B3 Challenge – Finish Your UFO!

This Month, Set Aside Some Time To Tackle The Project That You Never Finished

Earlier this week, I posted about T, the 8-year-old who plugged away at his Dragonscale Bracelet until it was finished. I’m feeling particularly inspired by his dedication, so I’m going to make a promise to myself to finish one of my projects that’s been hanging over my head for a few weeks. If you’d like to join me, check out the challenge below:

B3 Challenge: Do you have a UFO (un-finished object) on your worktable? Don’t be shy, raise your hand. Or hands. Or maybe you need to raise a couple dozen hands! (That would be me, haha).

Now, how about you find one of those UFOs and commit to finishing it by January ___, 2020. (Insert whatever date is most appropriate based on your project, but push yourself. Don’t write January 31 if all you need to do is add a clasp. 😉).

Imagine how great it will feel to FINALLY get that project off your worktable. And then, just do it!

TIP: Pick a project that you know you have all the supplies for. That way you won’t get “stuck” waiting on a shipment to arrive, or needing to run to your local craft store. (If you have no choice but to pick a project that you need to buy supplies for, buy the supplies today or tomorrow (right now is best!), so that you will have enough time to finish your project.)

chainmaille mesh scraps in brown, grey and silverAs for me, I’ll be tackling the freeform necklace I put aside once holiday show season kicked into high gear, and then put aside again once I started to do end-of-year inventory & bookkeeping. No more procrastination!

I am committing to working on this piece this week Thursday (the 9th) and Saturday (the 11th) for at least 45 minutes each day. I will complete it by Monday, January 13.

Be sure to write down your plan, too. You can leave a comment below if you’d like extra accountability, but either way, be sure to write your commitment and put it where you can see it. You got this!

Feel free to share your finished UFOs by emailing [email protected] or posting online with hashtag #B3CreativeChallenge



In Case You Want To Give Up On Your Chainmaille Project, This Kid Might Inspire You To Keep Going

8-Year-Old Conquers Dragonscale

I’d like you to meet a student of mine, “T” (name obscured for privacy). T was 7 years old when I first got a message from his mom. He’d recently discovered chainmaille at a Renaissance Faire, and his mom shared a photo of the European 4-in-1 he’d made at the faire. She described how excited he was about chainmaille. We chatted over several emails, and I set him up with multiple additional projects to develop his skills.

Fast forward to a few months later, and I get this message from his mom:

“Do you think for my [8th] birthday we can ask Rebeca to make something for me that’s really really hard?”🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣. The idea that my boy is asking for chainmaille for his birthday cracks me up. I told him a compromise could be that we pay you to teach him something “really really hard”.

Awww! A 7-year-old boy wants to spend his special day with me learning chainmaille. No offense, adults, this was probably the coolest birthday request I’ve received.

I sent a list of 5 potential weaves over. I remember debating putting Dragonscale on the list. I mean, it’s difficult enough for most adults to learn. But I figured, “what the hey, there’s an 80% chance he’ll chose one of the other weaves.”

Of course. He. Picked. Dragonscale. 😂

OK. Challenge accepted!

The Lesson

Before T arrived, I created a starter piece for him so that he could “get into the groove” right away, and then we could learn to start a piece from scratch at a later time. (I do this with a few tricky chainmaille weaves, as I find it’s easier to start a weave if you already know how to make the weave.)

I walked him through the steps of Dragonscale and quizzed him to make sure he could figure out what step was next based on looking at the current state of his weave.

It was slow going, which in all honesty is completely expected for Dragonscale. (In my years of teaching, I’ve only had 2 students complete their Dragonscale cuff in a 3- or 4-hour class). T had about an inch and a half completed when the lesson was up. His mom had the brilliant idea of videotaping me doing the weave, plus me doing a demo of the particular point in the weave that kept tripping him up. And with those videos and a set of paper instructions, I bid him luck!

The Result

A few weeks after the lesson, I got an S.O.S. message to help T troubleshoot a mistake that he knew was there but couldn’t figure out.

