

What inspires you?

The imagery of the Pre-Raphelite brotherhood is a huge source of inspiration for me. On the flip side, I’m also drawn to the art of H.R. Giger and the bold lines of M.C. Escher—I’m drawn to imagery that’s either very hard, cold, and biomechanical or warm, natural, and classically feminine. In terms of photography, the concepts behind Tim Walker’s work as well as his technical skill represent a creative zenith for me: I never get tired of looking at his images.

Do you pay attention to fashion trends? If so, how do you stay on top of them and put them to use in your work? If you disregard trends, why? 

I pay attention to movements and trends in culture (and popular culture) more than fashion trends—understanding the current landscape in film, television, emerging ideas/schools of thought, literature and research and in subcultures around the world can serve any artist interpersonally as well as creatively. At the same time, I also spend a great deal of time reading and absorbing media that fit my values and aesthetics to hone the style of my work and improve my craftsmanship/design.

When it comes to the design process (work in the private sphere), I strive to create work that I find personally beautiful, but when it comes to the business aspect (my work in the public sphere), I’m interested in discovering what speaks to other people and how my designs fit into their frame of reference. Imagery is a special medium in that it can communicate ideas without words—someone halfway around the world can see your pieces, feel connected to them, and appreciate them without even needing to know the same language. That’s powerful to me. On the technical side, the feedback loop between designer and customer helps me improve first-generation designs: if I discover something that will make a design a bit better (in terms of quality, design, fit, cost), I will tweak the next piece I make or release a more refined version. I do pay attention to shifts and changes in fashion trends while also understanding that my goal as an artist is to have a recognizable style that satisfies me.

man wearing scalemaille collar and chainmaille shirt

ALL SCALEMAILLE & STYLING: It Is Known Chainmaille Shirt: Forge & Fleece Model: A.W. Hill Photo: Andrew J. Bacha (Aka Box Top Photopgraphy)

Who is your typical customer?

I work with all kinds of people, and about 1/3 of my work is custom or semi-custom. Since my designs are statement pieces, the majority of my individual customers are shopping for an event or an occasion. A lot of my customers are from the Renaissance Faire, Pride, Burning Man and music festival circuit, (and Halloween of course) as well as attendees of Goth and alternative events. I also do wholesale projects and commissions for film/TV and photoshoots—those are fun, especially when I don’t have to wait over a year before talking about a project!

When it comes to custom work for individual clients, I feel honored when people feel comfortable letting me know about the story behind their commission, and trust me to treat an “unusual” request with sensitivity and intelligence. Seeing my work enjoyed in person or worn in photos is the best feeling, whether it’s a “high-profile” project or an individual—I never get tired of that.

cover of total tattoo magazine with Cervena Fox wearing a black scalemaille bra

How would you describe your own personal style?

My daily personal style could be described as “minimal color, maximal cut.” I wear a lot of black and solid colors, but I like clothes with striking cuts and interesting design details. My event and eveningwear is a bit more fantastical and colorful, and my hair has been blonde, ombre purple, rose gold, peach, etc. I like to buy from other independent designers or go to sample sales in NYC—the quality tends to be better than fast fashion, and the supply chain tends to be more transparent. In terms of well-known designers, Alexander McQueen (R.I.P.) is a personal inspiration.

What is your current goal?

A long-term goal of mine (perhaps ten years on—after all, this is a big project!) is to compile a book of patterns for scalemaille and chainmaille clothing, and to apply the concepts of pattern grading (from fabric/conventional apparel design) to chainmaille clothing. I’m very passionate about documentation, and I’d love to pass something on to the chainmaille community.

Oooo! That would be a great resource for the community!

What’s your favorite piece that you’ve created?

My “favorite” design tends to change every few months. Right now I’m very excited about this Romanov weave harness I made—it was time-consuming, but I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I think I’ll do a sister piece based off it in darker tones!

woman wearing cold shoulder blue dress with intricate chainmaille halter

What is one tool that you cannot live without?

closeup of plier jaws modified to make chainmailleMy Joshua Diliberto rare earth magnet pliers are indispensable, and great for my hand/arm health.

