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.

How I Set Up My Phone To Play a Cash Register Sound Whenever Someone Buys Something On My Website

Because, Let’s Face It, The “Cha-Ching!” Sound You Get For Making Sales on Etsy Is Pretty Awesome

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 April 1 2019: Sadly, this procedure no longer works as Gmail is essentially no longer compatible with IFTTT. (No joke! 😢 Read more.)

dollar-sign-jump-ringFor Etsy sellers, there is one sound in particular that floods us with an intense wave of excitement and anticipation: the cheerful “Cha-Ching” notification sound that signifies a new order. The sound is an auditory confirmation that our hard work has paid off: there’s a real human beingusually a strangerspending their money on our product. Needless to say, this sound is deeply gratifying and many sellers, myself included, become quite attached to it. When there’s a technological glitch and the notification doesn’t work, melancholy vendors flock to Etsy groups to lament the loss of their favorite sound. We feel as though we’re being robbed of one of the highlights of our days!

After I revived my own website to supplement my jewelry shop on Etsy, and the orders started trickling in, I realized I missed hearing cha-chings. So what is one to do if one wants to hear this beautiful sound yet doesn’t sell on Etsy?

For my jewelry website I use the platform Indiemade. I’m sent an email when I receive an order, however I don’t receive a text notification, nor does Indiemade have its own app for orders. I also don’t have my phone set up to give me notifications for new emails. (If I did, it would go off, like, every 2 minutes and would drive me bonkers!) Because of this, I only saw website orders when I specifically went to check my email. That led to me checking my work email more often than I wanted to, because hey, it’s been 5 minutes, and you never know, maybe an order came in! It was killing my productivity. So I turned to the very handy If This Then That app.

ifttt-banner If you’re not familiar with IFTTT, it’s a great tool to connect and automate countless tasks in your life. (Check out their How Does it Work? article for more information.)

In my case, I used it to get my phone to serve up a similar and equally gratifying cha-ching sound when I receive a new order on my website. Not gonna lie, the first time it worked, it was sweet, sweet music to my ears! The notification doesn’t give me information about the order itself – which is fine by me. It’s just gratifying for me to hear the cha-ching, and then I go to my email to get the details of the order.

I’ve had a few other sellers ask how I did this, so I created this blog post to walk you through the process.

Fair warning – there are a LOT of steps. However, they can be grouped into 3 main stages, and you might already meet the Stage 1 conditions. Keep reading for step-by-step photos and details for each stage.

Stage 1 – Email Setup: In Gmail (or any another email program accepted by IFTTT), create a label for all email notifications of website sales

Stage 2 – Applet Creation: Use IFTTT to create a new applet that calls your phone when you get an email for a new order

Stage 3 – Ringtone Assignment: Find a free “cha-ching” sound that you like, and assign it as a ringtone for contact IFTTT in your phone

That’s it! Each of the above stages is made of a ton of little steps and things can get a little convoluted, so I’m going to break it down as best I can. You will have to make adjustments along to way to account for your own particular circumstances.

Stage 1 – Email Setup

This step assumes you use Gmail and receive email notifications from your website when you get a new order.  If you do not use Gmail, you’ll have to check out the IFTTT app to see what other email services IFTTT is compatible with. (Or you could go through the extra trouble of creating a new gmail account and automatically forwarding your emails, or at least new order emails, to that dedicated gmail account.)

You’ll need to create a “label” and assign it to all order notification emails. If you aren’t familiar with how to add labels and filters, here’s a step-by-step walk-through. I’m using Firefox on a Mac for these screenshots.

Click on the gear icon in the upper right of your Gmail and then click Settings.

screenshot gmail desktop gear icon settings


Navigate to the Labels tab, scroll down until you reach the Labels section, and click create new label.

screenshot gmail desktop labels tab create new label


In the popup window, type the label name you want to use for new orders on your website. (Feel free to nest the label in a larger category – for instance, you may have an overall “Orders” category with separate labels for order notifications from Etsy and/or other shops.) Click the Create button when you’re done.

screenshot gmail desktop create new label


Next, we need to have Gmail automatically add this label to your order notification emails as they arrive. I’ve already set up this filter as you can see with the green circle below; I’ll walk you through how I did that.

