Chainmaille artist, supplier, and full-time mom, Spider is one of those “do-it-all” kind of women. Not only that, but she does it with such grace, she makes it look easy. We are so proud to have her as our contributor this month not only because she is a super-inspired artist but because she is so darn easy to relate to. We hope you enjoy reading her responses to your questions as much as we have.
EXAMPLE 1: My bookkeeper shows up on Monday mornings. I don’t have access to my computer while she’s here, but I do have access to the rest of my studio, and I know Kayla won’t interrupt me. Perfect time for teaching classes or working on designs – anything that requires my full attention and tools/supplies, but no computer.
EXAMPLE 2: I usually keep Kayla company while she does her homework. This is a good time for tasks that don’t require much brain, but that might need some room to spread out. This is typically “pliers time” for well-understood projects.
EXAMPLE 3: Waiting for Kayla’s class to be released; sitting in the spectator area during swim class; waiting in line at the post office. Any time I’m out in the world with time to pass I bring small, portable work with me. (I’m writing the answer to this question as Kayla’s working on her frog kicks!)
I keep several different lists for different types of environments. I don’t “waste” Tuesday morning time on a task that could be done during swim class. And I make sure that I keep all the lists topped up so that I always have something in the queue when I discover a few spare minutes.
It was really challenging, more so because Kayla was a very “hands on” baby/toddler who was mostly uninterested in naps. Luckily, Mr. Spider is extremely supportive – I got a lot done on weekends and the occasional evening. During weekdays I just tried to stay flexible and creative about getting things done with a baby on me. If you slouch down far enough you can rest the baby on your chest and reach around to the pliers or the keyboard. Priority Mail boxes are apparently more fun to sit in than other boxes – especially if Mom is packing orders into similar boxes. Once Kayla was old enough to enjoy traveling in a sling, post office excursions became a great excuse for mid-day excercise. And so on …
Mostly I kept focused on how much easier it was than last week/month, rather than how much more difficult it was with a baby. And having such wonderful customers made a huge difference. I never once got grumbles when things were delayed because I was busy being Mom instead of being Spiderchain. So if you were my customer during 2004-2009? Thank you!!
I’m sure there are some subtle changes that I’m not consciously aware of, but the only specific thing that comes to mind is how SATISFYING it is to share the creative design process with Kayla. Seeing her go though the steps of creating something new makes the whole process somehow more valuable to me.
She’s been coming up with her own jewelry ideas for years (including one memorable necklace made with a paper napkin – seen below and modeled by Kayla, left) and I am fully convinced that the process of imagine/create/use has given her a better grasp of how the physical world works, plus a level of “I can” confidence that’s going to make her whole life more fun – and not just for jewelry! Manual dexterity, the ability to visualize and plan, the satisfaction of using a thing made by one’s own hands – these are all things that I would wish for EVERY child. (Earrings below designed by Kayla.)
I’m a terrible person to ask about business growth. Spiderchain has grown a great deal over the years, but it just happened – I never did anything “on purpose” to grow it. I don’t advertise. I don’t market. I just make really good stuff and I try to give my customers enough information that they can select the CORRECT really good stuff. So yea… have high quality standards and good customer service. But you might want to consider advertising too. *grin*
Math! Textures! Optical illusions and white space. But mostly it’s the math. I love that there are so many ways to combine a pile of thin tori into different patterns. And some of those patterns are unexpectedly gorgeous and tactile. Yea – I’m pretty much just a huge chainmail geek.
I sometimes start with a sketch, and sometimes sit down with a range of rings and just play. I make a line of jewelry brass rings for “guilt free” prototyping. They match the size of sterling rings very closely, but they’re inexpensive enough that it doesn’t matter if my design doesn’t work out, or takes a dozen size changes to get just right. Having a pile of rings staring at me is definitely inspiring – especially when there are a zillion sizes and it doesn’t matter if I goof up.
Give yourself artificial constraints. For example:
You might not accomplish your “goal,” but you’ll probably bump into some interesting patterns along the way.
That said, most of the inventing I do isn’t new weaves, but instead ring-size variations of standard weaves. Inventing new weaves is fun, but most of my design focus is on creating overall pieces, and for that, I like my dependable stand-by weaves. (Who me? Japanese 12-in-2?)