Anyone who makes maille clothing or works with heavier gauges/tougher materials should own a pair.


OK, onto some quick questions:

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

Photographer: @andrewjbacha Stylist/Chainmaille: @itisknown Model: @gjermspiration Tunic: #TonyaRingDesign

Photographer: @andrewjbacha Stylist/Chainmaille: @itisknown Model: @gjermspiration Tunic: #TonyaRingDesign

I do! I tend to listen to audiobooks, because I’m always behind on my personal reading goals. Music-wise I listen to gothic and industrial music while working—the sub-genres and moods within both are diverse, complex, and ever-evolving. If I’m solving a design issue well into the night, I especially like to listen to shoegaze and darkwave because of the rich soundscapes. If I need to get through a big order in a short amount of time, Wax Trax-era industrial will do the trick. I consistently return to the Cocteau Twins and Faun for nighttime creative bursts, and Frontline Assembly or Skinny Puppy for deadlines. Drab Majesty is a relatively recent favorite.

What are your favorite artists (chainmaille or otherwise)?

It would be hard for me to pick favorite creators within the chainmaille community—there are a lot of talented artists with distinctive and recognizable personal style. To me, if I can look at a piece and say, “Oh ___ made that,” then that person is a successful artist—they have a signature style. That being said, I’m a fan of Dr. T., Stephen Hoffman, Sunshyne of Chainmail & More, (previously Sblades) and Lord Randolph of Chainmail Fashions because of the work each has done with large-format chainmaille and chainmaille clothing. If it’s not too on the nose to compliment the person interviewing me, I’ve always admired your work (Rebeca Mojica Jewelry) for its adventurous use of color and the impeccable documentation of your tutorials!

Awww. *blushes* Thank you so much!

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

When I’m not making chainmaille I’m at the gym, doing creative direction for photoshoots, traveling, or attending local goth and industrial events..

What would your superpower be and why?

Pliers for hands! I’m kidding (I think). 😄

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

Business-wise, the best advice I was ever given was to control “optional” overhead costs in the growth stages of a business—worry about creating beautiful and high-quality products, customer service, etc before you worry about renting out a corner office (or even printing business cards). I’ve applied that lean growth philosophy to every stage of my business so far, and it’s served me well.

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

I love to weight train and I’m a lifelong athlete!

Before we let you go, please tell us where we can find your work!

Etsy shop:  ItIsKnown
Instagram: @itisknown

You can find It Is Known in person in NYC at Gothic Renaissance. Our seasonal suppliers change and are listed on the It Is Known website.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Sally! I really enjoyed learning about your success and I loved geeking out with you in person!

chainmaille artisans Rebeca and Sally standing side by side

The artists behind Rebeca Mojica Jewelry and It Is Known. Photo by Austin Hill.

And thank you, readers and fans of this series. While you’re here, be sure to check out the previous “Meet an Artist” posts: and let me know if there’s anyone you want to see interviewed and any questions you have for them. ‘Til next time, happy crafting!

Prolific Chainmaille Designer Has Discovered 100+ Patterns And Helps People All Over The World Learn To Make Maille

Meet Chainmaille Artisan Josh Diliberto And Find Out His Approach to Making New Designs

josh diliberto wearing handmade chainmaille vestScroll through the weave libraries of M.A.I.L. (Maille Artisans International League) and you’ll undoubtedly encounter many submissions from mithrilweaver: weave variation after weave variation, more than 100 weave submissions and 240+ gallery submissions in all. Josh is a well-known contributor to the Chain Maille group on Facebook and has fans and customers all over the world. I’ve received numerous requests to interview him, and I’m happy to bring you this article!

Every month in Blue Buddha’s Meet the Artist series, we chat with a different chainmaille artist to find out more about their process, history, inspiration and goals. We also try to uncover one or two things you might not know about them, even if you’re already familiar with their work.

In this edition, you’ll meet artist, instructor and chainmaille supplier Josh Diliberto of McLean, Virginia. Enjoy!

moorish rose balls made of chainmailleThanks for taking some time to let us get to know you, Josh! First off – how do you pronounce your last name?

