Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fall Trend Alert: Cooler Weather and Warmer Colors Ahead

It's almost back to school time, and that means changing trends in fashion and decor. Don't forget that Tennessee tax-free weekend is August 5- 7th. Clothing purchases of up to 100.00 in one place are tax-free! That includes vintage and consignment too. Last year I did my tax-free shopping at Carolyn's Consignment shop in Murfreesboro. She even had a one dollar rack with some fabulous finds. She has a great selection of handbags, shoes, and jackets, along with women's clothing. Click here for directions: http://www.superpages.com/bp/Murfreesboro-TN/Carolyns-Consignment-Shop-L0096997286.htm


Besides clothing, there are many autumn treasures available that are crafted right here in Tennessee to usher in the changing season. Warm colors such as brown, gold, amber, and bronze are hot this season. Use these colors in natural materials, such as wood, or chunky fabrics to keep up hot trends. The top fall color picks for pairing with your warm neutrals, according to top fashion designers, are moss, honeysuckle, and coral. These wine glass charms, made in Nashville by theMonkeyButtons incorporate the essential elements of autumn style, warm colors, natural textures, gold metal, and a chunky design. They are available online here: http://www.etsy.com/listing/78028229/vintage-button-wine-glass-charms-casual


Thick, rustic fibers are great for fall home decor, jackets, hats, and accessories. Coral and moss in subdued tones will add cheerful color to your autumn browns. These dishcloths are from Smyrna artisan, Zadzukki. http://www.etsy.com/shop/Zadzukki


Another trend for fall that is uber popular is the use of feathers. Whether worn in the hair, or used in accessory design, adding feathers to your fall wardrobe is a sure way to spice up your fall fashions.
Nashville designer Jennifer is offering this colorful peacock hair clip and many other stylish pieces in here online shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/mrsjennifermartin


According to the slideshow provided on this fashion trend watch website, http://www.refinery29.com/six-fall-jewelry-trends-to-try-right-now/slideshow#slide-1 other hot items for fall include chunky filigree designs, black sweaters, long earrings, and more. Here we have a stunning silk headband made of vintage kimono fabric imported from Japan. Crafted in Nashville, by a Japanese-American artisan, these warm colors are a wonderful addition to any fall outfit. See more silk creations in Tomoandedie's online botique: http://www.etsy.com/shop/tomoandedie


As a final autumn showcase item, allow me to share something made by myself, Clare Corcoran, in Murfreesboro, TN. Apple-cinnamon candles capture the aroma of fall's favorite fruit in the colors of the season. You can find my soaps and candles online at my shop, Mylana: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Mylana


Follow the artisans of Middle Tennessee on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TennesseeCrafts




Our group started online as a coalition of artists from Tennessee that sell on Etsy.com; however, we welcome anyone that wants to browse, shop, create, or share your own artistic endeavors. We announce local artistic and cultural events along with sales, promotions, and local craft shows.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Gift Local, "Helping Your Hometown One Purchase at a Time"

Jennifer Martin of Portland, TN and a friend are starting on the local level, right here in Middle Tennessee to improve the economy and bolster the appreciation of handmade artisan goods. She is the creator of this lovely silver ring and many other fine items available for sale online. You will soon be able to purchase her pieces and many more through, "Gift Local", a new venue to buy and sell handmade goods.


While the details are not completely ironed out, the slogan for the program is "Helping your hometown one purchase at a time", with the concept being to host and promote events featuring local Tennessee artisans. Jennifer and her partner plan to start small, near the Portland area (near the Kentucky border) with a local craft show and gradually expand to organizing more events throughout Middle Tennessee. They intend to feature local artisans, so that every purchase can help directly support Tennessee families. Of course, the events themselves also help other local businesses, such as restaurants and diners, as consumers have a fun adventure exploring the local craft shows and towns.


Jennifer likes to make jewelry out of handmade beads, manufactured by local artisans. She will be selling her handcrafted jewelry, featuring ceramic, clay, and lampwork glass, made right here in Tennessee. She also makes resin jewelry and hair accessories. 


She is seeking to recruit vendors of handmade goods that offer a wide variety of products. Anything from painting to pottery is welcome for consideration, as long as it is locally made by hand. 


