Chain Mail Jewellery & Accessories by Angie Mack

Necklaces

The Happily Ever After of Design

I really love the classics, making a simple, traditional weave or chain without much added to it aside from a clasp is often my favourite thing to do (possibly because I often still frustrate myself by trying to make specific ideas work after it’s apparent I don’t know how to!)

The above piece – ‘Morning Star’, a collar necklace with a corset style ribbon fastening at the back – was started last year and was supposed to be a veil. I couldn’t get it to do what I wanted it to, so I abandoned it in favour of things I did know how to do.  Then, several weeks ago, I decided to try and make a conscious effort to create jewellery with a bit more of a unique personality, something that was distinctly “me”, or rather “mine”.

I recently bought some rings but was sent a different size than what I ordered, as it turned out they were perfect for Full Persian, so rather than mess about with exchanging them, I set about seeing exactly what I could do with one of my favourite chains. First thing I decided was to finally try and recreate the dragon tail lariat and incorporate some beautiful Czech glass beads I bought many months ago because they reminded me of dragon’s eyes… It didn’t work out, but while I was playing around with the chain, I ended up splitting it in half and adding a scale pendant.

Which made me realise a couple of things. My idea of what a uniquely “me” design should be was less about distinction and more about complicated, elaborate ideas no one else had thought of or done yet, but the above necklace (which I aptly named Remnants of A Dragon) is relatively classic and simple in all aspects of its design, and even if someone else has made exactly the same necklace before, I think it’s very much “me”, and hopefully distinctly so. The other thing I realised is that my creativity is at its best when I’m not trying to form jewellery from a complete idea, but instead just looking at how a piece has decided to form.

It was much the same whenever I picked up my pen to write – my stories were always significantly better if all I did was explore the characters and let the story develop naturally. If I tried to come up with a story and make my characters follow it, I was never satisfied with how it turned out.

So… I’ve being picking up some of my older, abandoned pieces and rather than trying to think of new or different ways to make them into what I originally envisioned, instead I’m looking for different forms they seem to take to naturally. Which means I still get to experience one of the things I used to love most about writing stories – being surprised by how things turn out (even if it’s a simple, classic ending)!

Everyone’s processes are different of course; I know there are lots of people out there that begin and end with very specific ideas and either know exactly how to create them, or don’t stop until the piece is exactly as they envisioned it. I’d be curious to know how many people are “see what happens” kind of creators, or “know what happens” (or both), and whether it took them any time to discover which works best.


A Few Recent Pieces

I just realised how long it’s been since I have posted here, so thought I would share a few things that I’ve been up to…

It’s summer here in Australia, so with that in mind, I used citrus colours when I designed this fun little scale flower headband, which can double as a choker.

The tutorial for this piece also appeared in the summer edition of Digital Beading Magazine.

While stainless steel is my most commonly preferred medium, I do love a bit of colour and “pretty”, so picked up some anodized niobium in a water mix of colours – my original design didn’t quite work out, so I wound up learning a new weave to use the rings and this bracelet was the result:

I particularly like the purples and blues in anodized niobium, plus the almost irridescent sheen it has, which doesn’t quite show up with the standard point n’ shoot camera I have – this is called Orc Weave, but reminds me of little butterflies.

I also tried a little experiment with square shaped rings, plus exercised my (very limited) wire-wrapping skills to attach the pendant on this necklace – Chain Mail Squared.

The weave itself is just a standard European 4-1, mixing round, open stainless steel rings with the square rings (gunmetal black plated brass), and even though the wire-wrapping is quite simple, it took me a few attempts before I was happy enough with how it looked and held. The back of the necklace is multiple strands of organza and cord in a matching purple.

The store has been quite busy (for me), especially in the last couple of months of 2013, so time to create new things has been a little scarce, but I’ve recently finished up a course I was doing and hopefully I can keep these things updated a little more often.


The Eyes Have It

I wanted to do something a little bit different to chain mail and these pieces were the result – I haven’t worked with bronze or bronze tone metal a great deal, and I’m not sure blue is the most perfect match for it, but I’m still fairly pleased with the overall result, especially considering as once again I managed to work in components I bought over a year ago and had long decided I’d never use!