I pronounce my last name “dee-lee-bear-toe.” That is the Sicilian pronunciation. If you want to say it American, you would pronounce it just like it sounds.  It means “of the liberty” – Di-Liberto. Joshua in hebrew is pronounced “ee-yeshua” and means “savior.” So, put together, my fist and last name means “savior of the liberty.”  But… you can just call me Josh.

OK, Josh! How did you get into chainmaille?

I was inspired to try making chainmaille after watching the movie “Braveheart” in 1994. My mind loves patterns. After seeing chainmaille armor in that movie, I knew I had to try it. I’ve always enjoyed sewing and stitching and the idea of doing similar things with metal was just so appealing. (I think the first inspiration was at the age of 5 when doing paper ring 2-in-1 chain decorations for Christmas!)

I tried to make my first chainmaille item—a vest—in 1996 using nickel silver.  I wound the wire and cut it with a jeweler’s saw by hand. I wanted to use stainless, but I couldn’t cut it with the same hand saw.  I never liked the snipped or machine cut rings. My OCD has a hard time dealing with the look and feel of machine cut rings. The weave I used on my first vest was Japanese 4-in-1 Sheet.  I used 16swg 3/16″ rings.  Making this project put me into debt for the first time in my life at the age of 19.

When I was 20, I met a man named Michael DeVeny at the So-Cal Ren Faire. He was about 35 years old at the time and he really blew my mind. He probably had 50 weave samples on display and he had so many sculptures and designs to show me. I literally stayed at his booth for 4 hours talking to him. The amount of joy I got from that chance encounter was astounding and fueled my motivation throughout my career.

That’s terrific that you had an interaction like that to kickstart your chainmaille career. I’ve found that an inspirational experience when embarking upon a new path can really help someone persevere through future tough times.

Certainly. My 20’s were bleak for many reasons, mostly because I went from soul-sucking job to soul-sucking job.  All the while, I kept doing chainmaille on my own time as a hobby. I got into making chainmaille jewelry and made some new weaves at this time of my life (though no one knew about them). I worked alone, as in I didn’t meet with other chainmaillers. I had no mentor or teacher for 10 years. I sold some stuff to friends and family and at street market fairs, but never earned enough to live off of. I’m extremely introverted and I avoid most social events. The isolation led me to create new things instead of making already established weaves. The bad part was, I ended up remaking many weaves that were very common while thinking they were new. So, I remade the wheel hundreds of times. I wouldn’t say the time was wasted because it taught me how to make new weaves on my own and to appreciate the time spent. When someone figures something out on their own, there is an underlying value in how they came to learn. Not only is it leaned how to make the item, but the process by which the item is created is learned. The learning reward can be very large in some cases. In other cases, you spend days only leaning what not to do. Either way, there is learning.

I wholeheartedly agree! One of the first weaves I “made up” turned out to be Box, haha. But I still never forget how terrific it felt to discover it on my own.

So, what happened next in your chainmaille life?

In my 30’s I became a professional artist, quit my old day jobs, joined M.A.I.L., joined Facebook groups, and I became a merchant at Bristol Renaissance Faire. My venture into social media and being part of the chainmaille community has been very rewarding and positive. It added some balance to my life. I was too isolated in my 20’s to really make any kind of break through. I started to embrace the chainmaille hive mindset where we all inspire and feed off of each other’s creative energy. I’m convinced that I have created more quantity and quality work because I connected to others in our field. I try to have a very open and welcoming philosophy when it comes to intellectual property. I really don’t mind if people copy my work or make the same designs that I do. I give away free information often. In return, the chainmaille community has opened it’s arms to me. I feel very loved and secure in our community. It’s very special and important to me.

In my late 30’s and current early 40’s I ventured into selling supplies, tutorial, and kits. The main reason I wanted to get into these things was because I wanted to work from home. I no longer wanted to travel a lot doing renaissance fairs and selling only finished product. I was also concerned that my hands would someday give out and I would not be able to make chainmaille at high volumes anymore. The great thing about selling tutorials is that you only ever have to make the tutorial once and money continues to come in. Making tutorials doesn’t bring in huge money, but it’s a consistent flow that will always be there. The more tutorials I make, the more reward. I have about 45 tutorials for sale now.  Rings and kit sales bring in most of my income now. I don’t love making rings so much, but it keeps me active in the industry while I get to also stay home and help raise my daughter Karuna with my wife Brooke. Finish product sales to the public are still active and I also sell wholesale finished product to ren faire vendors.

