It's an exciting day here on A Bead A Day!!!
I have the privilege of hosting a wonderful new book author as she explodes onto the virtual book tour scene! This is where we would be tooting horns, throwing confetti and wearing hats to celebrate this exciting event!! :)
Rebeca Mojica is probably not a new name for those of you who have found their way into the chainmaille world. If you are familiar with the Blue Buddha Boutique
, you are familiar with Rebeca!
When I first discovered the BBB, I remember having a mouth-dropping moment! I had no idea these jump rings, in all colors, could be assembled into such fabulous and complex designs!! Ever since I've tried my hand at this, as you might remember, I have been in awe of such talent!
One of the most exciting aspects of her book is that she is selling kits to accompany the projects! You can find them on the BBB site
. You can actually see project pages from the book which is also exciting!! :) This is amazing Rebeca! Thanks for taking the time to answer my beginner questions below!
Question 1: Opening and closing of jump rings sounds like an easy jewelry making process until you see the complexity of some designs. What advice would you give to beginners who might be intimidated by the process?
Answer: Don't start with the most complicated project you can find. :-) If you love a particular "advanced" weave, find out what the easier versions for that weave are, and start there. I once had a student who wanted to take classes just so she could make a micromaille bracelet. So, I started her off with the European 4-in-1 Mesh bracelet using 18-gauge rings. If I remember correctly, I even made her create two. We worked a lot on her technique, making sure she was closing the rings seamlessly. Once she mastered the bracelet in this size, I moved her down to 20-gauge rings. She received a pack of 22-gauge rings to continue practicing at home, before finally tackling the micromaille cuff using 24-gauge rings. She noted that "this gets exponentially more difficult, the smaller you go!" She did eventually make her cuff, but I'm sure that if she tried to dive right in with the tiny rings, she would have gotten too frustrated.
Interestingly, many intricate chainmaille weaves are not exponentially more difficult, and are only as tricky as the sum of their parts. So learn the various parts, and the pattern as a whole is entirely conquerable. Once you know box, making byzantine is a snap. Once you know Japanese 12-2, you can create all sorts of geometric shapes. There are plenty of striking patterns that are easy for beginners to learn, and with those base weaves in their pockets, they can adjust ring sizes, add colored rings or beads, and create entirely new looks. Ten weaves for the price of one!
Question 2: What is the most popular design for beginners?
Answer: There are a few really popular designs; I think it depends on personal preference. One of my favorites is the aforementioned Mesh Bracelet, because the pattern is easy to learn, giving beginners instant gratification. Another great beginner project is the Celtic Visions bracelet. It comes together in an unusual way, which really opens people's minds to the idea that jump rings can be pieced together in ways that aren't immediately intuitive. (But once you know what's going on, you've got it down!)
Question 3: I have worked with jump rings on a couple of simple projects and was concerned about leaving plier marks on the jump rings. I even went so far as to wrap my pliers with electrical tape. Do you use a special tool so that doesn't happen?
Answer: I love Tool Magic. When I first started making maille, I tried every sort of tape: electrical, duct, masking, and even gaffer tape. They were all still pretty slippery, and most left a gunky residue on my plier jaws. When I discovered Tool Magic, it was love at first grip. Not only did the rings not slip and slide around, but the pliers were not leaving any marks on the rings. This was especially important for me because even from the get-go, I used colored rings, and I wanted to keep the surface free from imperfections. Additionally, because of the good grip Tool Magic gives, I find I can work very quickly.
The only con is that the Tool Magic isn't permanent, and every couple of bracelets, you'll need to peel off the old coating and re-dip. I dip once, let it dry for an hour and then re-dip, usually allowing it to dry overnight. I have two sets of pliers, so that while one is drying, I can use the second set for my projects. I know it can get time-consuming to dip the pliers all the time, but I feel that I work so much faster with coated pliers, and I have far fewer "waste" rings due to scratching, that it more than makes up for the time it takes to coat the pliers.
: I've read that some pieces can be rock tumbled to shine them up. How does that work? Does it work on colored or coated jump rings?
: Most chainmaille can be tumbled in a rock tumbler. I recommend using stainless steel shot with a bit of burnshing compound. But you can still receive excellent results sans shot. What is happening, is that the shot (and the jump rings themselves) are acting like hundreds of tiny hammers, whittling away at any minor surface imperfections, which makes your piece nice and shiny. I want to emphasize minor! If you scratch the ring, you're not going to buff away the scratch just by tumbling. If you tumble sterling or copper pieces to a mirror finish, you'll also help prevent tarnishing, as the smooth surface doesn't have as much surface area for oxidation to take place as a rough surface does.
I have tumbled every sort of colored ring, with few bad affects. The color is affected most on titanium rings. Tumbling doesn't remove the color completely, but it does alter and mute it. You wouldn't want to tumble colored ring pieces for hours on end, but for 20 minutes here and there, it's perfectly fine.
: Would you recommend that beginners start with sterling silver jump rings or can they "jump" right in using the coated rings that come in MANY colors?
: Actually, I recommend that beginners don't start with sterling because of the cost. Now while I'm never one to tell people to NEVER do something, I do let beginners know that I've had more than one student who started with sterling silver, and then months later looked back at their first pieces, and were disappointed with the poor closures and felt the need to go back and re-do those projects. So it might be a good idea to start practicing on base metal (including those beautiful anodized aluminum or enameled copper colors) and then work your way up to sterling.
Some weaves (such as the Half Persians and Dragonscale) I highly recommend learning in multiple colors, because it really helps students see the pattern.
: Is it possible to learn chainmaille on your own through books and blogs or is it necessary to take a class to get started?
Answer: This completely depends on your learning style. I learned just about everything through looking at photos on the Internet, and figuring things out on my own. (There was only one or two books on chainmaille when I started, and neither of them were very thorough.) I know a few other people like me who almost instinctively know how to put together jump rings. Most people, however, need books or videos, or they need to take a class. I feel like a high-quality book is usually a good investment, especially if you are really intimidated. It will allow you to learn at your own pace, and you can skip around to projects that really interest you. Even if you can't make heads or tails out of the instructions, you can get comfortable with some of the terminology and tools involved. Then, if you take a class, you'll already have a bit of a background, and shouldn't feel as intimidated. However, if you know you never learn well from static photos, and catch on a zillion times quicker if someone shows you how to do something, then by all means, take a class!
If you want to see if maille might be for you, I have a few free tutorials on Blue Buddha Boutique's Kits & Instructions page, and my all-time favorite resource for free instructions is M.A.I.L.
Want more information? You can find Rebeca here:Chained
Blue Buddha Boutique