I’m finding that I’m taking a lot more time to piece things together lately, which has its pros and cons, but ultimately means I end up with designs that look more complete, at least to my own eye.

Obviously the focal point of these pieces are those striking blue eye cabochons, and blue glass crystal beads.

The earrings were a bit of experiment in quirkiness, if but subtly, and I deliberated for a while about the overall effectiveness of having two teardrops on one and one teardop on the other, as I have a thing for symmetry when it comes to earrings (it’s funny how these little decisions become a huge deal, after a while, too), but after trying the even combinations I really quite like the effect.

Meanwhile, I have a few larger-scale projects I’m working on, which I hope to share soon, including a fairly extensive Japanese 12-2 piece – WIP photos soon.


Spiked Full Persian Lariat – Tutorial & Kits

 

This is a new version of a design for a piece I made a while ago, using bright aluminium with spike adornments.

The tutorial for this piece has been published in the third issue of Digital Beading magazine, and once again Aussie Maille have pre-made kits available, which contain all the materials you need to replicate it.

 

My thanks once again to Kelly (Digital Beading) and Deb (Aussie Maille), for all the work that goes into making these available.


Seriously Spiked – Chain Mail Necklace

One idea often leads to another, and a few months ago I used the double vision chain mail weave to make a similar bracelet. Not long after, I thought it would make a good wallet chain, and when finished I took this photo…

I was looking at it the way the chain curves and the how the spikes look a bit like teeth, then decided it actually looked a little like an ‘alien’ spine, so came up with the idea for making something with spikes on both sides of the chain. In the end, it was necessary to alternate the direction of the weave to get it to work the way I wanted to, but it turned out pretty much as I had envisioned (which is rare!)

I plan to take this idea a bit further and construct something much more elaborate, just need to get enough material together. In the meantime, I’m trying to include a bit more non-silver material into my work (particularly brass and bronze), so will hopefully have something a bit different to show soon.

 


Chain Mail Scarf Lariat Necklace

So, my computer died a while back and I’m currently having to share a lap top until I can replace mine. You’d think less time on a computer would mean you have heaps more time to get other things done, but for some reason it hasn’t quite worked out that way, but I did get the chance to finish off this piece – a remake, pretty much, or something I attempted a year ago.

One of the first projects I wanted to try my hand at was a chain mail scarf – just a nice, long strip of European 4-in-1. The first time around I used 14 gauge bright aluminium rings, so it was bigger, chunkier and even longer (by about 20cm). It looked ok, but you certainly wouldn’t have been able to call it a piece of jewellery.

These are 21 gauge stainless steel rings with a 5mm OD, meaning the weave is a much finer mesh than the 14 gauge piece. I used around 1600 individual rings, which may or may not sound like a lot, but it’s probably about 5-10cm shorter than my ideal (ran short of rings, but decided it was ‘finished’ after adding the chain tassels).

The main goal was to create something that din’t look too much like a scarf or necklace in particular, but could more than easily be used as either, which was where the first one failed.

I know there’s nothing particularly special about a piece like this – it’s a pretty basic weave and, truth be told, didn’t exactly take many endless hours, but I’m still pretty pleased with it. Plus, about half-way through I had an idea for an E-6-1 version that will (hopefully) be a bit different.


Helm Flower Cluster Statement Necklace

I’ve shown a couple of pieces recently using helm flower units, but this was one of my first ideas for how to use them, although I originally wasn’t going to use colour. I recently bought a bunch of mixed anodized aluminium rings (random sizes and colours), which pretty much resulted in thinking of things to use them for, looking to see if there were enough rings for my idea, start making it regardless, and seeing what happens.

So, this happened when I decided to apply randomness (in as much as  could), to an older, more structured idea – helm flowers in various colours and sizes, connected with little flower links, plus some butterflies thrown in – chaos and gardens go fairly hand in hand with butterflies.