I never thought I could make chainmaille a viable business.  I quit 3 times in my life and always returned.  Only now in my 40’s have i started to be able to make a good living off of chainmaille.  It’s been a really rough journey, but I’m glad that I persisted.

Obviously I can only speak for myself–but I’m sure many others will agree–I’m so glad you persisted, too! Your contributions to this craft are immeasurable. I’d love to know what inspires you.

Detail and quality interest me. I love drawing photorealistic drawings because of the detail oriented work. I love architecture too for the same reason. I’m really into quantum mechanics. There is this phenomenon where if you join enough small things together, new properties begin to emerge. For example, the property of one ring has certain properties, but If you start joining rings together, the new structure of connected rings begins to have new properties. The end result is so much more than just “x” number of rings. Weave properties like flexibility, strength, cross section, symmetry, and more begin to emerge. It’s fascinating to me. A chainmaille ring is like an atom. Atoms join together to make molecules. Molecules join to make physical substances in nature. The range of physical properties in our universe is incredible and yet everything is made up of only 92 different elements. That’s how chainmaille is. It all begins with a few different size torus shaped rings, and from those rings, tons of weaves and properties can result. Building a house, drawing a picture, writing a poem, weaving chainmaille, or anything creative in life is fun, for me, because of this phenomenon.

Oh man, I’m such a science nerd, I absolutely LOVE everything you just said. 😄

You’re quite prolific with discovering patterns. How do you come up with so many?

Coming up with new weaves and variants is what I love. I wish I could do more of that. How do I come up with them? It’s hard to explain. There are many ways that it seems to happen. One way it happens is when I need to make a project for a customer who wants specific attributes. The need sometimes becomes the driving force behind the creation. Another way is just to try established weaves and say “what if?”  What if I put this ring here instead? I swear every time I try an established weave, I end up making 3 variants that are new. Then those 3 variants end up having 3 variants too.  It just goes on and on. This is why I’m convinced that there are infinite possible weaves. I have thousands of ideas for weaves and I only ever get to try a few of them because of time constraints.  Many times, If I go 2 or more steps beyond the original weave, I will create a new weave that is not just a variant.  Out of 100 weaves that I create, only 10 of them are viable variants. Of those 10, only 1 will become an awesome new original weave. I have a box of “mistakes.” My mistakes box is 10 times larger than my weave library.

Ha! I completely understand! *looks over at own mistakes box* 😉

It’s also possible to make new weaves mathematically using a network of connection possibilities.  That is how my R.I.M. (Ring Interaction Model) was born.  It shows all the possible connections for each numbered ring system.  For example, how many possible different structures can 3 rings make?  The answer is 3.  There is Mobius (left and right handed), Straight 2 in 1 Chain, and Orbit.  With 4 rings, the possible number of structures jumps to 19.  Just by working out the possible ring interactions with 4 rings, I came up with 3 new weaves.  Imagine what would come of working out the 5th level.  I haven’t tried yet, but I’m thinking the 5th level would produce about 200 possible structures.

Josh-Diliberto-RINGINTERACTIONMODELPIC1Wow, that’s so cool. I love this rather cerebral approach to discovering new patterns.

What’s your “normal” workday like? Do you have strategies for making sure nothing gets dropped?

I think everyone has strengths. I’m absolutely addicted to creating. I only really care about money as far as it enables me to create more. I think one of my strengths lies in efficient system creation. I really enjoy organizing and finding ways to do things efficiently. I have work stations set up in my office and my garage. Each work station has specific designs to help aide ergonomics, creativity, quality, safety, motivation, and more. I move from station to station through out each day so I don’t get burned out on any one thing. I’m a huge planner. Every night before I sleep I plan out the next day in my head. I keep the expectations of that day small. So, when I complete all the tasks of that day, I always have extra time for me and my family.  Since I work at home, it’s really difficult to have work-life balance and separation. I have to communicate often with my family to let them know when I’m working so they don’t interrupt me constantly.