I certainly had several light bulbs switch on during the early days of working on my gloves. A bit of background… I had been making chainmail for (at most) a couple months. I had started my first real project (a shirt – never completed) and decided that a pair of gloves would be a good second project. In knitting (with yarn), gloves are a good bite-sized etude that helps the knitter gain a better understanding of how to fit the human form. So I thought “Hey! I’ll do the same thing for chainmail!” I had no clue just how ambitious the project would turn out to be… But there were plenty of Ah-Ha moments (plus some frustration and colorful language) involved in with-grain expansions/contractions, CROSS-grain expansions, joining, fitting, etc. I’m glad that I decided to make a pair of gloves, but I have to laugh at myself for choosing it as my SECOND project.
I mostly teach private classes at my studio in Castro Valley, California (near San Francisco). If readers want to schedule private classes, they should send me email. (email@example.com)
I don’t travel to teach very often. Currently I have only two teaching events scheduled for 2012. In early March I’ll be teaching a weekend-long intensive at the Revere Academy. And then in early June I’ll be teaching an assortment of classes at the Bead&Button show (registration opens in January).
Another DVD? Maybe some day, but for now I’m working on a book. Don’t get your hopes up – it’s taking a very, VERY long time to write. It will (eventually) be an intermediate/advanced book all about Japanese weave. It’s my favorite weave in the whole world and there’s no end to the variations you can make. Wonderful, YUMMY weave!
It’s been far too long since we’ve gotten to dive into the mind of a great chainmaille artist and we are thrilled to have Spider of Silverweaver and Spiderchain as our next contributor. Spider has been a longtime friend of Rebeca and Blue Buddha Boutique – basically, we adore her. Not only does she produce incredible chainmaille supplies, great projects, and some awesome instructional DVDs, but she’s just an overall great lady. When you consider all the things Spider does (on her website she says “I’m Spider, the founder of Spiderchain Jewelry. I’m the designer, webmistress, accountant, shipping department, and janitor. I coil, cut, count, weave, choose, email, anodize, troubleshoot, and teach.”) it’s easy to forget that she has another full time job – mother.
Spider is a chainmail artist currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her childhood was spent in Mendocino, a secluded community of artists on the California coast, though eventually she followed her left-brain to Boston to join the technology revolution, receiving a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. After several years as a computer geek she discovered that her passion lay not in technology, but in art and today she spends her time discovering new and beautiful ways to weave metal.
Spider’s passion for making and teaching others how to make chainmaille got her started with her own business, however as many small business owners can attest to, the day-to-day dealings are often less glamorous (in Spider’s case, fulfilling supply orders, answering customer questions and keeping up with inventory) than the passion that got them started. For Spider, the challenge to manage her time stems from the need to keep up with her business each day knowing that when her second grade daughter comes home from school, it’s all about homework, cuddle time and swim lessons.
Here’s your chance to meet some of the friendly folk in the B3 booth this year:
Gail, wearing an awesome Jacob’s DNA ladder necklace. We sold out of those kits in sterling in 1 day, and in base metal in 3 days. Whew! (And yes, we’ll post more sterling kits online soon!)
Lori, our cash-register goddess, decked out in Rebeca’s chainmaille scarf & lots of chainmaille with beads that she made. She’s grabbing a swig of water, which is typical booth behavior. It’s amazing how parched one gets workin’ the booth!
Rebeca & Spider, the fabulously talented chainmaille queen of Spiderchain.com.
Per our usual tradition, we went for a group dinner to The Safehouse. Kat forgot the password to get in, and Lori, Omni & Omni’s girlfriend never knew it in the first place, so they had to waddle like penguins in order to prove their worthiness as undercover agents and gain access to the restaurant. (Jen & Rebeca knew the password, but decided to be mean and not share. And be even meaner and take a photo! On the way home to Chicago, Rebeca reminded Kat what the password was, which caused Kat to give Rebeca a little punch. But we bet Kat will remember the password next year!)
By the end of the show, we were a little loopy. Fire Mountain Gems had passed out hats to vendors and students, but no one was wearing them. So Rebeca decided to show FMG a little love by wearing the hat, but of course, what fun is a baseball cap if you can’t wear it sideways? Here are Kat and Rebeca, with the hats on, and flashing the “pliers” signal. (Yes, the pliers signal in motion is indistinguishable from the “scissors” signal. Details, details…)