I always feel that unique pieces like this need a name, so this is Serendipity (not exactly original, I know, but it’s apt none the less). The colours were determined by what I had in the right ring sizes and amount, and placement was mostly random, though as I had more pink and blue than any other colour, I did try to space them out a bit, and the design itself is symmetrical, so there’s an underlying uniformity to it all.

I still have a heap of different AA rings left to play with, so I’m sure there’ll be more colour experiments to come.

AM


Chain Mail Statement Pieces

These pieces were part of my resolve to try and make something a little more unique, although in saying that, they were inspired by some bridal wear I spotted while browsing etsy last year – such as this.

I’m sure you can see there’s a lot of potential for experimenting with the basic concept, and while my first two attempts aren’t quite as elaborate, I first wanted to get a feel for basic construction, where it might need support to sit the way I envision, and whether my first idea – a necklace with a “wrap” around the shoulders, was actually wearable for a decent length of time without becoming uncomfortable or continually displaced.

Obviously, I could still jazz this up quite a bit if I wanted to, but for my first attempt I wanted to keep it quite simple and used some pretty basic weaves in stainless steel. The diamond shape at the centre is Japanese 12-2, and the rest is European 4-in-1, interrupted with larger rings just for  a little extra interest, and to help match the two weaves with one another.

All in all, I consider it a success, as it sits the way I wanted it to. I also wore it around the house for a little while and was pleased it didn’t get cumbersome or shift around when I moved.  I also realised the chain that wraps around the shoulders can also go under the arms for a slightly different look, and used that to solve a problem I had when finishing off the next attempt.

I really didn’t have a set idea in mind when I started this, only that I wanted it to be more “interesting”. I started with making helm flowers in the purple, adapting them slightly (making the weave quite tight and firm, causing them to take on a more diamond shape). I ended up adding in the blue mobius rings after realising a chain with such a bold purple really needed something to break it up and contrast with, which the steel just doesn’t do. Ultimately, I just kind of threw ideas at it and kept what seemed to work!

What didn’t work was trying to make the lower chain sit at shoulder level – primarily because I’d used all the purple and blue rings doing what you can already see, and I couldn’t find something that would both complement them and keep it sitting higher up (the stainless steel one works, even though it only has one point of support, because it’s actually a lighter chain, and is balanced by equal weight at the back); plus, I really liked the way the lower chain zig-zags across the chest, and adding in more support would have meant it followed a rounder line like the necklace.

So, that’s a couple of the ideas I’ve been working on – I’d like to do something quite a bit more gothic with this idea…eventually!

AM


Understanding How To Make Jewellery Ideas Work

This isn’t so much of a ‘how to’ as it is a few thoughts on my personal experience, which I hope might be of help to other beginners who, if they’re anything like me, have a thousand ideas that only sometimes seem fully realised.

If I made any resolution for the new year, it was to try and make more distinctive, one-off pieces. That was actually my primary goal when I first started mailling, or rather, the reason I started mailling, since it wasn’t something I really saw in mainstream jewellery, but when I first started making jewellery (before I’d even looked at chain mail techniques), I quickly realised that my ideas were rarely translated well to finished pieces. The reason being I simply didn’t have the knowledge or technical skill to do so, and it took me a while to realise that putting a bunch of components I liked together without understanding or knowing how to properly refine the ‘fit’ was like trying to finish a puzzle with pieces missing, you might know exactly what the picture is supposed to look like, but without those pieces it’s just not going to look right.

So, for the last year or so I’ve been building on my basic skills, and I guess you can say I’ve been ‘learning the language’; learning how to fill in the blanks, construct, deconstruct, and play with formation in the hopes of ultimately arriving at my own distinctive style – something more than being able to construct weaves well enough. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but being able to create pieces like this makes me feel like I’m one step closer (particularly in comparison to the first piece of mail I made!)