If I feel sad, unmotivated, sick, or hurt, I don’t work. Instead, I dive into those feelings to deal and cope with them. I found over and over again that when I try to push through work and ignore these feelings, the consequences of that are much more severe than if I had just taken a break. This positive atmosphere that I created in my work environment has really allowed me to increase my work load. I really don’t like to call what I do “work.” “Work” is such a loaded word with so many feelings behind it. I think of “work” similar to obligation or duty – something that is not really enjoyed or something we have to do for money. If I pressured myself everyday to make money, I would only be able to work for a couple of hours because my mind would be so full of negative voice. It’s that negative voice that drags people down and keeps them from loving what they do. But, the hard part is finding work that you can be positive about. I think it’s really hard to find a positive dynamic in a job when a person works for a company or boss. The natural hierarchy or order keeps the employee from rarely being able to find equality which is a basic requirement before a positive mindset can be attained.

I wake up at 3am most mornings full of energy.  I have no alarm clock.  Sometimes I work 10-hour days and other times I work 1-hour days.  It all depends on where I am that day and what I’m dealing with.  It’s nice to be able to stay home with my daughter when she is sick or go on a trip with my wife when she has a day off work. I also want to be clear that I am very fortunate to have support from my wife. The small success that I have is not just because of me and what I do.

What is your current goal?

My current goal is to become financially independent so I can focus all my energy on making new weaves and creating an online database of weaves that is higher quality and more comprehensive than the M.A.I.L. weave library.  So far, I have 300 weaves documented.  M.A.I.L. has over 1400 currently.  I discovered about 110 weaves so far.  I always try to say “discovered” instead of “created” because I get a greater sense of uncovering something that has always been there when I make a new weave.  It’s not so much me doing anything to create a new weave.  It’s much like a scientist discovers a new law of nature, a  new constant, or physical property of the universe..

That’s a really cool analogy!

What’s your favorite piece (or pieces) of jewelry (or an accessory) that you’ve created?

I think my favorite piece that I made was a functioning welded titanium bull whip.  It took me about 6 weeks to make and I earned a really nice commission from it.  I loved the challenge.  It was very difficult to design because a bull whip has to get slightly more flexible as it gets smaller down to the fall.  I had to use a different weave at each section and then joining them all together in a way that worked was very difficult.  It’s 6′ long and I used about 4000 rings in it!

Other than the bullwhip, what is something (either another piece, or a weave/technique, or an accomplishment, etc) that you are really proud to have done?

I think Elf Bridge Chain is my greatest intellectual accomplishment in the chainmaille industry.  It’s by far the best weave I’ve discovered and I love sharing it with the world.  It’s essentially the 6 in 1 version of Elf Weave.  It eluded so many people for so long because it’s counter intuitive.  The edge rings are 5 in 1 and the middle rings are 6 in 1.  It also works best with 2 ring sizes.  I don’t think anyone was expecting it to have those properties.  Consequently, I went on to apply my knowledge of Elf Bridge Chain to discover Elf Viaduct Chain which is the 8 in 1 version of Elf Weave.

Josh-Diliberto elf bridge chainBesides Elf Bridge Chain, I’m really proud of my JPL7 Alternate discovery.  I found a way to make JPL7 with smaller AR rings.  The weave is more efficient and stronger with a smaller cross section.  It’s my stance that my JPL7 alternate is the true JPL7, but I was unable to convince others in our community.

What’s your favorite tool?

There are so many tools I can’t live without.  A very import one is my modified Ringinator from Martin.  It’s just so important to be able to cut any size ring I need.  To discover new weaves, I have to have every possible ring size.

LOL, yeeessss!!! All the sizes!

So, this is not maille-related at all, but I’m curious to know why your website is all in caps. Is it an architecture thing? I know multiple architects/design folk who hand write in all caps and am  wondering if there’s a correlation?