Mistake successfully troubleshot. Back to the grind. I knew from his mom that he was chipping away at this cuff, one ring at a time and determined to finish it.

About 5 1/2 weeks after the lesson, I got a text with some completed photos! He’d finished!

Dragonscale-bracelet-by-8-year-old-boyHere’s a closeup:

Dragonscale-cuff-closeupI actually squealed out loud and clapped my hands when I saw the photos. I felt so happy for him that he finished, and also, I was majorly impressed by his dedication. I suspect there can’t be more than a handful of 8-year-olds in the entire world who have finished a Dragonscale cuff on their own, so this is quite an accomplishment.

We’ve all heard the mantra “Don’t give up,” and we all know this is easier said than done. This mindset comes naturally to some people, and it has to be nurtured and developed in others. Based on T’s persistence with this weave, I have a feeling it’s natural for him to work to finish something he’s passionate about, and I think this will serve him so well in life!

Congrats, T, on making an amazing piece of jewelry!

Stay tuned for a challenge for YOU to finish a piece that’s been hanging out on your worktable for far too long. Let T inspire you! If you have any words for T, feel free to leave a comment below, as I know his mom will show him this post.


Happy New Year, Everyone!

2020: The Year Of Creativity, Connection & Kindness

 

rebeca-mojica-creative-guruI’d like to take a quick moment to wish you all a very happy 2020!

I’m not one to make resolutions, but I do make plans. As I was working on my plans for this year, I realized they were centered around three things: creativity, connection and kindness.

This feels like a “coming home” of sorts. These values have always been who I am … but I haven’t made it a priority to focus on them (which is a whole other blog post for another time).

I had a moment of reflection a few weeks back when I said “yes” to a project, and the reason I said yes was 100% because of the money. I instantly regretted it. It was at that moment that I vowed to never again in my life say yes solely for money. I realize that if a project isn’t going to be fulfilling for me in some way, no amount of money will make me feel good about doing the job. And it will only serve to pull me away from my life’s path.

I spent most of my freetime during December meditating and centering myself. During my holiday show season, I realized that since I connect best with people in person, I pretty much “gave up” on trying to build connections with customers once the retail shop closed down. Which is just silly! We live in the age of technology, and I certainly connected with so many of you before we had a retail store. So, I’m going to make it a point to *ahem* “figure out social media” 🤣, build connections and share ideas, inspiration and moments of kindness with you all.

I’ll be writing a lot more and creating content on other platforms and via other media (webinars and videos, I’m lookin’ at you!). I’m most excited to take part in a few Creative Challenges that I’m developing this year. I hope you’ll join me for someor all!of them, and I hope you’ll be inspired to reach out and share what you’ve been making.

I wish you success, the best health possible, and much happiness in 2020!

 

 

Meet The Person Behind The Company That Has Created Chainmaille For Mars And Middle Earth

Eric Matwe’s MailleTec Industries Is The Premier Manufacturer Of Welded Metal Mesh

In this edition of Blue Buddha’s Meet the Artist series, we’re heading up to Canada to get to know Eric Matwe of Swift Current, Saskatchewan.

If you’re newer to the world of maille, you might not recognize Eric’s name, or even his online handle, lorenzo. But you probably know some of the weaves he’s created, and you’ve almost certainly seen at least one movie or TV show with his work. (The Hobbit or Game of Thrones fans, anyone?)

Eric’s company, MailleTec Industries, has been making welded maille for customers all over the world since 2010. Their maille is a flexible, beautiful and highly protective fabric and is used for industrial guarding, movie costumes, protective equipment, architectural installations, and more.

Let’s find out more about Eric and his company! (Be prepared to see some BIG sheets of mesh in this post!)

Eric Matwe of MailleTec Industries

You’ve been doing this a long time. Exactly how and when did you get started with this craft?