This matching necklace and earrings is still quite simple in terms of design and construction (helm flowers with azurite chrysocolla beads), but  I think it has a level of finesse that I wasn’t able to give my jewellery a year ago. I used to try and make my ideas work no matter what, often using crude methods that resulted in poorer quality, and even downright ugly, pieces. Wanting to be able to create unique, hopefully desirable, jewellery meant I had to stop being as impatient as I usually am with artistic pursuits and start from the beginning, which has also meant I’ve been able to progress from ideas inspiring the drive to create, to skills and knowledge being able to inspire new ideas (especially when the original idea just won’t work, at least not yet).

These pieces are actually quite far removed from what I wanted to do with the Helm flowers, but matching them with the chrysocolla beads was (for me) unexpectedly effective, both in terms of the colour combo and the alternating shapes. I’m also glad I persisted with some of the wire techniques (having come to chain mail after giving up on wire-work). I haven’t perfected them, but I’m glad I can do some of the basics well enough to incorporate a wide variety of different materials to the mail.

I still consider myself a beginner, and I’m still at the stage where I’m predominantly in awe of, and inspired by, the work of others, but I’m also beginning to see that concentrating on learning over just trying to be different has started to result in my ideas actually working and in more accomplished pieces.


Angelic Mechanism – Men’s Steampunk Inspired Necklace

I really love some of the steampunk  jewellery I’ve seen by some (very ) talented artists, and while I don’t quite have the skills (or components) to piece things together for a ‘real’ steampunk piece, I really wanted to try my hand and putting something together inspired by some of the more common motifs.

I also have a distinct lack of jewellery specifically for men, usually just going for chunkier materials or using square wire rings for a more masculine edge, but no genuinely original designs, so I decided to take the steampunk theme and try to create a distinctly masculine piece, and I’m fairly happy with the result.

The focal chain at the centrepiece is a mix of links – the silver gear connectors, solid faceted round silver rings, and square wire brass rings formed into mobius units, all linked with round stainless steel rings. The pendant is a simple wing stamping attached to another gear connector with plated copper wire.

The rest of the chain is just a simple 3-3 link using smaller and finer gauge stainless steel rings for a ‘rollo’ effect, which also reminds me slightly of a bike chain, so I thought it was in keeping with the theme. I would have actually preferred the two cog connectors at the side to be smaller, but beggars can’t be choosers, unfortunately.

Still, although quite often things I try to make masculine somehow inadvertently take on an obvious feminine aesthetic, and despite thinking this piece could just as easily be worn by a woman, I think I managed to achieve what I was trying to with this – and for once there’s no skulls, spikes or dragons in sight!

AM


Spiked Chain Mail Jewellery

Spiked jewellery is something that has remained fairly consistently popular, and certainly seems to go well with several chain mail weaves, so I had a bit of fun with them recently and thought I’d post a few of the results.

The main image is a necklace that can be worn high for a choker, or lower for a standard necklace. I based this on the Double Vision¹ (aka Barrels) weave, but chose larger rings connecting each of the units so that I could fit the spikes on them (I originally put a spike on each large blue ring but it made the chain just a little to stiff as the spikes take up just a little too much room and push the silver rings slightly outwards).  At the centre is a Not Tao 3 unit being used as a bail, and just a very simple alloy metal pendant to set it off.

This bracelet uses the same basic weave and design as the necklace, except that there’s only two rings at the centre of each unit, and the larger connecting rings are slightly bigger, allowing me to attach a spike to each one.

After that, I had a go at some earrings, and made several pairs based on the following basic design.

Each additional pair I made, I used a different bead to adorn them, in between the chain and the spike. They’re all rather simple in terms of design and construction, but I thought the results were quite effective.

AM

1. The Double Vision weave uses two rings at the centre, as shown in the bracelet, and I’m certain there’s a proper name for a weave that uses three rings (as there is for one ring – RSD), I just don’t know what it is and couldn’t seem to find it.


Japanese 12-2 Flowers

I thought I’d put all the recent projects using this weave into the one post, particularly as the only real variations are material / colour, and purpose. The flower units are made using the Japanese 12-2 weave, which can be expanded upon for much larger projects. So far, I’ve just mostly made the little flower shapes using it, which I’ve either linked together for chains or used as components in earrings.