Yes, once upon a time I wanted to get into architecture, but I didn’t like all the building codes. I took many classes in high school and I was taught to write in all caps. I’m also well known for writing in all lower case too. I used to tell my English teachers that all the letters are equal and none of them is more important than another. It’s a sound philosophy, but it still didn’t go over very well, especially in college. (I dropped out of college after my second year.)

Ha! Challenging institutional tenets often doesn’t go over very well, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation. 😉

Here’s a very specific, burning question from a fan: “Is it possible to make your karma weave with double capture rings instead of just one? But still keep it flexible and small?”

It’s possible that Karma could be made with 2 capture rings in each section. I’ve not tried, but the result would be larger if it was possible.

OK, onto some quick questions:

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

I listen to audio books while doing chainmaille and sometimes I’ll watch a show.

What are your favorite artists (chainmaille or otherwise)?

I admire any artist that works in detail. Chuck Close and Alex Grey come to mind. I would like to connect with Michael DeVeny again. I’ve been unable to get a hold of him. He’s very much off the grid.

What would your superpower be and why?

I would love to mind control people like professor X. But how would I be able to do that in a moral way?

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

Experience everything. Be diverse. Better to be slightly good at everything than to be great at one thing. The worst piece of advice: Quit.

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

I’m really into Buddhism.

Before we let you go, please tell us where we can find your work!

profile on M.A.I.L. – mithrilweaver 

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Josh! I really enjoyed learning about your approach to maille and life in general. I wish you continued success with your business!

And thank you to everyone who’s read this interview to the end. While you’re here, be sure to check out the previous “Meet an Artist” posts: and let me know if there’s anyone you want to see interviewed and any questions you have for them. ‘Til next time, happy crafting!

He’s Made A Living Making & Selling Chainmaille for More Than Forty Years

Meet Chainmaille Artisan Lord Randolph of ChainMaille Fashions

Lord-RandolphScrolling through the ChainMaille Fashions page on Facebook, and the ChainMaille Fashions website, it is amazing to see the sheer amount and variety of pieces Lord Randolph and his team have created over the years. You’ll find an incredible archive of hundreds upon hundreds–thousands, really–of photos of chainmaille clothing and accessories, each a little different and always sized to fit the client just right. One constant: so many happy faces of people clearly loving what they are wearing. As one fan wrote on Facebook,”Randolph, you & your team have the ability to make ordinary people feel & become extraordinary!”

Every month in our Meet the Artist series, we chat with a different chainmaille artist to find out more about their process, history, inspiration and goals. We also try to uncover one or two things you might not know about the artist, even if you’re already familiar with their work.

In this edition, you’ll meet artist Lord Randolph Markham. Together with Jane Markham, Jo Woolam, and their team, they are ChainMaille Fashions. They’ve vended at multiple Renaissance Fairs across the US for the past four decades, so you may have even seen their work in person.

Enjoy getting to know Lord Randolph below!


Thanks for taking some time to chat with us, Lord Randolph! When and why did you start making chainmaille?

In 1975, I was unemployed scratching out a living making candles and I did a show that was a fundraiser for KPFK community-sponsored radio. The Society For Creative Anachronism (SCA) were doing demonstrations and one of them let me wear a shirt of maille. I was hooked. I ordered one from him and paid $100 deposit. A year later when he still had not started it and did not have money to return my deposit, I took his pliers and his small supply of rings and started one myself. It was the last piece I ever made in rust-able metal.

The photo below is not that first shirt, but one of the earliest pieces you made, back in 1978. I love that you’ve got such a great photo archive of your work!


I know your wife also makes maille … did you two meet at the Renaissance Fair? Has maille always been a part of your lives together?

We met before chainmaille. I had taken a position as navigator and crew on am brand new motor/sail boat from Vancouver to Jamaica by way of the Panama Canal and we stopped in Ft Lauderdale to refinish the teak before we delivered it. I met Jane there.

How did you get started vending at the Renaissance Faire?

Jane had been cutting coins for a wholesaler when we met but I knew the craft circuit from candle making. The KPFK show we did was the first thing we did together and Pegasus Coin and Candle. We had applied to the Southern Fair but were rejected until we applied as ChainMaille. We started at the Texas fair in year 4 and added Minnesota Renaissance Fair and Southern Fair the next year.