For more information on this event, follow us here in this blog for updates and join us on facebook. This blog is hosted by a group of Tennessee artisans that met on the handmade internet site, Etsy.com, and seek to expand the support of local artisans offline as well as on etsy. Please like us on Facebook for daily updates on local arts, culture, shopping, and events! http://www.facebook.com/TennesseeCrafts


If you would like to contact Jennifer Martin directly about becoming a seller for "Gift Local", you may contact her here mrsjennifermartin@gmail.com or through her online shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/mrsjennifermartin

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How To Make Hot Process Soap Tutorial For The Beginner

Have you ever wanted to learn how to make soap at home where you can control the ingredients and have extra to share with friends and family? Today, I am going to show you how to make hot process soap at home in your oven. This picture here is an example of tropical fruit hot process soap. 


Hot process soap is usually a little more rustic and less polished that cold process soaps; however, with hot process, you can use the soap a lot sooner and use fragrances that might cause problems using the cold process method.


If you have never made soap before, you will have to invest in the basic equipment, including safety gear.


MATERIALS:
-goggles, gloves, apron
-large stockpot to use for soap only
-accurate food scale that weighs in both grams and ounces
-sodium hydroxide (lye)
-stick blender or whisk and wooden spoons
-measuring cups
-fixed oils such as olive, coconut, lard and many more
-colorants, either natural or synthetic
-fragrance, either natural or synthetic
-molds, you may use lined boxes or plastic food storage containers


You will also need a good basic soap recipe and about 2 hours of time. This link has a good beginner level recipe; however, there are many easy recipes available with a simple Google search:
http://www.eaudrey.com/basic2.htm


The two things that will be hardest to source are the food scale and the sodium hydroxide. I buy my sodium hydroxide online from Essential Depot: http://www.essentialdepot.com/ You should be able to find a digital food scale at Walmart or any other large superstore, or online. It does not need to be fancy; the one I am using in the pictures cost 14.99. The most important features are accuracy, being able to change units of measure, and how much it can weigh at one time, in case you are making a large batch.


STEP ONE: Prepare your work area. Gather all of your materials and safety gear, along with potholders, rags, and other kitchen basics and check that your oven can accommodate a large pot. Set the oven to 175 F.




STEP TWO: Put on your safety gear and weigh out your lye, water, and oils. I use empty ice cream pails, as they are easy and cheap to source and can be put in the microwave. If you are using any hard oils, like I am in the picture (mango butter), you can melt it in the microwave, but make sure to do it in short bursts, so the oil does not get too hot and melt the pail. 


STEP 3: You now have all your basic ingredients weighed out and any hard oils melted. Now you need to add the water to the pot first. this is very important for safety. Then, slowly add the lye to the water. Using a whisk or spoon, stir the lye crystals until they are fully dissolved. This may generate heat and an unpleasant smell. You can wear a mask if you like, but the smell will dissipate very quickly.


STEP 4: Slowly pour the oils into the pot with the lye/water mixture. Make sure you are still wearing your safety gear in case or spills or splashes, then stir the mixture  with a whisk, or use a stick blender until you get an opaque, uniform, creamy mixture with no separation of oil and water. You should be able to see a faint line in the mixture from your stirring implement. This is called "trace". 


STEP 5: Place your pot, without the lid, into the oven. Make sure that you have a few inches of space available for the mixture to "grow". You will now be checking the mixture every 10-15 minutes; it may be wise to set a timer.


STEP 6: Prepare your molds, fragrance, and colorants while the soap is cooking. You will also have plenty of time to wash any measuring cups or utensils that you have dirtied.


In this batch I am using colored Iron Oxide pigments as colorants. You can also use natural colorants, such as beet powder, tumeric, and clay. FD&C colorants are available from many soap making supply companies as well. Just make sure that your colorant are non-toxic and body safe. The same for your fragrance- you need to be using skin safe oils. Here is the link to the fragrance I am using in this batch, Sandalwood and Amber, make sure to note that the manufacturer has declared it soap safe. Many candle oils will irritate the skin, so they are not interchangeable with soap oils unless stated: http://shop.lebermuth.com/manufactured_fragrances-p-sandalwood_amber.php


For my molds, I am using silverware drawer dividers lined with plastic. Other options are wood molds, silicone molds, metal bakery pans, and food storage containers. The soap will be hot when going into the molds, so you need to chose a container that will not melt or warp from the heat. If it is a non-flexible material, you should line the mold to prevent sticking. Silicone molds do not need lining. They are my favorite and withstand high heat, although they can be expensive.


