Costumes, costuming, and San Francisco

armor - front

How custom pieces get started is simple, ask me if I can do what you’re looking for in a manageable amount of time. Most of the time, I can handle a private commission on top of my regular work load. Also, I like a challenge. I like to be able to say, ‘yes, I can do that’ without thinking twice. I love being able to made something new, different, and unique for soarmor - front2meone. Most of my commissions do not take me more than a month.

Chainmaille has a long history as armor. Only in the last 10-20 years has chainmaille become something more and different. I make jewelry. However, I also make armor. Very recently, I was commissioned to make a three piece set consisting of a bra, a back/shoulder piece, and a panel skirt (front and back panel that doubles as a belt). All three pieces matched as a set made of anodized aluminum and bronze. The chainmaille itself is a Japanese weave where two sizes of rings are used. I went a step further and used three different colors with the Japanese weave. The scale maille is also three different colors – black, black ice (shiny black/silver), and bronze. This whole set is made up of these three colors. This set got started when I received an e-mail frarmor - back2om a friend of a friend asking if I would be able to make a chainmaille bra for a cosplay outfit. After a couple of e-mails we had a face to face to sort out what she was really going for. She had never met a chainmaille armorist before and didn’t know what I was capable of. The face to face is always a great opportunity for me to sort out the kind of person my client is and what their goal is for the commission. This is also the point where her concerns armor - backwere expressed- she has curves and wanted to make sure I understood that simple triangles were not going to cover her very well. I always take these sorts of concerns to heart when working with anyone. The face to face is also when price, time, and deadlines are discussed. Once we had our face to face, she came over to my studio for measurements. After those meetings are taken care of- I wait for supplies then go to work. With this set, I was given 4 weeks from start to delivery- allow one week for supplies to come in from Canada. So, 3 weeks to complete the three parts of the set. When all was said and done the set took me a solid 24 hours to complete and most of that was the Japanese weave chainmaille and the last parts of the bra. The end result is very interesting, beautiful, and worth the ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ I’ve put into every piece I’ve ever made.

Once a piece is delivered, that’s it. Off to the world my work goes and on to the next project I go.

San Francisco is a city of events that demand good costuming. Nearly everyone in San Francisco has at least a box under their bed full of costumes and costume pieces that mix and match to create all sorts of different outfits. This armor set is a part of the long standing San Francisco tradition of elaborate and unique costuming.

How time passes

Many people who have seen my work have asked me how long it takes me for me to complete a piece. Well, I do a variety of styles of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, as well as other/larger pieces like shoulder/back armor and other costume pieces. Making chainmaille, in general, is very repetitive and can be very meditative. Some knitters I know would say the same sort of thing about knitting. Another comparison to knitting- I like to have some sort of background noise’ on while I work. This could be anything from videos on YouTube, movies on my computer, or anything on Netflix or Amazon Prime. The ‘background noise’ serves a dual purpose – first as background noise, the second is to help me keep track of how long a piece takes for me to complete. Most of my shows have 45-60 minute episodes. I keep track of how many episodes it takes for me complete a piece – especially if the piece is a private commission.
So, coming back to the question of how long it takes me to complete a piece. The amount of time may be a couple of hours, by I’ll always respond with a couple of episodes of whatever show I was marathoning at the time. When I marathon I show, I’ve very likely seen it many times before and knew what was going to happen in many episodes, but none the less enjoyable to listen to while working on a chainmaille piece. Some of my best pieces have come from ‘watching’ various seasons/episodes of Dr. Who, Firefly, Game of Thrones, and other shows.
The latest big commission, which consisted of several very large pieces, took me two whole seasons of Game of Thrones (20 episodes at 45-50 min each) to complete. This commission consisted of a scale maille and Japanese weave bra, panel skirt, and shoulder/back armor pieces made of anodized aluminum and bronze. To say the least I was excited to get the commission and excited to complete it. I was less excited about it when I was in the middle of working on it feeling that there was no end in sight.

Wedding jewelry

One of the biggest changes for me over the last 3 years is that I got married at the end of this past February. The wedding was small with our close friends and family. Everything was done in a very simple manner- nothing over the top and nothing too fancy. Everything was pretty well to what my husband and I wanted. Two of the biggest things for me were my dress and my jewelry. Because I sew and sew decently, I made my dress. My grandparents owned and ran a fabric store when I was a kid and when they sold the store they held onto a fair amount of bridal satin. They provided all the fabric I needed for my dress. Then the jewelry. I made sets of jewelry (earrings and necklace) for each of my three bridesmaids as well as for myself. All four of us were wearing Byzantine chain necklaces and earrings. The earrings had sapphire blue swarovski crystal drops. All of the pieces were made of sterling silver.

