Cultivating Patience

3-Strand Byzantine Rose Necklace and Bracelet

As an engineer and Maille Smith, you’d think I’d have enough patience to last a lifetime.  I thought so too, but then I started on this necklace.  It’s a triple strand necklace of byzantine rose in 20g sterling silver and yellow gold filled.  20g rings are tiny.  Seriously tiny.  Then multiply that by 3 plus a bracelet.  Oy.

I came up with a system to work on this without losing my mind (mind you, I was in the last stretch of pregnancy so my mind was already extremely far gone).

Step 1:

Close silver rings and make gold roses.

Step 2:

Attach 3 pairs of silver rings to gold roses.

Step 3:

Weave chain and b-r-e-a-t-h-e and note how easy it was to construct once I got to this step.

The best way to weave it was to break it up by my moods.  When I needed my brain to calm down after fretting about the baby not coming, how tired I was, how itchy I was, I would work on Step 1 and make a giant pile of closed rings and roses and then walk away.  Coming back, I would work on Step 2 until I finished up the pile of roses.  Then I would either walk away again (come on, I have a toddler running around), or continue on to Step 3 and finish that bit of chain.  Lastly, I would attach it to the main group of chains and step back to admire my handiwork.  Breaking up such a daunting task was the best idea I’ve come up with yet.  If apply this method to other aspects of my life, I think I’ve found a great way to avoid procrastination.


Nothing Left to Prove

Chainmaille Goodness

Discussions with Allison are always interesting and thought provoking.  Our initial discussions can get overwhelming, but everyone needs that one person who tells you how it is and occasionally gives you a shove in the right direction.  She does a lot more than just that for me, but you know what I mean.  She pointed out the other day that most of my jewelry designs are bold, statement pieces that are sometimes over-the-top.  The gauge I work the chainmaille in is not feminine and some people have commented I’m taking men’s jewelry and trying to make it feminine.  The more I mulled over this, the more I realized how much my subconscious has snuck its way into my jewelry.

As the youngest of 3 kids, I’ve felt I’ve had to make an extra effort to be taken seriously.  I’ve also spent nearly a decade working in a male-dominated field, on top of being overshadowed by both my father and my sister who work in the same field.  But now with the kids, I’ve been making the mental transition of being out in the field to the backend of the office.  It’s taken some getting used to because I miss the field work and watching the construction work, but being able to stay home with my kids is just as rewarding.

There is some evidence that I’m transitioning out of that “I need to prove myself” mentality, most prominently in the Chinese Knot Collection’s station necklaces and earrings.  It’s just hard to de-program after so many years of fighting against the tide.  I do feel less of a need to be taken seriously and definitely less need to prove myself.  The next step in the journey is remembering that bigger isn’t always better and there is merit in simpler, understated designs.  We’ll see where this next chapter of life takes me and how that translates into jewelry.  Acknowledging where I’ve been and where I hope to go is the first conscious step.

Stone Spotlight ~ Moss Agate

Nice day to go to the park

38 weeks and no sign of baby.  And the wait continues…

The stone I’ve been craving the most during this pregnancy has been Moss Agate.  Supposedly Moss Agate will help with labor pains so I better make sure to pack some in my hospital bag.  It’s also the stone of new beginnings, which applies very well to this chapter of my life.  I’ve always kept a hoard of Moss Agate on hand, but I never truly utilized its fullest potential until I released both the Chinese Knot and Stepping Stones Collections, respectively.  My best sales for the past few months have been Moss Agate pieces.  Personally, I love the natural inclusions that gives each bead so much character.  Check out this link for more metaphysical properties of Moss Agate.  The photo below showcases my favorite lariat from the Chinese Knot Collection accompanied by some Moss Agate.  I also have available a simpler lariat with just the Moss Agate stones.  Click the photo or click here to shop.

Click the photo to shop!

The Production Process

The Chinese Knot Collection

I’ve already written about my process of design and how to cultivate creative through poking and classical music. So let’s talk about what it takes for a piece of jewelry to make it to production.

Several hours of debate and poking. Part of that poking includes this list of questions:

Is it strong enough by itself to be a statement piece?
What category does it fall under?
Does it meet the requirements of said category?
Can it be “broken” down into several coordinating pieces (i.e. Collection)?