You should now have your molds prepared, colorants ready, and fragrance weighed out. If you are unsure how much colorant or fragrance to use, consult your recipe or the supplier's recommendations. Typically, 1 oz of fragrance per 1 pound of base oils will make a very strong scented soap. You may want to start with less if you are sensitive to fragrance, or if you are using an expensive essential oil. Powdered colorants should be dispersed in vegetable glycerin before adding to the soap. I mix mine in disposable bathroom cups. You will not need very much, as they are highly concentrated.


STEP 7: Check your soap in the oven every 10-15 minutes, even if it is just to open the door and peek to make sure it is not climbing over the edge of the pot. If you see it expanding close to overflow, simply stir the mixture back down. You may use this time while the soap is "cooking" to prepare any additional colorants and additives, like oatmeal, and continue cleaning your dirty equipment and putting the fixed oils and lye away.


STEP 8: Continue cooking the soap and checking every 15 minutes. Keep the temperature at  175 F. It should thicken and begin to look a bit lumpy by the first or second check. Stir the pot every time you check and make sure you are wearing your goggles and oven mitts. Hot soap splatters are not pleasant.


Soon your soap will form big, distinct lumps and it might get transparent in places. This is called the "vaseline stage". The soap is getting hot enough to go through gel, where they lye and oils are reacting and generating heat.


This picture is at the 45 minute mark. The soap is now more opaque and slightly lumpy, but not thick. We want to cook the soap until it reaches a very high viscosity, like mashed potatoes. If you can easily stir the mixture, it is not ready.














This is the one hour and 15 minutes mark. It is getting thicker and lumpy, but there are still some watery parts.
























Here is the soap at the one hour and 30 minutes mark, it is very thick and almost ready. This is where you will remove it from the oven and stir the mixture, until it is more creamy and less lumpy. Then add your fragrance and additives and continue stirring with the pot removed from the oven for 2-3 minutes. This will be too thick to stick blend, you will need to stir by hand. 


If you want to make sure your soap is fully cooked, you can do this simple test, Dip in a spoon and get a small amount of soap. Let the soap cool until you can touch it gently with a bare finger. You should not get any sting or burning sensation. Then touch just the tip of your tongue to the soap, if you get a zap, or small electric shock, the soap is not done. If you notice a burning sensation on your skin or a zap, put the soap back in the oven for 15 more minutes and test again. If the soap continues to zap or burn, you have made a soap with too much lye and it will need to be discarded. You can save the batch by making laundry soap or rebatching with additional oil; however, that is beyond the scope of the beginner level.


Try to incorporate your fragrance and additives completely, before "glopping" the soap into your mold, otherwise you may have pockets of fragrance oil leaking from your soap.


At this stage, the soap is still in the pot and uncolored, if you want to do layers, or swirls, you will need to work quickly with the colors, as the soap will set up very quickly as it cools. This series of pictures shows pouring the soap into the molds in layers with different colors and then the final cut soap. See how lumpy and rustic the finished bars are? They will need to be trimmed up and left in a cool, dry, dark place for storage. They may be soft for a few days, depending on how much water and fragrance was in the recipe. 


Can you notice in the first picture the oily layer on the soap to the left? That is excess fragrance oil that did not fully incorporate into the soap. I took a spoon and stirred the oil into my soap more, while in the mold; however, I ended up with a softer bottom layer on that loaf. It will need to be trimmed off or left for a long time to harden, perhaps a few weeks or more. 

When finished spooning the soap into the molds, try to press the surface down or gently lift the mold and bang it on the counter, to help air pockets escape.


As long as your soap is not lye heavy, the soap can usually be saved if it doesn't turn out right, either by letting it cure and dry for an extended period, trimming off the offending portion, or grating it like cheese and adding it to another batch.


You may test your soap as soon as it is firm and cool, but keep in mind that the longer it cures, the harder the bar will become. I advise to let the soap cure 4 weeks before sharing it.


