A Decade of Chainmaille

Ten years ago, on this day, I made my first piece of chainmaille.  *squee!*  At that time, I didn’t realize that my life would never be the same. I certainly didn’t imagine I would be where I am today.  It’s been an amazing journey, and I’ve learned so much from my students, customers, co-workers and fellow chainmaillers.

Here’s a little glimpse into how I fell down the rabbit hole 10 years ago:

I’d fallen in love with a chainmaille belt I saw someone wearing at a Renaissance Faire in Germany.  I couldn’t find any to purchase that I’d liked, either there, nor when I returned home. But I did find an eBay listing for “1,000+ rings! Make your own chain mail!”  I figured I didn’t have anything to lose, so I bought the rings.  They turned out to be 16ga galvanized steel.  Oy.  I am lucky those rings didn’t scare me away, but instead, somehow caused me to fall in love with this artform.

Euro 4-in-1 chainmail belt

The very first piece of maille I made. I didn't follow any instructions; my fingers just instinctively knew what to do. My technique and speed, however, were a different story. ;-)

 

galvanized steel chainmaille

I had enough rings leftover to make a second belt. This one hasn't survived as well as the first one; somehow parts of it were cannibalized for other projects during the early parts of my mailling career.

making chainmaille with unusual tools

With no proper pliers around, I improvised. Yep, the desire to create maille out of that first pack of jump rings was too great. I couldn't wait to get started, so I used these li'l guys!

 

poor closures in chainmaille

Oy. I cringe looking at my first closures and non saw-cut rings.

 

20ga dragonscale chainmaille

Typical chainmaille insanity: I taught myself Dragonscale about 2 1/2 months after I started making maille, using, of course, 20ga rings! This is I20 SSTL with D20 ALUM/COPP — 20ga 13/64" (5.2 mm) stainless steel with 20ga 1/8 (3.2 mm) aluminum and copper.

 

Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen the industry really blossom. Maille seems to be everywhere these days, and there are some fiercely talented folks out there. I’ve seen some chainmaille artists, and even several suppliers, come and go (*sniff*). I’ve watched the number of known weaves documented on M.A.I.L. soar from 200(ish) to more than 1,100. I’ve spent more than 1,000 hours teaching thousands of students how to make maille.  And I gotta say – I still love what I do every bit as much as I loved making that first belt.

Thank you to everyone who’s helped me along the way: artists who’ve taught and/or inspired me, and stores and galleries who took a chance on a new artist/instructor—including Spider, Maillemaster, Emerald Dragon, Buddha, Zlosk, Sarah Chapman, Caravan Beads, Lillstreet Art Center, Aesthetic Eye — the Chicago Craft Mafia, the talented and hard-working crew of anyone who’s ever worked for B3, every single customer and student we’ve had, and many others. I am eternally grateful.

For more of my early work, see the post celebrating my 8-year anniversary of making maille.

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6 Comments on "A Decade of Chainmaille"

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Helen
9 years 6 months ago

Congratulations on your anniversary! Your site, books, and everything you offer to the chain mailler in all of us–is fantastic! Keep having fun so we can all continue to learn!

Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Great post. Congrats on your anniversary and thanks for all the inspiration you give.

Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Great story, and thank you for being my inspiration. I went to a renaissance faire but I bought the belt, lol. As a result I’ve only been weaving for 2 1/2 years. I just wanted to say that you helped me keep going with your fantastic size system, I was very confused and I still hate Aspect Ratio! Congratulations on your 10 year anniversary! Here’s to your next 10 :)

Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Congrats again, Rebeca, in more than 140 characters this time. I was looking through Chained a few days ago after filling out the survey for the aspect ratio class, and noticed May 4, 2002 and said, “hey, that’s 10 years!” :)

It’s great that you’ve helped transform the chainmaille world from hobbyist 16ga pinch-cut galvy rings and serrated pliers into the high-quality juggernaut of an industry that it is now. You have been an innovator in rings, tools, instruction (and instructions!), and especially design. (I still have fond memories of the inventing weaves seminar a few years ago.) Can’t wait to see what’s next!