Classic maille is the foundation of my jewelry design and sometimes you need something simple yet makes a strong statement. What’s a bakery without the staple chocolate chip cookie? What kind of engineer didn’t study calculus? Everyone has to start somewhere in order to lay out the foundation. So for me that’s where it all begins.

The next step is analyzing and being able to see a weave that can be broken down into either smaller “bits” or somehow manipulated into being adorned by beads. This particular skill has taken me years to refine and there are days when it’s still a challenge. But it’s all part of the journey, if you really want to get all philosophical about it. Sometimes it’s finding the perfect maille bit for certain beads. Other times it’s about showcasing the maille encrusted with beads.

From the photo above, you can see the versatility of the Chinese Knot Collection between it’s chainmaille foundation and how well it lends itself with the stones.  I really outdid myself with that collection and I have to figure out how to top it.  Now that’s going to be a challenge.

Modern Armor for Today’s World

Click on photo to shop now!

In the past, before there were guns, soldiers needed protection against pointy weapons like swords and arrows.  Chainmaille was the best protection against direct blows from these pointy weapons.  Even in today’s world, chainmaille is still used by butchers to protect themselves from being cut and shark divers to help prevent injuries from shark bites.  For more information, here’s the Wikipedia link.

In today’s world, our battlefield is less literal and more psychological than anything else.  Women in particular are facing countless battles and sometimes it’s nice to treat ourselves to something special and shiny.  Once our basic physiological needs are met (shelter and food), we start exploring what makes us unique and how to express our individuality.  Clothing, hairstyles, and jewelry help us accomplish that.

The necklace shown above is perfect for a man or a woman who would like to take the power of that ancient armor and harness it for use in today’s modern world.  This is my favorite necklace when I want to make a simple yet powerful statement, either showcased with a spaghetti strap tank top or peeking out from behind the folds of a crisp button down shirt.

At First Blush

Click on photo to shop now!

Mixing metals can be tricky, but nothing screams chic more than the silvery gleam of sterling silver against a blushing hint of pink gold.  This is by far my most favorite chainmaille bracelet because it’s lightweight enough to wear all day.  I made it exclusively for my engagement photos, so it would tie together the matching necklace in sterling silver and my rose gold engagement ring.  Yes, I am a romantic at heart.

This bracelet consists of a combination pattern of 14kt Rose Gold Filled “roses” with sterling silver stations of byzantine.  Typically, the byzantine weave shows off its central connecting rings, but this pattern is flipped over on its side to shake things up a bit.  The result is a beautifully and well thought out pattern that’s a perfect addition to every woman’s jewelry collection.  Different metal combinations are also available, so don’t be afraid to ask!



Juggling the Daily Juggle

Making maille is nothing but repetition, having good light and work area, and patience similar to a saint.  My goal of stockpiling little chainmaille bits has been working with my new method of working at the kitchen table (yes, this makes me reminiscent of Jo Packham’s introduction letter in every issue of Where Women Create, Where Women Create Business, and Where Women Cook).  I maille during breakfast as a morning ritual, as well as while Hui.1 eats his meals and snacks.  It’s a good way to be present and get things done.  I only have 2 pairs of pliers out and all the rings I need for a specific project.  This helps my mind focus when I work in my studio because having the little bits already made just makes for quick assembly and laying out new design variations for a collection.

The Work-Life Balance seems to be part of the new American Dream (after not being in debt and living with Mom and Dad as a 20-something adult).  After following Penelope Trunk’s blog for several years, I’m very happy with the way my life as a mother has unfolded.  Sure, it gets hectic when I’m sitting at the computer for most of the day and Hui.1 walks over to me every 15 minutes with a book in hand for me to read to him, but the fact of the matter is that I am with him to do so.  And when I’m at the office, he follows my mom and dad around everywhere, occasionally coming over to acknowledge me, then toddles off in search of my dad, unless Mom is in the kitchen, then he wants to watch.

When we are home, it’s a treat for both of us to go up to the loft together.  Now that he can climb onto the futon by himself, he enjoys being a “whack-a-mole” and greets me with a classic Hui.1 dimple grin of “HI MOM!”.  It’s the little things like this that remind me how lucky I am and how lucky my kids are to have me around with them as they face the big and scary world in front of them.  And it’s scary for me too, but we’re well armed with chainmaille, rocks, He-Man, and Dr. Seuss.