For troubleshooting, the most common problem will be soft soap, as many soapers add a few extra ounces of water, so that the soap will be easier to stir and get into the mold. It could also result from a portion of the batch where the fragrance was not fully stirred in. If the soap is still soft after 3 or 4 weeks, you will need to research "rebatching" the soap in order to save it.


This soap will need to be sliced, trimmed, and polished. I use a vegetable peeler for small areas and edges and a dry terrycloth rag for polishing unsightly regions.




Enjoy your soaps! This tutorial and pictures provided by Clare Corcoran of Murfreesboro, TN and proprietor of Mylana http://www.etsy.com/shop/Mylana

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

RebeccasAccents Showcases Middle Tennessee Talent

This fiber artist, from Woodbury, Tennessee, has graciously shared some of her top picks for favorite locally produced handmade products. Rebecca makes hats, scarves, gloves, and other accessories. You can fine her items for sale in Sugaree's Boutique on Maple Street in downtown Murfreesboro. She also operates an online store here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/RebeccasAccents


One of her picks includes this hand tooled leather bag; this would be a great fall accessory! It is available for 42.00 and handmade right here in Nashville.
http://www.etsy.com/listing/78302864/tan-southwestern-tooled-leather-purse?ref=tre-495148373-4


Another trendy choice is this embroidery wall  hanging, made in Knoxville by the artist, HouseofPlush: http://www.etsy.com/shop/houseofplush


One of my personal favorite selections is this gorgeous sunflower photograph. I love the color yellow. It is so cheerful! http://www.etsy.com/listing/58109685/you-are-my-sunshine-fine-art-photography?ref=tre-495148373-11


Thank you Rebecca for showcasing some of the area's best local talent!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A New Craft Fair At MTSU, Table Fees To Benefit Student Organizations

Zadzukki, from Smyrna, TN is organizing a brand new craft fair to happen this fall at MTSU. There will be a 5.00 dollar table fee. Yes, you read that right, only 5.00 dollars for a 6 ft table; however, 10% of your revenue will be donated to MTSU student activities and clubs.


You can see Zadzukki's shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Zadzukki



She is 22 years old and her sister is a student at MTSU, they are helping to organize the craft fair and raise money for university clubs. The craft fair will be held Wed. Nov 2nd. You don't need to be on Etsy to attend. Shopping by everyone is highly encouraged! And you can follow the discussion here and contact Zadzukki for updates through Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/teams/5505/middle-tennessee-etsy-team/discuss/8690349/page/1


The time is yet to be announced, but I will update on the blog as we get closer to the date.


The items pictured in this post are from Zadzukki's shop and similar to what she will be selling at the craft fair. Follow this blog or contact her directly for the latest updates.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tutorial: Making Container Soy Candles

Making candles is an easy hobby to learn that brings great satisfaction in burning your own handcrafted pieces and giving them as gifts; however, making great candles takes a lot of research and access to high quality materials. The scents and dyes that you find in the craft store will make good practice materials, but in the long run, it is much more economical to purchase the basics in bulk from a well-known supplier. Soy wax is finicky and some scents and wicks just don't perform well in vegetable waxes. Your best bet is to find a supplier that provides product reviews and offers sample sizes of fragrances. Personally, I like Bittercreek North as a good first supplier: http://www.candlesupply.com/






BASIC MATERIALS:
-glass containers, try to find thick, heat-resistant glass
-soy wax flakes
-wicks
-wick stickums or glue dots
-chopsticks or paint stirrers
-candle fragrance
-dye
-digital scale
-double boiler or wax melter
-thermometer


This kit in the picture is from Mill Creek Candles and is only 23.99. It includes most of the basics and instructions: http://www.mcsoywax.com/candlekits.htm


Step 1) Prepare the area you will be using. Candle making is messy! Line your work area with tin foil to protect from spills and gather a few rags.


Step 2) Melt the wax. I use a Presto Pot with a spigot wax melter set at 170 degrees F. You can also use a double boiler or the microwave. Be cautious with the microwave and supervise the wax as it melts, melt it in 2 minute bursts. I do not use the microwave method, because I have had problems with my melting containers breaking or getting too hot and leaking, making a sticky mess in my microwave. If you like to use the microwave, I strongly suggest getting a cheap, secondhand microwave just for crafts.