What’s the hardest aspect about being an artist at the Renaissance Faire? What’s the best?

Hardest: dealing with management (they are all kind of dysfunctional).

Dealing with patrons can be the best especially for me. Dressing people bonds us quickly.


Haha, I’ll bet! How many states have you traveled to with your wares?

California, Arizona, Tennessee, Maine, New York, Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois.


What’s your best/favorite chainmaille-related memory?

Too many and I don’t talk about anything that happens in the dressing room … but here’s one that sticks out and is sharable. Twenty-five years ago at Bristol, I had a group of 5 coeds who came together regularly to dress. A few years later they all graduated the same time and then married about the same time so you can guess what else they all did about the same time. They were all dressed in chainmaille so we agreed to let them come use the AC in the dressing room when it was time to nurse. They always chatted together like I was not in the room and I know way more about nursing than any man should!

How did the “Lord” part of Lord Randolph come to be?

My SCA persona Lord Randolph the Devious.


Lord Randolph 1980 and 2014

You’ve been making chainmaille a long time. Could you offer your thoughts on how the industry has evolved over the years?

There was no industry when I started. Only Whiting & Davis making stuff for butchers and lumberjacks. So everything has changed.


What inspires you?

My clients. Most of my ideas are developed because they were asked for and I have always thought if one person wants it and if they are 1 in a million, then there are 8,000 others that would want it also.


What’s your favorite piece that you’ve created?

The stuff I like the most is not sharable, not advertised or pushed in any way but I get asked for strange stuff all the time.

Well, this piece isn’t strange, but I for one love this … Baby’s First Chainmaille! 😄


How many hours a day do you weave?

Now or in the beginning? Early on, Jane and I would work a few hours in the morning watching the morning shows. The middle of the day was for working on books or booths then 4 or 5 hours in the evening watch TV and knitting.


What is your current goal?

Semi-retirement! I have sold Minnesota Renaissance Faire and am trying to sell Bristol. At 70 years old, I have no mortgage and enough solar, so don’t have an electric bill, which means I can do quite nicely with just 2 shows. For the Texas Faire, I have a HUGE fan base who I tap to do repairs and cleanup of my building two weeks before opening, they also unload and distribute my inventory. Arizona is not a big show but February and March are nice there; the booth is low maintenance and the show is an easy 10 am to 6 pm. Sustainable for an old man.

Hmm, I think I’m gonna have to head out and visit the Arizona show to see your wares in person! I saw your shoppe at Bristol, but it’s been years.


What is one tool that you cannot live without?

There are several, my pliers, my truck and my partners top the list.

Lord Randolph, Jane Markham and Jo Woolam of Chainmaille Fashions.

Lord Randolph, Jane Markham and Jo Woolam of Chainmaille Fashions.

What general advice would you give to someone who wants to make a living in the Ren Faire scene?

Start with local craft shows and listen to the feedback. To start you need a niche. When you have been doing it as long as I have … well, I very rarely make anything new because I can’t even replace what I sell right now! Part of why I need to sell Bristol.



woman-in-mailleOK, onto some quick questions: What do you do when you aren’t making chainmaille?

Garden and play Everquest but we are “in production” year round.

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

Music when working on something that requires focus and audio books for mindless repetition

What would your superpower be and why?

I can talk strangers out of their blouses in a minute or two 😉.

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

Never be the first to release a hug.

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

I think I will leave them surprised.

Also, I think it’s worth noting that you probably have some of the earliest photos of cats in chainmaille and dogs in maille on the entire internet:


Before we let you go, please tell us where we can find your chainmaille.

Chainmaille Fashions website:
Faires: Bristol Faire (Wisconsin), Texas Renaissance Festival and Arizona Renaissance Festival


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Lord Randolph! We wish you much continued success and are so thankful for your decades of inspiring people to embrace chainmaille.

And thank you to everyone who’s read this interview to the end. While you’re here, be sure to check out the previous “Meet an Artist” posts: and let me know if there’s anyone you want to see interviewed. ‘Til next time, happy crafting!