Simple Byzantine chain with Swarovski crystal Byzantine earrings

One of the key parts of my wedding jewelry was that I didn’t want my jewelry to be a ‘one off’. I didn’t want to waste perfectly good jewelry on just one day. So instead of going super fancy or overly elaborate, I went simple. I went with a style that I could wear everyday with any sort of attire for any occasion. I also had my bridesmaids in mind. I knew all three of them well enough to know that something simple would be better for the three of them. Something they could wear again. Two of my bridesmaids didn’t have pierced ears, so I did switch the french hooks on screw/spring backs.

My wedding jewelry was not the first time I’ve done jewelry for a wedding or a special occasion. With any sort of special occasion jewelry I’ve gone very elaborate to very simple, as well as beaded jewelry and chainmaille jewelry. I enjoy doing wedding jewelry just as much as I enjoy doing other special occasion jewelry. As far as this type of jewelry goes, I get into a very different state of mind. I know my work is going to be worn on a special day for the client and that means extra care that the piece is perfect.

A little of the East and a little of the West

The idea of mixed media is far from a new concept. We see it all over the art world in fashion, music, 2D and 3D art, painting, and jewelry. My work doesn’t really lend itself to the idea of mixed media. However, the mixing of chainmaille weaves or styles does happen–usually with great results. Most of my mixing of styles or weaves happen when scales are involved.

My current ‘massive project’ is one of those occasions when a client has a vague idea of what they are looking for but doesn’t really now what I am capable of. I love meeting new clients who’ve heard of me from a mutual friend and then showing them what I can do with a bunch of little rings. In this case, she was looking at a lot of my European style weaves and then I pulled out my Japanese weave pieces…and that was the end of that. She fell in love with the Japanese weave and then the fateful question came out, ‘can you do this (the scale armor), with that (the Japanese weave)?’ My answer, ‘sure!’ Granted, I’ve never done it before, but that’s never stopped me before. I’ve always enjoyed the idea of a challenge with a new piece. This particular ‘massive project’, is multiple parts consisting of a scale maille bra, skirt, and shoulder/back armor. This is massive for one person and so far it is turning out better than I had originally planned or originally envisioned.

scale maille

11179979_10152821097522934_4659446605171900839_nOne of the bigger and newer things I’ve been doing in the last 3 years has been scale maille (I also call it scale armor de11159974_10152821100617934_3387818503628140721_npending on the piece). I get scales in three sizes (small, medium, and large) and depending on the size, the piece can turn out to look very delicate to very armor-like. Scale maille has been nicknamed dragon scale maille often enough and there is truth behind the nickname. Many of my pieces, especially the small steel pieces, have been called dragon scale pieces. For most of my small scale maille stainless steel pieces I don’t ‘mix metals’ where if I start a piece in steel, it’s only going to be steel -sometimes steel and bronze, but not very often and never steel and aluminum.

10544660_10152753366017934_3817772081911682521_nWorking in anodized aluminum is always tough because I’m working with color combinations and patterns. Many times, I’m not entirely sure what a piece will look like until I finish it, but that never stops me from starting new pieces. Most of my pieces start simply with a color combination (blue/silver, purple/green, red/black, etc.) and away I go with a new piece. 11393042_10152920539667934_9006902439418105676_n

Several weeks ago, I wore a different scale piece each day to work for a week. My work dress code is all black but jewelry/accessories can be and should be colorful and a focus or conversation piece. So, with that I wore all the pieces I could. This proves great as a conversation starter about my work. I have no problems with being a walking billboard for my own work.

11046667_10152722843162934_6805629882789504876_nAnother great material the small scales comes in is engineered plastic… these just happen to glow in the dark. The glow in the dark scales are great for more than just necklace style scale maille. I have made shoulder/back pieces out of the glow in the dark scales and the pieces tend to turn out really well, especially when going from light to dark environments.

New Materials

Getting back to the swing of this blog is not easy I assure everyone. Much like my chainmaille work, things have changed dramatically in my life over the last 3+ years. My writing style has changed. My inner monologue has changed. And especially, my materials have changed.

Over the last 3+ years, too much time, and too many injuries, I’ve quit spinning and cutting my own rings. I now buy my rings from a supplier out of Canada. The Ring Lord. Yep, you read that correctly, The Ring Lord. At least they have a good sense of humor about what they do and what they sell. I love their selection and because I am buying my supplies now, I can do so much more with my work. Different sizes, different colors, different metals, and different weaves.