The first picture is made from orange anodized aluminium rings (matte), which is a colour I wanted to play with a little as you don’t see it used too often. The connecting rings are stainless steel. (The AA rings are 18 gauge, 5/16’s and the steel rings have a 5mm OD, using approx. 0.7mm thick wire – just a little thinner than 20 gauge, anyway).

The rest all use the same basic structure to make bracelets and earrings. The units can be linked together in different ways as well, eg 2-2 instead of the 1-1 link I’ve used, which will make the individual units look a little less floral as well as make the chain sturdier, or you could form a loose web.

AM


Not Tao 3 Choker (Green, Black & Silver)

The Not Tao 3 unit has always reminded me a little of the biohazard symbol (not an exact match, I know, but the similarity is enough for me), so when I saw the gas mask pendants I decided to combine the two for a choker.

While I did take a look at this tutorial for Not Tao 3, I din’t have rings in those sizes and also found it easier to construct the units in a different way, which I’ll try to get around to posting soon as I think it would work well for most Not Tao units. (These units use 1.2mm thick stainless steel rings with an 8mm OD, so an AR approximately 4.65, and just the standard AWG 18G – 1.2mm – 3/16’s, AR around 4. They aren’t super rigid on their own, but work well in a chain as they maintain both shape and a little flexibility).

Once I’d made a few units, the first problem to solve was which way to link them together for a nice looking chain – obviously from the image, I went with a very simple 2-1-2 link between each unit, but I do have a habit of overcomplicating things from the outset and first tried to link two points together so that I’d ultimately have to link two to two, then one to one and so on….if that makes sense.

I also tested linking them so that every second unit had the point facing the other way so that it would take on a bit of a zig-zag pattern, but while that could work for a bracelet, it’s ultimately a little awkward for a choker.

I think this would probably look good with some neon green crystals set into the eyes of the mask, or possibly done in red. For an even more elaborate cyber punk look, I’d go for some green spikes attached all the way around.

AM


Redesigning Old Work

 

Several months ago, I purchased a bunch of white and purple AA rings, intending to make some snowflake units. That didn’t quite pan out (an AWG vs SWG issue with the rings sizes I bought), so I learned the butterfly weave shown above. (Still yet to get around to actually making snowflakes!)

This choker was one of my favourite pieces in its original form (shown below), as it was probably one of the first things I made that I was personally impressed with.

 

As you can probably guess, I have a bit of a thing for purple (in various shades), but despite the fact that it was something I’d definitely wear myself, no one else seemed to think it was all that great, so I decided to give it a makeover – I switched the bright aluminium for black, took off the crystals and added the heart and wing pendants, and voila, a slightly darker, more Gothic looking piece.

The difference isn’t overly dramatic, but I think it’s an improvement and it just goes to show that some pieces can take months before they’re truly finished (if they ever are!)

AM


Gothic Sword Necklace with Beaded Byzantine Chain

One of the most frustrating things about designing and making jewellery can also be one of the best things about it too – namely, when things don’t quite go according to plan, yet sometimes that works out for the best.

This piece started out with vague intentions of either  a multi-strand bracelet, or the chain for a wirework tree of life pendant I made, but once the basic chain started to take shape and I could get a clearer idea what the finished piece might look like, it became clear neither of those two were really suitable, so i started thinking about a choker with lots of overlapping chains….

None of those really worked out, then I rememberd this pendant I had, sitting unused with a whole bunch of others. I bought it mostly because I really liked the overall gothic aesthetic it has, with the filigree style frame and ornate pattern. It’s not technically a sword, but as it’s in the shape of a broadsword, it makes it easier to refer to it as one.

Once I had matched the pendant to the chain, it needed a few finishing touches, so I added half-byzantine drops on the outside, with clear crystal teardrops and more pearl beads.

