Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Working on the Chain Gang

Perhaps my earliest non academic crafting goes back about 30 years ago when I was doing some costuming for an event we hosted for about 100  kids from various scouting groups in the GTA.  Our medieval themed camp included crafts and martial displays by a chapter of SCA (The Society for Creative Anachronism,  U of T campus) aka,  medieval fan boys and girls who love to dress up and play old timey .    

 While hardly the level of some of the SCA crafters who made articulated steel gauntlets,  I set forth with a steel rod, a power drill,  a coil of 16 gauge galvanized wire, wire cutters, pliers and no clue what I was doing with the intention of making myself some chain mail..   The end result was this coif which was  too short to be of great advantage in real combat but has become a staple in the family costume bin ever since, it even gets borrowed on occasion by a teacher friend for high school history classes.   

The only major crafting fault with the chain was my inability to neatly reduce links and bring the edges together at the crown, other than that I was pretty pleased with myself and eventually got it plated to keep it shiny.   As far as real armour goes each link would have been hammered flat at the joint and riveted together and I had no intention of going that realistic.

While his project was the simplest 4 in 1 chain mail patterns  I also  manage to self discovered a couple other commonly used patterns such as 4 in 1 and 8 in 2 spirals and ended up making belts,  necklaces and key chains most of which are long since lost or broken.

Also from this period is a single orphaned earring of the type I made for the “Ladies of the Court “ to wear.

It is this one earring that brought me back to this form of crafting, I still had the tools and I even had a pile of jump rings from ½ a life ago and since my recent production of bentwood rings was causing me some distress from the sawdust and CA glue fumes in my under ventilated basement (but that’s another whole post) I decided to go back to mail work but step it up to something other people could enjoy.

After a couple of botched attempts at relearning the weaves and realizing my eyes will not allow me to work on tiny jump rings like 3-4 mill very often I was off.
  Chain mail has a large varieties of patterns and weaves, with rings in many sizes  and materials; brass, copper, gold, silver, aluminum (coloured and shiny) niobium and once you toss in the beads the you’ve have a myriad of design options to keep the interest of even the most fickle crafter. 

One of my current dilemmas is how to price and sell one's work?  I love to give people stuff they enjoy but I cannot simply produce endlessly for the limited pool of people I know.   Eventually they won't want more and practically I cannot simply give stuff way forever without at least covering my costs.

Time wise a simple pair of chain earrings requires far more work than slapping together a few beads on a head pin and adding a ear hook.     Provided you avoid gold or sterling jump rings chain jewelry should be cheaper to produce than doing projects with nice beads, which can get quite oppressive when you start working with beads that aren't just plastic or cheap crystal .  

                                           Fake pearls,  less than $10 for a string of each colour 

                                                     Vs. $17 reg price for a pair of beads

I want to cover my materials for sure  and it wouldn't hurt to at least build in a bit of value for my time yet it would appear quite a number of people on Etsy aren't even doing that with their crafts.  I can't see setting up a E-Commerce site with all the hassles of shipping and correspondence just to break even yet this is what I appear to see with many vendors on Etsy, I don't get it.

 I'm pleased that people seem to like some of what I'm doing but I don't see how I could even rent a booth at a local crafting show for the prices I seem required to compete with.  So how do others value their work and peddle their wares once the volume of one's hobby starts to outstrip household demand? 

I guess that's the problem with this kind of work, take up painting or carving and you can sink many hours into a single project and they don't tend to pile up so quickly..   who knew?.....

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