Step 3) Prepare your jars and wicks while the wax melts. Use wick stickums or glue dots to adhere the wick to the bottom of the container. Most wicks come with a 15 mm metal tab. If yours do not have the wick tab, they can be bought at any major supplier. Lay a chopstick or paint stirrer across the tops of your jars and bend the wick so it is laying snugly on the wick bar in the center of the jar.











Step 3) Calculate your fragrance usage rate. Soy wax typically holds up to 8% fragrance. If you add too much, it will leak out of your candle. Check your manufacturer for the percent FO (fragrance oil) that is recommended and then calculate how much wax you will be melting and how much FO to add. The easiest way to do this is to get the vessel you will be using as a pour pot and weigh the empty container. When the wax is melted, fill your pouring container with wax and put it on the scale. Subtract the weight of the container itself and you will then know exactly how much melted wax your pouring pot holds. Then calculate how much fragrance to use for one pot of melted wax (typically 8% with soy). Most fragrance oils are sold by the ounce so make sure both the weight of your melted wax and FO are in the same unit of measure.


Step 4) Weigh out the amount of fragrance you will need for your pot of wax and take the temperature of the wax. Very hot wax will cause your FO to evaporate out before you even pour your candle, weakening the scent. Most soy wax melts around 125 degrees F; a good temperature to add the scents is 135-140.


Step 5) Add your scent and dye to the wax just before pouring. I use liquid dyes, but many people prefer uncolored soy candles.


Step 6) Pour the wax in the jars, but leave about 1/2 inch at the top. Soy wax often hardens with sinkholes, air bubbles, bumps, or frosting. You can melt a small amount of wax and do a second pour to fix any unsightly flaws. The other method is to use a heat gun from the hardware store to melt the tops. Be careful to keep the heat on low and at least 6 inches away from your candle. The heat gun is hot enough to ignite the wick if you are not careful, ruining your candle.

Step 7) Test burn your candle. Always trim your wick to 1/4 inch before each burn. Take notes on how the candle burns and what size wick and jar you used. Jot down the fragrance used and how it throws (fills up a room) when lit.


Final notes: make sure to have a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher handy for emergencies, purchase your starting ingredients in the smallest size, in case they don't work well, keep a variety of wicks on hand for testing different size jars, buy canning jars at the grocery store for heat resistant glass and no shipping charge.


You can see all my candles here in my etsy store Mylana: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Mylana?section_id=7512281

Thursday, July 21, 2011

That Vintage Look, How To Oxidize Jewelry With Liver of Sulfur

Hi, I'm Clare and I operate the Etsy shop Mylana. http://www.etsy.com/shop/Mylana
One of my favorite ways to relax before bed is to make jewelry, but sometimes I get disappointed becuase the pieces look too much the same. In order to spice things up a bit and add variety, I like to add a patina, or an aged coating, to some of my pieces. In this tutorial, I will show you how to oxidize your jewelry in 5 minutes, using this easy method.

First, you will need liver of sulfur gel. I purchased mine from this etsy seller: http://www.etsy.com/shop/matsbeads The cost was less that ten dollars and has been enough to oxidize 4 batches of jewelry.




The next step is to mix the gel with hot water. 1 teaspoon for 12 oz of water is recommended. Watch out, it does smell very strongly of sulfur! You might want to do this outside. Some alloys do not patina well, but if your piece is sterling silver, silver-plated, or copper, it will patina. From experience, not all bronze or brass look metals will patina; you need to experiment.


After you mix your liver of sulfur with the hot water, you will have a brown solution of sulfur water. Gather the pieces you want to oxidize, and place them in the solution. It will discolor cloth and felt beads, so you can oxidize your findings before assembling the jewelry as well.

Leave the jewelry in the solution for 3 or 4 minutes and check the level of discoloration. If there is no patina on the object, you need to add more concentrated gel. Check again in 3 minutes and if there is still no discoloration, your metal alloy does not contain enough pure silver.