The chain itself is made from 6mm OD stainless steel rings (1mm thick), the darker silver colour of stainless steel really complements the “vintage” silver tone of a lot of components available these days, so I combine both quite often, and I think those gunmetal coloured pearl beads make the piece stand out a bit more than a simple, true black would have – probably the most ‘Victorian’-looking piece I’ve made so far.

AM


Fun with Cherries – Chain Mail Necklaces

Cherries and cherry blossoms have been one of my favourite motifs or themes in jewellery for quite a while, so I decided to experiment with beads and pendants this week (although, technically I think the pendant is a plum blossom branch).

The necklace above is a choker which I decided to keep simple and primarily about pink. The chain is just a 1-2 pattern made from bright aluminium plus pink anodized aluminium mobius rosettes, with green anodized aluminium links where the pendant and bead clusters are attached.

The pendant is a relatively inexpensive component that I painted with a pink enamel (from mixing red and white gloss enamels). The bead clusters have a 6mm rhodonite bead and 4mm green glass bicones in various colours.

After that was done, I decided to take the concept a little further and try for something a little more elaborate and exotic, which resulted in this necklace.

This one is made from segments of European 4-in-1 weave (5mm stainless steel rings, plus 6mm rings), connected to pink, green and silver mobius rosettes (aluminium rings). I went for a true cherry colour with the bead clusters and used the same green mix for the glass bicones. I decided to include the emerald green butterfly beads to give it a bit of a garden aesthetic, if that makes sense.

The first one I think has more of a spring flavour to it, while the second a little more suited to winter.

AM


Heart Pendant Necklaces – Beaded Chain Mail with Wire Work

Before I found my niche (so to speak) with chain mail, I attempted wire work and really didn’t do so well with it – it’s a lot more work, and requires much more finesse and patience, than I expected and I gave up on it quite quickly. Generally I wouldn’t be proud of that, but chain mail was the next thing I tried and while I didn’t get the hang of it straight away, my failure with wire work made me determined to stick it out with the mail. I’m really glad I did, as I love it more than any of the jewellery techniques I have so far learned.

The point, though, is that I have continued to not only admire the work I’ve seen done with wire, but wish I was somewhat competent at it so I can incorporate it into the mail. So that ‘s what these two necklaces were about. They’re nothing special, but they’re definitely a drastic improvement on my earlier attempts.

The first necklace is a simple beaded chain made with black anodized aluminium rings and white crackle glass beads (which I love), plus enamelled copper for the wire work, which I kept quite simple. The pendant is clear glass with a mirrored finish on the back, hence the warbled reflection of me an my camera – I’ve dubbed it the Ice Queen’s Heart.

The other one was quite a bit more work and uses ‘proper’ chain mail, with a stainless steel beaded Byzantine chain – the beads are black agate and smokey grey, translucent glass crystal.

I don’t think wire work will ever become a major component of my jewellery (I still find it a little daunting and frustrating), but I’m glad I persisted until I was satisfied with the result.

AM


Olivia Byzantine Pendants with Green Indian Agate

I’ve been wanting to incorporate more bead-work into my chain mail jewellery so decided to try wrapping a single bead with the Olivia Byzantine weave. Initially, I planned to make several of the beads surrounded by the chain mail and link them together for a bracelet, but as it turned out I didn’t quite have enough rings to do it, so they became the base for pendants instead.

I used 4mm plated copper wire rings and 6mm Indian agate beads, plus plated copper wire to make the pins and alloy bead caps.

The green is quite murky in both the dark and light shades (almost khaki), but I think it looks quite lovely when contrasted with silver and ultimately makes for an elegant necklace (or earrings, which I probably would have done if I had found four well-matching shades in my bead supply).

My photography isn’t the greatest, but you get the general idea.

AM


Bronze-n-Berries Necklace

This necklace was made using a simple European 4-in-1 chain mail weave, then adorned with pink and green bead clusters.

I used 5mm vintage bronze tone rings to weave the mail (approximately 20 gauge wire, 5mm is the total diameter, so the ID is about 3.4). Each bead is on a separate head pin, with the clusters attached to lengths of chain in sets of three (2 x pink & 1 green bead for each cluster).

AM