Make sure you’re still in the Settings gear icon and navigate to Filters and Blocked Addresses. Scroll down and click create a new filter.

screenshot gmail desktop settings gear icon create new filter


When the window pops up, fill in whatever fields are necessary for Gmail to identify a new order email. If the subject line is the same for all orders, you can use that (see my example below). You could also add a “to” address (as I did below) if you only use that email address to receive order payments and it is not used for any other correspondence.

If all your order notification emails originate from an email address that is only used for order notifications, feel free to add it in the “from” field. (However, if you want to test your filter after creating it, then don’t add a “from” address just yet.) Click Continue when you’re done.

You could also add a phrase to “has the words” if there’s a particular sentence that always appears in order notifications but is unlikely to ever appear in any other email you may receive.

screenshot gmail desktop create filter


Put a checkmark next to Apply the label: and select the label you just created a few steps ago. Click Update filter.

screenshot gmail desktop apply label


Ta-da! Your filter has been created. When you receive a new order, the label will automatically show up in your Gmail inbox:

screenshot gmail desktop label


NOTE: If you want to test to make sure the filter works, simply send a test message to yourself that meets all the filter criteria (subject, to, etc). If you receive the email but the label doesn’t show up, go back and check to make sure the criteria is correct.



Stage 2 – Applet Creation

If you haven’t already installed If This Then That, go do that now.

Depending on how tech-fluent you are, there will be a small or medium size learning curve with this app. It’s pretty fantastic once you get the hang of it. You might want to try playing with a few simple, pre-made IFTTT applets just to get the general idea of how it works first.

When you’re ready to create your applet for new order notifications, tap the plus sign.

screenshot IFTTT create new applet


You’ll see this screen. Tap +this to continue.



The app now prompts you to select the trigger for your applet. In the Search services field, type Gmail.

screenshot IFTTT new applet select trigger service


Tap the Gmail icon.



NOTE: If you haven’t connected your Gmail account to IFTTT, you’ll be prompted to “Connect to Gmail to turn on Applets” and will need to follow those prompts before proceeding.

Select new email in inbox labeled.

IFTTT screenshot select gmail trigger


You’re now prompted to enter your label.

IFTTT screenshot create trigger


Be sure to type your label EXACTLY as it appears in Gmail including any special characters and spaces. The label is case-sensitive. Tap Create trigger when you’re done.

IFTTT screenshot complete trigger


Now we need to tell the applet what to do when you receive an email with that label. Tap +that to proceed.

IFTTT screenshot if Gmail then that


Type call in the search field, and click the Phone Call icon.

IFTTT screenshot new applet select action service


There’s only one option here, so go ahead and tap Call my phone.

IFTTT screenshot select action call my phone


A default message appears, as shown below. This is the message the robo voice will deliver when IFTTT calls your phone.

IFTTT screenshot create action call my phone


That’s kind of a boring message, so I changed my message as shown below. Go ahead and type whatever you want, no matter how absurd—It’s fun to make robots say silly things!—and tap Create action when you’re done.

IFTTT screenshot create action call my phone


You’ll see a preview of your applet. If everything looks good, tap Finish.

IFTTT screenshot applet preview


Be sure to toggle the applet “On” before you leave IFTTT and go on to the final stage.

IFTTT screenshot - applet by aerobeca


To make sure the applet is working properly, send yourself a test email as described at the end of stage 1. It may take a few minutes for the applet to run and your phone to ring. It’s important to do this test, not only to make sure the applet works but also so you can grab the IFTTT phone number from your incoming calls log and add them as a contact in Stage 3.

You’re almost done!



Stage 3 – Ringtone Assignment

To finish, you’ll need to find a cha-ching sound that you can upload to your phone. There are lots of free cha-chings on the internet, for instance here and here. Most cha-ching sounds are quite short, which means that your phone will likely play the sound on a loop until you pick up or it goes to voicemail. (This means: multiple cha-chings! While multiple cha-chings are pretty exciting, they also allow you to immediately distinguish incoming Etsy orders (cha-ching!) from website orders (cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching!)

I have Dropbox connected to my phone, so I saved my cha-ching sound to Dropbox and grabbed it from there. If you don’t have a cloud service you may need to email the sound to yourself and download it to your phone.