I got started in the maille industry when I was 21, I had just dropped out of University and was trying to make enough money to pay for another semester towards a BFA. The best paying job I could find at the time was as a meat cutter at a meat packing plant in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

The butchers gloves that were issued to employees there were in disrepair and it was common for us to end up with infected cuts from the knife tip going through a hole in the gloves. Well, I took my own glove home and fixed it up with some brazed stainless rings, a couple of the other guys at work noticed my glove was fixed and asked if I could do theirs too. After that word got around and pretty soon the company had me on contract fixing all the gloves in the plant.

The money was good enough that I decided not to bother going back to University, I bought a house in town and started working on some side projects with The Ring Lord in my spare time. I did that for the next 4 years until the plant finally shut down and we were all laid off. At that point the girl I was dating moved to Saskatoon to finish her university degree and TRL had been offering me a job for the last couple of years so I just sold my house and moved there to work at TRL.

I’ll always be proud of the things we accomplished at TRL. We worked very hard over the years to improve the quality and variety of products available to the community but in the end I just wasn’t a good fit there. I resigned from my position at TRL with no real clear plans. Over the next year we still collaborated on projects and I would come in and do contract work when they needed me.

At the end of that time they approached me with an offer to sell the machine made maille portion of the business. I had been the one who operated and repaired the machinery and they weren’t able to find anyone else who could do it. I accepted the offer but I knew I couldn’t manage it alone so I reached out to two other former TRL employees, I brought them and my wife on as partners and we incorporated as MailleTec Industries.

chainmaille mesh chandelier in St Regis Aspen

How has the industry as a whole changed since you started making maille??

Well, on the small business side it’s grown and diversified exponentially. When I started there was almost nothing; if I remember correctly, only Lord Randolph and Master Knuut were operating full time businesses. TRL didn’t exist yet, and options for rings and wire were limited and expensive. The craft industry that exists today is, I would say, largely built upon the work we did at TRL developing and improving products for all of you creative people to use in your work.

On the other hand, the large industrial concerns such as Whiting & Davis have declined. Corporate mergers and bankruptcies have resulted in almost all of those companies moving their remaining operations overseas. Of course there’s still a market for safety equipment but instead of a few dozen companies in that market there’s now two or three.

machine made metal mesh by MailleTec

One of the first pieces of yours that I remember drooling over when I was starting my own maille journey in the early 2000s was your scalemaille vest.  Can you talk a little bit about how that came together? I feel like you had to be one of the first persons (if not the first?) to make such a piece?

Sure. That scalemaille vest was the first of its kind. I designed the scales and the method of attaching them in 2001. I was inspired after hearing about the difficulties that Weta Workshop had in making scale armor for the LotR movies.

gold scalemaille vest by Eric Matwe (lorenzo)All of the options available at that time were bulky, inflexible, heavy, expensive and most of them were ugly to boot. My goal was to develop a system of scale armor that was simple, inexpensive, light, flexible and above all beautiful. I went through half a dozen linking systems before finally choosing the one we use now. It was the simplest and could be adapted to commercially available parts without too much expense. Aesthetically I chose the shape of the scales to mimic the look of a rattlesnake.

After that first prototype vest TRL assisted with funding that allowed us to order custom tooling and have the scales mass manufactured instead of punching them by hand. Eventually they took over manufacturing completely and have invested a lot financially into new scale product lines while I handled the bulk of the R&D for them.

 

I thiman wearing chainmaille vest in trinity weavenk two of the most significant weaves you introduced to the world are Captive Inverted Round and Trinity. Can we take a minute to talk about the Trinity shirt!?!? It’s amazing. What was the motivation to create such a masterpiece? Do you have the stats for it (# of rings, and/or anything else you’d like to share?)

Sure, so my motivation was to make the best shirt I possibly could at that time. I wanted something light, strong, flexible and pretty. I already had the rings woven into a E4-1 shirt, and it was strong but the weave was too tight, it was stiff, it was ugly and just didn’t fit right. The Trinity weave came to me in a fever dream one day and I just knew I had to convert it. The front, back and shoulders fell into place as if they were meant to be but the side panels took some work to get right. They’re J4-1 hung at a 45 degree angle for maximum stretch, which is how the shirt is so form fitting in a tight weave.

