Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scales, Skeletons and Eyes, Oh My! (It must be Halloween!)

Halloween might very well be my favorite holiday, and I've been up to a lot of fun, creepy things at my studio lately! First off, I made some of my shop staples, like pendants and earrings, in orange, purple, and black. There's even a "candy corn" version of my chain earrings in stock right now!

I also recently got 2 supply shipments: One contained the necessary ring sizes I needed to start making scale flowers! The name sounds a little creepy, but they're very cute!

You can see about 20 of them here, in different colors. I'm still working on ways to use these guys. I attached 2 to barrette clips as prototypes. I've been wearing them all week to make sure they're secure & will stand up to normal wear (& I've gotten a ton of compliments on them, too!) So far, so good!

There's also a prototype for scale bracelets at the top there. I LOVE mine, the scales stand up when you wear it, like spikes! But its loosely woven enough that the scales will just slide out of the way rather than catch on to things. I'm planning to have both of these up in time for the holidays (because, actually, as a shop owner I'm VERY behind on the holiday thing, I think a lot of serious Artisan businesses already have a sizable stock ready to go)

Now for the other supply shipment, which is a lot more in the Halloween spirit and I'm really excited about: Skull Cameos!

These are just the first 2, I actually purchased a dozen in different color combinations. I found great ring color matches for most of them, and the epoxy is curing on them now. The half-persian chains I wrapped them in are tight enough to stay on on their own, but with enough wiggling/pushing the piece will pop out, so I'm making them extra secure with some epoxy glue designed for metals and jewelry.

I only got a few of these cameos, and in only one design, to try it out. I think they turned out really cool, and if they sell out I'll be sure to grab a bunch more! (also, sorry, but I'm keeping the black/red one in the picture. It just matches my Renn Faire costume so perfectly! That's a problem with making things to sell, sometimes I love my stuff so much I want to keep it for myself! But I can totally find & make another if someone really wants one.)

Trying out pendant-wrapping techniques reminded me of something I stowed away for a long time. I had a crazy idea last summer to paint flat-backed domed glass pieces, and bezel set them into brooches. The best thing I could find to paint on was....
Eyes! Clear taxidermy eyes, to be exact! I don't remember the exact type of animal eye this was supposed to be. Alligator, maybe, or some kind of fish. Anyway, it was really fun to imagine these as Dragon eyes, and coloring/designing them around different types of dragons (see why my profile says I'm nerdy?). I'm working on chain-wrapped settings for a few of these, I'd like them to look like talismans made from the spoils of hunted mythical beasts! Still working on that, though, but its fun and kind of festive to have eyes floating around my desk this month.

Will keep checking in this month, but right now I'm off to go brainstorm designs for my jack o'lanturn!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Importance of Good Tools, or: Don't Hurt Yourself!

Every good craft starts with tools: a needle, a sewing machine, a hammer. In a chainmailler's case, that tool is pliers. You might need a mandrel and a saw or some wire cutters to make your rings, but without pliers, well.... opening and closing rings with your fingers is pretty tough, so you need some pliers.

I think most beginner maillers do one of two things:

1) Buy heavy-duty pliers from a hardware store, or
2) Buy "jeweler's" pliers from a craft store.

Both of these are fine to start with, but pliers you can buy at hardware or craft stores are only meant for quick uses, not for hours and hours of continued use. Once you get really into it (and you will get really into it!), you're going to want pliers that you can use for hours on end without hurting yourself. Here are the key things I think are important for good pliers:

1) The size is comfortable in your grip

This is a pair of pliers that fits nicely in my hand along with a "mini" pair I picked up at a craft store. The minis are ADORABLE, but horribly, horribly impractical. They are way too small for my hands, which makes working with them extremely awkward. Hardware store pliers that are the size of your entire forearm aren't a good choice, either. (but "electrician's" pliers are a good place to look!)

2) ergonomic or very soft handles that fit nicely in the shape of your hand

This is the type of handle that you'll most often find on craft store pliers. Its pretty much just a thin rubber coating around metal, so after awhile of use you'll start to feel that metal pushing against the palm of you hand pretty acutely.
Most hardware stores offer "tool dip", a gooey substance that you dip tool handles in to to get a thick, rubbery coating. It comes in a lot of colors and you can add multiple layers on your handles for a much softer, squishier grip.

3) little to no "spring-back"

The first picture shows 2 pairs that have small metal strips on the inside handles, this sort of creates a springy lever to help pop the pliers back open. The second photo shows pliers with a spring. Basically, you don't want that spring or springy lever to be too strong, because your pliers will spend more time closed than open, and you don't want to have to put too much pressure on them to keep them closed. If it feels like too much work to hold your pliers closed, you can use another pair to break, bend, or rip that springy piece out! I've never had a pair where I've felt the need to do that, but its an important thing to look out for.

4) Lastly, depending on what metals you plan to work with, you might want one (or both) pairs to have a little "tooth" to them (a textured or ridged surface on the inside, where the ring is held) to help keep your grip on metals that like to fight back, but too much "tooth" and your pliers could make marks on your rings, and the "my dog chewed on it" look isn't a great finish!

So, you know what to look for in good, comfy pliers, but what to get? There are so many kinds! I think every mailler has their own preferences and their own favorite set. Here are mine:

Chain nose (above) and round nose/needle nose (below). Round nose pliers, obviously, are round, and chain nose pliers are rounded on the outside and flat where they meet, creating a D-shaped profile. My chain nose pliers are from Otto Frei's ergonomic line; they have an extremely comfy handle and a very, very slight textured surface on the flat parts, which gives me just enough "tooth" to hold on to rings without marking them. My round nose pliers are electrician's pliers from a hardware store, again with a nice ergonomic handle, and a really nice small tip for handling tiny rings.

Last, but certainly not least, we can't forget every crafter's most important tool: Your hands! Always give yourself breaks. Put the pliers down, let your hand muscles rest. Even if you're really excited to finish your hauberk/necklace/whatever, you want to keep doing this for years without the painful side effects of repeated muscle stress. You'll thank me later :D

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

... Hello? Is This Thing On?

Welcome to the official blog for Mage Weave Designs!

Mage Weave Designs is run by Paige, a recent college grad who's attempting to make a living doing what she loves: Making jewelry & art. My "specialty" is chainmaille, but I am a maker at heart & have a lot of crafty loves.

Handmade beauties don't just leap from one's mind strait onto Etsy's front page, there are a LOT of steps in between, and that's where this blog comes in! I plan to blog about my creative process, Conventions/Art Show adventures, what I'm working on at my bench right now, and what inspires me (mostly video games, historical/fantasy stories, alternative fashions, and other geeky wonders), along with some content for the crafty, art-loving, eco-friendly geek, because I'm sure I can't be the only one, right?

Actually, I have a lot of geeky hobbies, and I hope to eventually talk about all of them (there's WAY too big of a list to post here!).

Have a question? Want to request a topic/hobby/game/craft for me to cover? Want to complain (I hope not)? Feel free to email me at mageweavedesigns (at) gmail (dot) com! Or send me a tweet! Or leave a comment! I'd love to hear from my adoring fans fellow geeks, nerds, and gamers :D

Oh, I live with my boyfriend and my pet flying squirrel (what?), so they'll probably be mentioned here too!