The biggest change in my work has been that I have been working in anodized aluminum- this means color! Anodized aluminum is colored aluminum in the same process as pop cans. Below is a mix of half-persian bracelets of just a handful of colors I have available now. I have to admit, I have a ton of fun with the different colored pieces I have created.

anodized aluminum half-persian bracelents

anodized aluminum half-persian bracelents




Much like Futurama…

The last 3 years have been a very wild ride. I won’t go into too many details, but it’s good to be back writing about my creative life. My chainmaille has only improved over the last three years. I work in anodized aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and bronze these days. I’ll work in other metals upon request. I’ve also gotten into scale maille and there will be future posts about all of these things in greater detail as well as pictures of all of this for context.

Now, the Futurama reference- Futurama is one of my favorite tv shows that has also gone the way of the Dodo. However, it went through several years of being canceled and brought back. So, now I’m back and hopefully, I won’t go dark again for a long time.

pressing personal matters

Because of personal matters my August post(s) are delayed. Mostly, there hasn’t been much new in my creative process. I’ve had to take some personal time to get my work/home/art lives sorted out but once I get everything a bit more settled I’ll be good to go with more creative and interesting pieces of jewelry.

For August I have been showing at City Art gallery (as I normally do) but this month I’m in a case as well as on the wall. My wall pieces are a part of the theme show “San Francisco”. They are a rainbow chainmaille bracelet/earrings set and a nice beaded set. I’m pretty happy with the pieces just as I’m thrilled to be in a case this month. I’m in a case with fellow jewelry artist Beth Wellington. She and I do very complementary pieces but very individual work as well. I truly enjoy working with Beth-she’s fun and always has interesting insights about more than just the jewelry work we both do.

In other news, I started working with a monthly event called the League. This is a monthly party/salon/cabaret at Mission Control. I work as the PR goddess and I’m enjoying it a lot more than most of my recent gigs. The people are pretty awesome and the people make all the difference in the world. For August I’m also going to be a part of the salon: the ABC’s of Accessories-tips and tricks to interesting and unique accessories. I’m going as a chainmaille jewelry artist (and PR goddess). This is something I can get into without thinking too much–I just have to figure out where to start…

August in San Francisco

I know it is still July but I’ve got a show in August that I’m prepping for that I felt the need to write about. So, upcoming show–this is the City Art Gallery August theme show–the theme: San Francisco. This is an annual August show for City Art and I was in it last year…and loved it. I love the SF show for a couple of reasons, first and foremost it means colored chainmaille is perfectly acceptable. Last year I did a black and orange choker/earring chainmaille set and a Victorian’esque beaded set. For everyone unfamiliar with San Francisco sports–Orange and Black are the SF Giants colors.

This year, I’m going seriously technicolor. I made a rainbow chainmaille bracelet and earring ‘set’ for SF Pride in June that I’m putting into the show. I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing with the beaded set but it will be pretty and totally within the SF theme. One big thing about the theme shows at City Art: so long as a piece REMOTELY fits the theme it’s in.

Another big thing about San Francisco in August. At the end of the month, virtually everyone leaves for Burning Man. I am not going this year but I am ok with this. I’m looking forward to experiencing a lull in the city.


outside is a reflection of the inside…

I have been an artist for several years. Every show, every month, every year, I feel I have to re-establish myself and reassert myself as an artist. I truly feel the need to do this when I have gone through difficult times in my personal life.

I have been through some very difficult things in my personal life that have in effect messed with my professional life because I can not compartmentalize as well as others. However, through all the difficulties I have been able to yet again re-establish myself as a jewelry artist. So, once again I have to remind myself what it takes to make a piece of statement jewelry-a part of what it takes is the attitude of the person wearing the jewelry. When you’ve got a piece of jewelry that is a statement or conversation piece that tends to be the focal piece of the outfit. The clothing may be interesting but neutral but the focal piece is what gathers the attention of anyone the person is around.

As a chainmaille artist- I tend to wear my art. Mostly chainmaille earrings and sometimes a bracelet are in my regular attire. Jeans and t-shirt are also a part of my normal attire–this means my chaimmaille is my focus and it is intentional. There have been others who wear my chainmaille with simple but formal attire.

These photos are the work of a friend, Michael Shannon, who is a far better photographer than I am. His work can be found on Facebook HERE.