When the desired level of darkness is attained, remove the items from the solution. If you use your hands, the solution will smell of sulfur, but it will not stair your hands. Lay the jewelry on a cloth to dry and dispose of the sulfur water. According to the manufacturer, the sulfur solution is great for fertilizing plants, tomatoes in particular, so don't dump that water down the drain, give your vegetables or houseplants a mineral boost!


Here is the jewelry after the oxidation process:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mary Thomas, A Multi-talented Crafter from NE Tennessee

Thank you, Mary Thomas, of WickdCreation for taking the time to answer some questions about your items and the great things to see and do in Tennessee. Mary operates http://www.etsy.com/shop/WickdCreationwhere the selection is always interesting, varied, and colorful. I purchased some wooden flower basket magnets from here that were adorable and well made. She often has Tennessee themed items, like Jack Daniel's whiskey shotglass candles, made in Lynchburg, TN. 




1) Where in TN do you live? What is the nearest major city? What is the geography like and are there any unusual landmarks or historical places?

I live in Duff, TN. That's about 20 minutes from the Kentucky border in the northeastern part of the state and just under an hour from Knoxville. It is very beautiful here, especially up on the mountain I live at the very top of. Our most historical place in this area would have to be the Civil War Trails in the next town over, Lafollette, TN.

2) What are your favorite places in TN for shopping, dining, and outdoor fun? What destination would you recommend near your city for tourists? 

For four years I lived in Johnson City, TN. Aside from the wonderful college, ETSU, it is also a great place to shop, eat, go dancing, whatever strikes your fancy. Knoxville has two great malls, hundreds of restaurants and of course anyone stopping in from out of town has to see the Sun Sphere, which was built for the 1982 World's Fair.

3) Tell us a bit about your crafts. What do you make and how did you learn to make these things?

I am a Soaper, Candlemaker, Jewelrymaker and Papercrafter. I am self taught and I have a great love for all of them. I have worked with paper the longest. I became a scrapbooker in high school but that quickly evolved to cardmaking, collages, etc. I haven't purchased a greeting card in 5 years, not even Christmas cards. I make them all myself. I also learned to make Candles in high school with my best friend. I decided last year to try making glycerin soaps, learned very quickly that I had knack for it and that I was in love with mixing the fragrances and colors to achieve the perfect result. I just took up jewelry making in March of this year, but I have built up quite a large collection of beads, findings and other supplies. My only issue with jewelrymaking has been wanting to keep everything I make.

4) What are your future plans for your handmade items? 

In the near future, I want to learn to make Hot and Cold process soaps as well as expanding my jewelrymaking beyond earrings and the occasional bracelet. My dream would be to open a boutique where I, and other local sellers, could sell a varitey of handmade beauty products and jewelry. We don't have many opportunities to really experience a handmade market in this particular area and I would love to be able to change that.

5) So, you are also the captain of April's Army team on etsy? Please tell us about that team and the money they raise for charity.

Yes, April's Army. We are one of the largest teams on Etsy, and in my opinion, we are also one of the very best. We work directly with April Winchell, the creator of the humor site, Regretsy, to raise money for other Etsy sellers in need. Our wonderfully dedicated team members donate handmade and vintage items to a collective shop right here on Etsy and all the proceeds go to our chosen recipient of the month. Our shop is only open the last week of the month, so that the members have time to create new items and our wonderful buyers have time to re-fill their wallets. During that week, Regretsy and April's Army also promotes the charity recipients Etsy shop in hopes of selling out their current stock and greatly increasing the money raised for their particular cause. So far we have helped a young lady whose fiance needed money for cancer treatment, a lady who lost everything in a fire and a family who needed help with their massive debt after the father's long battle with cancer. Between the April's Army shop and the shops of the recipients we have raised nearly $20,000 in just 3 months. 

6) Can you describe some of the items you have donated to their charity shop and tell us about how we can buy from it?

Well, in the spirit of Regretsy, I have donated cupcake scented Mustache on a Stick soaps and 4 sets of my super special Zombie BFF clay pendants. 
As I stated above, we are only open the last week of each month, but there are plenty of items, lots of variety and something in every price range. During the last week of each month, just check out www.aprilsarmy.etsy.com and know that any purchase you make will go directly towards helping another seller improve their life. 

7) Is your shop having any sales or promotions right now?

Yes, code: FRIENDS20 will get you 20% off any purchase from my shop.