If you tested the applet at the end of Stage 2, you should have an incoming number for IFTTT in your call log. Add the number to your contacts and edit the entry with your custom ring tone.

samsung-contact-IFTTT-ringtoneNOTE: If you set up other applets to have IFTTT call your phone, you will hear the cha-ching for all of those phone calls. That would be confusing. So keep this as the only applet that uses Call My Phone for an action. (You can have other applets text you, and those would come through with a text notification sound, instead of the cha-ching.)

Ta-da! Pat yourself on the back, you’re done! Sit back and wait for the “cha-chings” to come in!

Questions about this? Did you try it? Leave your comments below!

If you don’t sell on Etsy but would like to, get started today with 40 free listings and await your very own “cha-ching!”

My two Etsy shops:


It’s Not About The Money: This Artisan Has Spent Twenty Years Making And Giving Away His Creations

An Enduring Story Of Generosity And Passion Sprung From One Man’s Obsession With Chainmaille


heart-shaped-boxThis month, Blue Buddha Boutique is sitting down to chat with Stephen Hoffman of Long Island, NY. 

A long-time contributor to the chainmaille community, Stephen is known for his prolific portfolio of shirts, bags and anodized titanium pieces as well as for warmly welcoming folks new to the craft and for his unforgettable sense of humor.

One thing that struck me during our interview—in addition to wondering if my blog could handle so many footnotes!—is how much genuine, unbridled love and passion Stephen has for his craft and the community. He’s not the first person I’ve met with such passion, but I think he’s the first person who has spent countless, endless hours making things without ever trying to earn a dollar. Instead, he purposely makes hundreds of items to give them away. I know he wants no accolades for gifting. And that’s one of the reasons I feel it is important to share his story—because folks like Stephen tend to hover under the radar. So, I invite you to take a moment to breathe, smile and simply revel in the generosity of this humble East Coast guy.

Enjoy getting to know Stephen 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?

About twenty years ago, I was gaming with some friends. As we did so, one of them pulled out a few spring-like coils of wire, a set of end-snippers, and a couple pairs of pliers. I watched, fascinated, as he began to add rings to a small patch of chain on the shoulder of his leather jacket.

After a couple hours of watching and asking occasional questions, it got locked in my head. I think I was in a hardware store hunting tools and wire less than 48 hours later. Once I got past the blistered palms from my first hours of inexpertly hand-coiling wire, I was hooked.


Your portfolio is very diverse. How would you describe your style, and how has it evolved over the years?

Diverse, but not tremendously original, perhaps. I am often inspired by works I see around me and tend to just turn the volume on things up “one louder” by enhancing or exaggerating one attribute.  For example, I wasn’t content to make a European 4-in-1 shirt as my first; I had to go 6-in-1. Similarly, many of my other works are simply expansions on what I’ve seen before, just slightly pushing into new territory for the art.

Sometimes, the borders I push outwards are ones I set earlier myself. The “World’s Tiniest Chainmaille Pouch” project is a silly example of that, taken to an extreme. I keep making approximately the same pouch, but with smaller and smaller rings each time.


How did you get started using titanium?

About the time I started my second shirt I think. I was, as always, playing “turn it up one louder”. I wanted to make a shirt with a cool inlay, and wanted to use some exotic materials. About the same time, an amazing artist by the name of Master Knuut sent me about nine pounds of four-inch-long leftover ends of welding rods as a gift. He didn’t have an efficient use for all of it, and I was more than happy to spend hours hand-winding 4-5 ring coils out of them. I staggered out of that adventure with enough rings to form part of a fleur-de-lis inlay, but also a desire to give gifts myself.

Those that are around me may now see that my random and excessive gifting of titanium may be a tiny bit of me playing “one louder” again.


What inspires you?

Creativity, curiosity, and generosity. There have been so many ‘maillers willing to help me out with concepts, materials, and techniques over the yearseach one has built my own resolve to reflect the same attitudes in my own life. I can’t say that I’m more talented than many of the other voices I hear, but I try to do what I can with what I’ve got… reckless enthusiasm and a strange sense of humor.

When I run into something that I think is cool or awesome or amazing, I’m out there waving and pointing at it. There are hundreds of artists out there that I admire and look up to, it’s really hard to list a couple specific ones.