The rings are #10L mil. spec. lock washers and there are about 20,000 of them. The vest weighs just over 10 lbs. I wore it to a bar for Halloween ’97, if I remember correctly, and some guy straight up stabbed me in the back. So it probably saved my life, even though I’m reasonably sure he only stabbed me because I was wearing it.

RS 5-206

What are some your favorite projects that you’ve worked on, and what were the challenges of each?

Well, besides what we’ve previously discussed, I really enjoyed making scale armor for The Hobbit movies. It was generally awesome to spend two weeks in New Zealand at Weta Workshop and meet some of the very talented people involved. More than that though it felt like coming full circle from my inspiration (LotR) to make better scale armor in the first place. There were a lot of challenges, design revisions mostly, and the pieces that made it into the final cut were nowhere near as epic as they were when we originally made them. They didn’t even get much screen time so it was a bit of a disappointment.

I’m very excited to have been a part of the NASA Mars Insight lander mission, I consider that to be probably the most significant project that I’ll ever work on. Having something that I invented and helped make with my own hands being flown to Mars is so surreal. It was an extremely demanding project, I had to modify our machinery to work with the Ti alloys. Getting the welds down to 0.01% errors with .5mm reactive metal wire was difficult to say the least. Besides that there was a lot of weaving to be done with the scale pieces and we were up against a tight deadline, everyone in the shop pitched in to get it done. I really hope that the experiment is successful and we will have helped advance human knowledge in some small way.

Mars In Sight Nasa JPL CalTec
animated gif of Mars landeranimated gif of Mars Lander

I also really value having worked for so many years with Neptunic, designing and manufacturing their sharksuits. I’ve spent months of my own time trying to work out better designs for the suits, getting feedback and slowly improving them. All things considered, that’s probably made it MailleTec’s least profitable product line but we’ll keep improving them as much and for as long as we can. It’s worth it to know that we’re helping to save lives, especially since most of those lives are working to protect the ocean ecosystems.

 

That’s really incredible! Anything else on the horizon that you’re excited to be working on?

Well, amazingly, the original patent for our maille making machinery was filed more than 100 years ago (!), in 1911 to be precise. The machines have been updated sort of piecemeal over the last century but have stayed more or less the same. I can’t get into too many details but we’ve been working on some new technologies to really bring maille back into its own in the 21st century.

iRings CS Neptec McGillOoo, that *is* exciting! I had no idea the maille-making patent went back so far! I wish you much success and can’t wait to see what your company comes up with!

 

One of our blog readers would like to know: Have you ever hidden a secret message in any of your projects?

Yes.

Ha! That’s great. I’d ask what it was, but then I guess it wouldn’t be secret anymore. 😉

 

cutting machine made mesh

What is the best part of running your business? What was the most challenging part?

The best part is being able to work with my wife and my good friends as business partners. The most challenging part is the toll that working too hard has taken on my health.

 

Care to share a current goal?

I need to lose 40 lbs

 

What is one tool that you cannot live without?

Hmm… I make most of my tools, so I can usually just make more. I do have a ballpeen hammer that’s been passed down to me from my grandfather, I’d say that would be my most valued tool. It’s the only one I can’t replace anyways.

chainmaille curtain

 

And now for the quick questions that I ask all participating artists:

Nova Shield HD-2Do you listen to music/podcasts/tv/etc while mailling? If so, what are your favorites?

Nope. Since I work with a lot of machinery I find that splitting my attention is counter-productive and sometimes dangerous.

What are your favorite artists (chainmaille or otherwise)?

As a Fine Arts dropout I have far too many favorites to list but Leonardo Da Vinci and M.C. Escher are likely at the top of that list.