Chainmail and Steampunk Design by Eric C Young

Owner of Etsy shop, Tangled Metal, and lover of design elements from days of old, Eric Young of Arkansas, was kind enough to all ow me to interview him about his creations and his experiences as a male jeweler. The art of creating chainmail jewelry and other objects is an evolution of ancient armorsmithing techniques, used to craft  lightweight and mobile vests, gloves, helms and more. Look around any art fair or craft show today and you are bound to hear about chainmail and steampunk designs, where elements of a bygone era combine with futuristic and sleek design to produce a unique new genre of wearable art.  He's not from Tennessee, but wherever you are, steampunk and chainmail design are uber hot, and he is one of the pioneers!

Let's hear what Eric, chief designer of http://www.etsy.com/shop/TangledMetal has to say about learning his craft and selling his pieces online.

You started making chainmail at age 13 to make a suit of armor; when did you start making pieces for women?
 
It was not very long after I created my first item, a shirt, that I started making jewelry from chainmail. Jewelry is quicker than armor for sure. That first shirt took me weeks to create. Jewelry took only hours. This was all before the Internet too. So, I was creating with no examples. I think that is why much of my chainmail style is different than other crafters.

Do you also make jewelry for men?

Yes, I do. I make many items that are for men and a lot of what I make is unisex. I make a lot of items that bikers like to wear. Heavier gauge wired, bigger rings and bolder jewelry. There are women, too, who like the more masculine jewelry. Since I work primarily in stainless steel a lot of my items are very strong, that seems to attract strong women.

When you design a piece of jewelry for a woman, what elements of the piece do you think are the most important?

I try and design pieces that enhance the beauty of a woman. I pay attention to how it will lay on the skin, how it will look in different lights and how easy it is to put on and take off. I think that every piece of jewelry should be an extension of the woman, that is why many of the items I create are custom orders. I do carry several lines of jewelry that are reproduced. Even in my production items I have shown great care to make a proper fit by making most all of my items adjustable to some extent.

How many other male jewelry designers have you encountered?

Believe it or not, up until a few years ago I only knew of two women jewelers. I know dozens of men who are jewelers and silver smiths. My father is a Silversmith and Goldsmith. I guess I grew up around his friends in the craft and they were all men. My mom makes jewelry and designs a lot of jewelry for my dad to make. When I started meeting other chainmaillers they were all guys. I did not meet any women chainmaillers until I was on the Internet. It isn't a shock at all. I do not consider chainmail armor or jewelry to be a man's work. It was more common hundreds of years ago (before men stopped being afraid of women and trying to repress them) that the craft was male dominated. Today we are all equal in most everyone's eyes.

Do you think your experience selling on etsy is any different because of your gender? For example, is it difficult for you to market to women or do you think being male is an advantage, because you stand out?

I was a booth owner at several Renaissance Faires across the country and I have set up at hundreds of art shows. This is my first real attempt at selling in an online market place. Having created jewelry for women for 25+ years, I did not find it difficult to market to women. What I do find difficult is writing descriptions that women can relate to. Selling in person has always been easier for me. When people can touch the jewelry they are more likely to buy it. Plus, I can show them the easiest way to put the item on and to take it off, which with some jewelry can be difficult. Being a guy on Etsy does help me to stand out. I am not sure if it helps sales or not.

Finally, I want to know more about the process of making chainmail. How long does it take to complete the average piece and do you use any special equipment, like a jump ring opener? Can you link your favorite jewelry making tool?

Back before the Internet finding instructions for chainmail was nonexistent. If you could find someone to teach you, you ended up being somewhat of an indentured servant for them. You had to do all of their dirty work to learn the craft. I know this because after I became a Master of the craft I took on apprentices to teach. I hope I was actually nicer than I described above. I learned all of my dirty work on my own.
It all starts out with wire. We are fortunate to not have to smelt ore to make wire in today's age. The wire is wrapped around a rod to form coils much like springs. Then each ring is cut with a jewelers saw. The saw looks like a coping saw but uses blades not too much bigger than thread. After you have a sizable amount of rings you start linking them together in one of the hundreds of weaves people have come up with over the years. After a time it starts to look like a piece of jewelry or armor.