I couldn’t agree more with how generous many folks in the chainmaille community are. It’s so amazing and humbling to be part of such a cool group of creatives!

Maille isn’t your profession, but it seems like more than a hobby: do you have a specific term you prefer to describe your relationship with maille?

*tries to come up with a bad pun involving philanthropy and snakes, fails*


Ha, ha! Hobby it is. Many people stick with a hobby for a few months or years and then move on to something else. Why do you think your relationship with chainmaille has endured?

Quite possibly my biggest connection to maille might be the massive number of metal splinters in my fingers and hands. Do we all get those?

But seriously? I dunno. It isn’t my full-time gig, for sure. I don’t sell or take commissions. It never provided financial sustenance, probably more the opposite, it’s not a cheap hobby with the tools and materials and such I tend to play with.

It does supply emotional sustenance though. I find it tremendously satisfying to put things in order, line them up, reduce entropy a tiny bit. Going from a giant pile of disordered rings to an elegant and finished item is pretty satisfying. And there’s the runner’s high, too. Grinding for hours on anything produces physical stress that causes our body to dump endorphins in response. Associating that endorphin dump with the audible sound of a good ring closure happening, and the fall of metal across my hands… well, I’ve kinda built a bit of a Pavlovian response to it. Even watching other people make stuff, or seeing their completed works also kicks the endorphin button in my head now.

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

Of course, there’s the aforementioned “World’s Tiniest Chainmaille Pouch” project, that started as a joke, but the idea of making actual functional maille out of the tiniest rings I can perceive has been incredibly fun and challenging. Right now, the smallest uses rings that are 28g (0.012 inch) 3/64 stainless steel, but I’ve got some 0.008 inch titanium staring at me from across the room, so I don’t know how long it’ll hold the title …

… and there’s “snek”Ϛ, the ridiculous result of one of the Twitch streams that ran a bit too long. He’s pretty much my unofficial/official mascot on my Twitch channel, people seem to love his slightly-off-kilter snoot…

Ϛ = OOOOoooo, it’s a snek!

… but my absolute favorite?  It’s not a single piece, actually. It’s the 250+ Aura pendants I did to give away to people as registration tokens at a local SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) event. The design is one of Corvus’s, so not original to me, but making hundreds of them in slight variations for people to walk off with, that was crazy fun. People apparently really liked them and every time I go to an event anywhere, I spot a few people still wearing them. The things that I give away, like these, are the ones I value most. Be it a bunch of tiny things or a single large one, the value of the thing is in the joy of the recipient(s).


Besides those pieces, what else are particularly proud of accomplishing?

Well, I’ve stumbled across a few weaves here and there, but I think the thing I’m most proud of is enabling ‘maillers. I mean, I could (and will) talk about the things I’ve done all day, but it’s the other folks out there that I directly or indirectly contribute to that make me proudest. Whether it’s sending someone rings or tools or a sample of a weave, or a kit… those moments where I take what I’ve got and share are extremely motivational. The process of giving gifts is pretty cool.

sporkOne of the things I’ve given away with greater and greater frequency is titanium.  It started half as a joke about a year ago, I was anodizing rings for the crazy isotropic shirt while streaming online, and towards the end, I brought out a titanium spork, rainbow’ed it real quick, and then gifted it to one of the people watching. The pseudo-joke was that when people run out of spoons, I wanted them to have an really awesome Spork in reserve.

Well, people liked that. A LOT. So I did it again. And again. And then started adding other things, like pill containers, chopsticks, whole cutlery sets, even titanium chainmaille pouches.  Nowadays I’m anodizing JUST stuff to give away more often than I do rings or ball bearings or whatever. It’s almost self-sustaining, despite the fact that I’ve never sold anything, because people keep donating and sending me things to anodize, it’s been really fun to be a conduit for all that random cool stuff that ends up in, at this point, probably hundreds of people’s hands. As long as I have the free time to spend 6-8 hours afterwards packing things up, I’ll keep doing it.