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

I make other things too, I dabble in a lot of crafts and I always have a couple of projects in process. I spend a lot of my time learning new things and I like to travel and spend time outdoors when I can. To relax I usually play video games with my friends and family.

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

Always keep an edge on your knife.

What would your superpower be and why?

Immortality, getting old really sucks and I hear dying isn’t great either.

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

I grew up in a house with no plumbing, heat or electricity.

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

MailleTec Industries, Inc.
Facebook: MailleTec Industries
M.A.I.L.: lorenzo
The Ring Lord Movie & Commercial Projects

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Eric!

 

 

Meet the Artist Behind Several Of The Most Beloved Modern Chainmaille Weaves

Sara Sherlock Bastin, Chainmaille Weave Inventor Extraordinaire, Has Been Making Maille For 30+ Years

In this edition of Blue Buddha’s Meet the Artist series, we’re reaching out to the other side of the pond to chat with Sara Sherlock Bastin of Somerset, UK.

If you’re a mailler and Sara’s name isn’t familiar, you almost certainly will recognize her work. Known online as Corvus or Redcrow, Sara has been making chainmaille since 1988. She’s made 350+ weaves, of which 60+ are her own invention. She has thousands of images in her Redcrow flicker albums, so after you’ve read this post, head over there to check out all the amazing designs!

And now, let’s get to know Sara!

Sara Sherlock Basin chainmaille artisan headshot

You’ve been doing this a long time! Exactly how and when did you get started with this craft?

I was talked into joining a re-enactment society just after my 18th birthday. It was an 8th century re-enactment group so mainly consisted of Celts, Vikings and Saxons. Somehow I became a Viking and felt pretty naked compared to the guys in maille, so I talked one of them into teaching me basic Euro 4in1. He did and there was no stopping me, my first project was a shirt with sleeves for battle. In 8 days, I had a vest and several blisters. This was galvanised steel 2mm fencing wire wound on an old metal rod I found in my mum’s garden.

I soon realised I could make this stuff on a smaller and more wearable for everyday scale.

group of people wearing 8th century garb

Wow, 2 mm (14 SWG/12 AWG) galvanized steel is NO joke. I can only imagine those blisters!

How did you turn your chainmaille into a business?

Not sure how it became a business but might have had something to do with more and more commissions and my ex husband’s accountant mentioning issues with tax. So thought I’d better make it all official.

 

How would you describe your style and what made you different from other artists?

What is a style? I’m not sure. I always liked figuring things out for myself, so I supposed my style was trial and error. I still think it’s the best way to work as so many new weaves and variations on weaves are discovered this way.

As far as I know I was the only person in the UK making maille for something other than armour, at that time. That made me different from other artists.

I did shows, usually one or two a month and to everyone doing shows who feel disheartened, just keep going. Shows vary so much. I had for years a place in a local art gallery selling my things but again this can be disheartening as they add on so much commission.

Commission orders were what I did most. Nearly all my big sales were custom made things.

 

How has the industry as a whole changed since you started making maille?

The biggest change to me is the lack of sharing in the maille community. Ten years ago everyone shared their weaves, variations and tutorials freely, well most did. And we understood those things that weren’t shared were fair enough. I think now a lot of newbies are buying tuts they don’t really need to, either because their skill is enough or there’s another tut free somewhere.

Also there’s so much more supplies available now. You guys in the US didn’t really have this problem so much but in the UK the only suppliers were armourers.

 

You’ve come up with many, many weaves. Can you talk a bit about your creation/design process?

I used to maille in the evenings but I never really had a set time and I never really had to get into the right mindset. It was more a case of picking up the pliers and playing with rings.

As I said above most weaves were created by accident, usually while trying to make something else. Other times it’s a case of ‘I wonder what will happen if I do this?’

 

Ah, yes!!! That is my approach as well! It’s fun, isn’t it? What are some your favorite designs that you’ve come up with?

I love Aura most as it’s named after my daughter. And Persephone is pretty.  Honey Bee I love too.