After 25+ years of making chainmail I have become quite quick. I can sit in front of the TV and make jewelry while watching a movie. It has almost become a second nature to me. One of my necklaces would take 6+ hours when I was newly starting out. Now I can make a completed necklace in less than an hour. That is with my production pieces. The reason for the speed is that I rarely make a single production piece. In fact I rarely make less than ten production pieces at a time. Making one of a kind custom pieces can still take me hours to create. And I do enjoy that challenge.

I make a lot of my own tools, from winding machines to cutting machines. I modify pliers to suit my needs. The basic setup is pretty simple. Metal rods for winding coils. Jewelers saws for cutting rings. Pliers for connecting rings. You also have round nose for wrapping beads, non-serrated pliers for working with soft metals, etc. 
I could not think of a favorite tool off hand. When I am in full production mode I generally wear out tools within weeks so it is hard to get attached.

Eric Young can be found on the Internet at the following locations:
www.TangledMetal.com
www.facebook.com/TangledMetal
www.Etsy.com/shop/TangledMetal

Monday, July 18, 2011

Interview with NRSVampChick, A Clarksville Artisan

Today, local jewelry designer and all-around talented crafter Amanda Nalley, will be answering a few questions about her pieces and sharing with us some things she loves about Tennessee. Thank you Amanda, for taking the time to tell us about your passion!




1) Where in TN do you live? What do you like best about that area? 

I live in Clarksville, which is right on the Kentucky state-line. It's right by Fort Campbell and is constently growing, yet still has the feel of a small town.

2) When did you get interested in making jewelry and how did you learn?


I've made jewelry a little bit here and there over the years, but usually just from kits I'd been given as gifts and once I'd used them up, I was done. Then last year, I had gotten to know several jewelry makers while running my own book review blog, and found my way to etsy. Looking around a few times I ran across some things and thought to myself 'I could make that'. So one day, I tried. I haven't stopped since. I keep thinking I'll take classes to learn more advanced techniques, and I probably while some time this year, but so far the trial and error process has worked for me really well.

3) Which piece in your shop is your favorite?


My favorite pieces that I have right now are not in my shop. There sitting here in the room with me waiting for my next craft fair. My favorite piece in my shop is probably my Crosses Gothic Necklace. I started out making that for myself. A very gothic piece that I had always wanted. By the time I was done with it though, I wanted to put up my much worked on piece for sale. Too bad my pictures don't do it justice. Hmmm. Perhaps that should be one of my projects this week.

4) What are your favorite places in TN for shopping, dining, and outdoor fun?


My favorite places for shopping are Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and any other store for craft supplies. In Clarksville there's a local bead store Busy Beads & Moore that has really nice people and a great selection of products. They also help people put together jewelry there in the shop, and have classes for beginners to advanced. Other shopping I like doing at craft fairs when I can, unless it's for clothes in which case I love Kohls or take a trip to Nashville to one of the malls. Oh! I almost forgot to mention Borders, it's my second favorite place right behind Hobby Lobby. Lol!

Dining here in Clarksville I love Japanese food and Hananoki has to be my favorite one. In Nashville, I'm rather partial to Demo's. Is it the liquid sugar, or the good prices? I'm not sure.



Here is the link to Clarksville's own bead shop: http://www.busybeadsandmoore.com/ 


5) What other crafts do you do?

I enjoy painting anything! From actual oil or acrylic artwork, to decorating wooden boxes, purses, frames, etc. My dad builds birdhouses, so I think I'm going to start painting those for him. I made a birdhouse wind chime last month, and I believe there will be more wind chimes in my future. If I knew how to sew I'd be unstoppable!

6) Why is buying handmade and local important to you?


It's important to the local economy to support those in your community. If not in your town or city, then nationaly if you can. Plus you're supporting someone else in something they love to do. How much happier would everyone be if they actually could make a living doing what they loved the way they wanted to do it. The handmade community a great bunch of people. The local crafters and etsy crafters that I've met have been so supportive and helpful. I just hope I can encourage and support others as well.

7) Is your shop having any sales or promotions right now?



Yes! Not only are most of the items in the ale or clearance, but you can get 10% off right now through the on send of July. Just enter XMASJULY10 at checkout!