Since you mentioned that crazy isotropic shirt, let’s talk about it!

isotropicI put the rough hours expended at over 600, over a three year period, including time to make the rings, anodize them, weaving, taking parts of it apart, weaving, taking parts apart AGAIN (the collar!!! SIX TIMES!!!). The shirt is slightly over 112,000 rings, with exactly 1000 90-ring diamonds of steel held together with approximately 22,000 blue titanium rings. Oh, and there are three half-diamonds hiding in the collar area. The hardest part, easily, was sticking with it. The tailoring was tough, but I felt once I had finally assembled enough diamonds of maille, it was still just accelerating downhill. In the midst of it, I did discover some pretty cool things, like how to actually seam things together in a new way where the odd angles met up, or that I could cheat a bit and make five- and seven-pointed elements for expansion and contraction, but again, the hardest part was just the grind.  For about two years, I’d rip out a few diamonds of maille between projects, but I barely did 10% of the work in that first linear time period. What really kicked me off into high gear was the whole Twitch streaming thing. I saw other people streaming art and such online, remembered I had a couple webcams sitting around, and then took a swing at it. I needed SOMETHING to do, so I just started grinding out diamonds of maille, over and over.

…and people showed up to WATCH that. It kinda blew my mind, really. Here I was, doing the same exact thing night after night, and this crazy creative community adopted me, hung out, even threw donations at me for better equipment and upgrades. I was (and still am) somewhat baffled that people are keen on watching me work, but once they started, I was committed to actually showing them something interesting, or educational, or fun. I now alternate between half a dozen different projects a month, pushing myself to stretch the boundaries of art and show people every step, including the failures. ESPECIALLY the failures. The community suffered with me as I ripped that collar apart and rebuilt it half a dozen times and the celebration amongst them when I finally finished was pretty (NAUGHTY WORD) awesome.

Right now, it sits atop a bookshelf on a mannequin in my dining room, along with half a dozen other shirts amidst the clutter of a ton of tabletop gaming gear. It’s sorta on display for the indeterminate future. Eventually I expect I’ll give it away, maybe to my son, maybe to someone that needs an awesome shirt, who knows.  I won’t be selling it unless a) I get a ridiculously crazy offer or b) something has gone terribly wrong and I need money. Never say never, but I haven’t sold anything YET in twenty years, it could happen, but I doubt it.

where's the shirtAlso, staring at that picture, it reminds me that I stuck an ounce of niobium wire on the neck of that mannequin about six months ago. I should get around to coiling, cutting, and anodizing that for something…


You do quite a bit of anodizing. How did you get into that? Care to share any tips?

Heh, it didn’t start particularly crazy, but the kit has expanded a bit beyond what I originally picked up from I’ve added in an assortment of other gear since then, but let me lay the groundwork first.

Several years back (and still now), I had a ton of titanium in my garage that I had accumulated.  I wanted to make a titanium shirt at some point out of some of it, but didn’t have a specific target/goal/inspiration for a long time.  What finally kicked me over was one of my friends, Kevin.  He’s an awesome guy, and he had an SCA event he was going to run with a Japanese theme in the coming year.  I decided to make the shirt for him.2

I took inventory, decided I’d use a bunch of 12g and 16 titanium, and I wanted to do it in colors matching the heraldry of his SCA persona, green and silver. To do that, I needed an anodizer. So after a few experiments with 9v batteries3 to get the basic understanding of how it worked, I bought one.  Around twenty hours of making and hundreds of hours of tumbling later, I started anodizing the 12g rings green.

green is hardDid I mention green is just an illusion of sorts? There’s no dye in titanium anodizing, it’s just an oxidation process that adds a layer of clear prism-like titanium oxides to the surface of the metal. Those prisms over the surface of the metal create interference patterns where multiple sets of… (*watches eyes glaze over*)… uh… thickness of layer makes different pretty colors? Green is very thick.4

So. Green thick. Takes a high voltage to accumulate. 1 amp anodizer not very powerful. I had to do each ring individually, one at a time, over the period of about 10-15 seconds, watching VERY carefully through the solution to make sure I got the right color. It was a bit of a nightmare, but I learned a heck of a lot in that first run. I learned that I really needed better safety materials… nowadays I wear at least one ASTM-certified massively protective glove to prevent a potentially deadly arc of electricty across my chest through my arms. I probably should wear both, though. Uh. Distraction factory. I’m trying to answer these questions and suddenly I’m picking out rings for another shirt. How did that happen?