Aura2 chainmaille necklace in silver with draping chains on dark grey background

I’m proud of JeanHP3Sheet5IR: it has a tech name, It’s a structural weave and something I never thought I would be able to make, let alone invent a new one.

JeanHP3Sheet5IR chainmaille weave in copper
On the flip side, is there a design that you just couldn’t get to work the way you envisioned?

There have been many I struggled with, especially Half Persian 3-in-1 joined. I struggled with this for several days, I eventually did it, but not before suffering a severe headache which actually is now thought to be the start of my health issues. I did join the weave eventually and then I wrote a tut on how to join Half-Persian 3-in-1 on M.A.I.L. The health issues were eventually diagnosed as MS, which is why I am now retired.

I’m sorry to hear that – chronic illnesses can be so very frustrating and challenging. I’m glad that even though you’re retired, you’re still a part of the community!

 

You’ve created so many weaves. Which are the ones you think most people don’t realize YOU were the original designer?

There are a lot of people who think Aura is someone else’s. As for the other weaves I doubt anyone knows they are mine. Nearly everyone on M.A.I.L. thought I was a dude for years 😁

 

*whistles innocently* I’m sure I was one of those people. (Though, to be fair, back in the day, I think the vast majority of the people on M.A.I.L. were dudes, heh…)

Do you have any go-to jewelry pieces that you’re nearly always wearing? If so, what are they?

Sterling Jens Pind Linkage bracelet, Aura necklace, Euro 4-in-1 ring

 

Your profile indicates you’re a retired maille professional.  So, tell me, are you ACTUALLY retired from maille, or do you still pick up your pliers and create pieces to sell? And what was it like deciding to retire from a creative business?

I do still make maille, just not everyday and not for hours at a time, my hands just can’t take it. It was horrible to give my business. It wasn’t just my living, it was my passion too but I’ve learned that chornic illnesses make you accept things you thought maybe you couldn’t. Plus I had so much going on in my personal life, I just couldn’t cope with any more.

I don’t sell unless it’s an exceptional circumstance but I still maille for myself and for presents.

 

Any other accomplishments you’d like to mention?

I’m proud to have taught in a jewellery university in Cornwall.

 

What was the best part of running your business? What was the most challenging part?

Best part was providing for myself and my children. Most challenging part was probably trying to keep it going in the slow times. And what to do about design stealers, don’t be one of those.

 

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before starting your business, what would it be?

Don’t rely on anyone else for anything.

 

Care to share a current goal?

To stay alive, lol! Seriously though, I just want to be here and do the things that make me happy as long as possible.

 

Hear, hear!


What is one tool that you cannot live without?

Pliers that were modified by ZiLi.

 

I’m so used to your online names Corvus and Redcrow, and I’m wondering if there’s any significance to them?

Corvus and Redcrow originally came from.just liking crows but in 2011-2012 a crow was part of my family. Jack lived with us for 18 months and then went back to the wild. He fledged too soon and couldn’t fly, so needed teaching. I had the business name Corvus before him but felt like destiny. 😄

montage of Jack the Crow with chainmaille artisan Corvus/Redcrow

Ahhhh! So cute!

And now for 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?

Yes Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Awol Nation, Porcupine Tree, Unkle, Queen …

What are your favorite artists (chainmaille or otherwise)?

Too many, really too many to mention cause I’ll forget someone and then I’ll feel bad. There’s you, ZiLi, Lloyd, Spiderchain, really this could fill the page.

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

Think about making chainmaille, lol. I love walking when I can and I have dogs, so I’m usually outside and muddy.

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

Care less about what other people think of you and concentrate on liking yourself.

What would your superpower be and why?

Flight. I used to have dreams of flying when I was a kid and that feeling is still with me. I want to fly.

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

I dunno! Maybe that I’m 49, or that I’m a beekeeper.

Before we let you go, please tell us where we can find your work!
M.A.I.L.: Corvus
Flickr – Redcrow

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Sara!