Sunday, June 22, 2014

Makers part 20


Chainmail is a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked or welded together in a pattern to form a mesh. The technique has been in place for 3000 years as a method to make protective covering. The name "mail" is derived from the French word "maille", which comes from the Latin word "macula" which means, "mesh of a net". My featured maker, Miriam is a contemporary jeweller who uses this technique to make beautiful and timeless pieces and her work can be seen in her etsy store The Lovely Dame.

Can you tell me a little about your background? 

When I was twelve years old, my parents sent me to Germany to go to school and to learn the language. I lived with my grandparents, didn't speak a word of German, and knew no one my own age. To help me make some new friends, my grandparents signed me up for a jewelry class at the local activity center with the idea that there would be many students my age with whom I could connect. 

I was the only student in the class. This ended up being a life changing moment for me, as I was able to completely devote myself to learning how to make jewelry, which has become a lifelong passion for me. When I arrived back in the U.S. I was itching to learn more about the art and I was lucky enough to attend a high school which offered jewelry and metal working classes. My mother also discovered a program at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City called Saturday Live which offered weekend classes for high school students, and once I saw the studio and got my hands on the tools there, I was hooked. I started traveling to the city every weekend, spending 8-10 hours every Saturday in those wonderful studios, absorbing everything until one day, about two semesters into the program, I became the teacher’s assistant. Helping the other students and walking them through their projects made me realize another passion in my life: teaching.

Ever since that time in Germany, I have been making jewelry, teaching art and loving every minute of it. Jewelry making holds a special place in my heart. It is a very meditative process that has helped me overcome many challenges and has opened many, many doors for me.

What do you make?

In my home studio I make bracelets, necklaces and earrings using new and recycled materials. I focus mostly on chainmaille, but also enjoy using pearls, glass and gemstones. 

What attracted you to this particular medium? How did you get started?

I had been making jewelry since I was a little girl, though in the beginning it was mostly making necklaces out of plastic beads to play dress up with. I had never been exposed to the art of metal working until I traveled to Germany for schooling, but once I got started, I was hooked.

How long have you been making?

I have been making chainmaille jewelry like the items seen in my Etsy shop since I was 12 years old. When I was around fourteen I learned how to solder and to use other techniques such as hollow forming, lost wax casting, and piercing and sawing. Piercing and sawing, which is a technique that allows you to cut intricate patterns into a sheet of metal, is one my favorite things to do (besides chainmaille, that is).

How does your practice fit in with your everyday life? Do you have your own studio space and when do you work and where?

I work from home, and have my studio set up in one of the spare bedrooms. I try to spend several hours at a time either working on a new item or photographing existing pieces, but more often than not I will get an hour or two in before something else needs my attention, like the pets or getting dinner together for everyone. We have since moved to a larger space, and now that I have a dedicated studio I am looking forward to being much more productive and efficient. In our previous location, I would often find myself making my jewelry at my bench, or moving to the kitchen table if I needed more space.

What are the best and worst aspects about working with this medium? 

I would say that the best thing about working with this medium is that there is really no limit to what you can do. If you have the time, the tools and the ability, you can make anything you put your mind to. It is fun and meditative, and I have found that after becoming familiar with so many different tools for work that I have become quite the handyman around the house.

Who or what inspires you?

My inspiration comes from good music, great art and a love of nature.

Do you get creative blocks? If so, how do you deal with it?

I do get creative blocks from time to time, and I have found that the best way to deal with them is to just step away from the project for a while and then look at it later with fresh eyes.


What other mediums would you love to explore?

I have started sewing recently, and would love to learn more about it. I’ve been making simple things like pillowcases and basic skirts, but it would be nice to take some lessons on more complicated pieces. I’ll be honest and say that sewing patterns confuse me sometimes, leaving me with some pretty lopsided pieces.

What do you hope to do next with your practice?

I am looking to make more jewelry using pearls and semi-precious gemstones in the next few weeks. But first, the studio needs to be unpacked!!

Thank you Miriam!

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