Back on track. Japanese shirt. I finished it, had one of the “villagers” present him with a chest with the shirt hidden inside, complete surprise, much happy.

And then I needed to make another (at least partially) titanium shirt. And another. And another.  Popping online to do the ones for the isotropic one and the sporks and foons(🥄) and other randomness has had me expand the kit to include anodic brushes for “painting”, tape and stencils for masking out designs and abstract patterns, sponges, yarn, a potato5

For more detail, it’s probably easier just to stop in and ask me online, there’s a LOT of options, and I anodize stuff quite frequently. I’ll be doing it at least twice during my winter break.-4⅜

2 I didn’t tell him I was making a shirt.  I actually cheated and kept hugging him a lot and remembered where I grabbed my own arms to get measurements.
4 = for a more detailed explanation of the science behind the apparent colors, you can read up here :
5 = Yes, I used a potato.  Once.
= Ok, technically, it was two potatoes.
-4⅜ = Next Anodizing Stream:  Dec 21st, 4PM EST. Giveaways! Gifts! Sporks! Foons! Chopsticks! TITANIUM!  … AND TWO titanium Flasks!  … AND a titanium micromaille pouch!
anodizing stuffs

You are an active member of the chain maille community. What groups/forums are you a part of, and what do you like about being a part of this community?

Mostly nowadays I hang out on Facebook’s various maille groups, and on, but I do random drivethrus on Reddit’s r/maille forum, mailleartisans, instagram, deviantart, TRL’s forums, and occasionally even meet people in person. Speaking of which: hey, are you going to the Chain Link Up 2019 thing, Rebeca?

Asking the interviewer a question? Yep, that seems like you. 😂  I’m hoping to make it out there; it’s going to depend on my spring show schedule and also if I can get a good price on a flight. (Now is one of the rare times I miss living in the Midwest!)

Flipping things back to you: what is one tool that you cannot live without?



What is your current goal?

Not getting arrested for having a bunch of severed hands* in my freezer.

But seriously? I’m making another 250 pendants, assorted random designs, to leave laying around abandoned with a card on them that says something like “Yes, Take me!” at a huge, 12,000-person event called Pennsic I’ll probably put contact info on the card so people can find me there. Maybe I’ll make a few new friends. Probably.  I’ll report back after it happens.

* = yes, they’re fake.  I assume you figured that out.


Two very specific question from the audience:

1 – How many shirts have you made? How many dice bags?

Um. About a dozen shirts that I can remember, and a few halves floating around in various stages of completion. As for pouches, I’ve really lost track. Dozens in about fliftybillion designs. Or six or seven unique designs. Something like that. Did I mention the first thing I made was a pouchŗ?

ŗ = I probably did, I tend to repeat things.
ŗ = I probably did, I tend to repeat things.
ŗ = I probably did, I tend to repeat things.
lots of pouches

2 – How exactly does Stephen feel about mannequins? 😂

It’s just the one. It’s terrifying.


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

kevin likes his shirtDo you listen to music/podcasts/tv/etc while mailling? If so, what are your favorites?

Yes. I listen to a wide variety of music, and when I’m not on camera myself, I’m usually watching someone else make something while I work. I’m watching a stream😜 right now, as a matter of fact!

😜 = HI PHARE!!!

What are your favorite artists (chainmaille or otherwise)?

Aside from the one or two random callouts inline of active ‘maillers, it’s tough to just list a few, so I’ll just mention Escher. I’m a huge Escher fan.

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

Have delightful panic attacks because I’m not making chainmaille. Uh. Gaming. D&D, sometimes online with my friends.

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

Don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself.

What would your superpower be and why?

Wait, I get to pick?

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

My initials are SMH. For years, I wondered why people kept using my initials in things they were saying until someone explained it to me.


Anything else you want to add?

(🥄) = A spork is a forkspoon on one end. A foon is a spoon on one end, and a fork on the other.  Nobody else uses the term Foon, everyone else calls both of them Sporks.

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

Cinnibar on M.A.I.L. –
(two digit member id FTW)
Isotropic Shirt –

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Stephen! I think you almost broke my blog’s ability to handle footnotes. 😂

Also, thank you so much for my spork!



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!