We're gearing up for GeekCraft Expo Midwest—just weeks away—and excited to bring you another interview with one of our returning exhibitors! We talked with Scott Smith of EnVee Jewelry Design about his intricate chainmaille jewelry and how he comes up with his incredible pieces.
GeekCraft Expo: How did you get started making jewelry?
EnVee Jewelry Design: I've always been the creative type, but only got started in jewelry maybe 10-ish years ago, and sort of fell into it with this medium by accident. I was looking to "Mad-Max" up my riding leathers, and thought an interesting idea would be to add some elements of chainmaille to my vest and jacket. I found a supplier on the Internet easily enough and discovered that people were making all kinds of jewelry that was sort of chainmaille inspired in the process. I added a beginner's kit of assorted rings to my shopping cart on a whim, and when everything arrived, I actually jumped right in to make a bracelet before even beginning on the vest project. I was near instantly hooked. Straight away I was making plans for presents for my wife, and couldn't seem to stop bending rings. There's something meditative to the process that I've found very centering.
GCE: How did you develop your technique?
EJD: When I first started, I delved into the archives of several online forums on the subject to learn some best practices. It's a deceptively simple process to making something in chainmaille—you're basically just opening and closing rings, connecting them in repeating patterns, not at all unlike knitting or crocheting. Maillers often refer to it as weaving, actually. But there are many refinements to the process. It's one thing to open and close a ring, it's another to close that ring and create the illusion that it is a seamless circle, where you cannot see or almost more importantly feel the spot where the ends connect. There is a very tactile quality to maille, where it feels almost cloth-like, though made from metal, and nothing will spoil the illusion faster than sharp edges from sloppy closures. So, the sought-after perfection comes from repetition, really, and trying to never settle for "good enough."
GCE: What things influence your designs?
EJD: What influences my designs? Easier to ask what doesn't influence my designs, lol. Everything around me goes into what I'm making. Mostly I stumble onto new things by accident, by just following through on the "what ifs" as I work. But I start with kernels of inspiration from Norse and Celtic knotwork, and fantasy and sci-fi costuming. I'm a big fan of anything steampunk, comics and pop culture, and fashion and the feminine form. And circles, I just love circles. There's almost something spiritual in the geometry of circles. They may be the only truly perfect thing.
GCE: Your pieces look substantial, but I noticed they’re quite light—a gorgeous necklace can be just 2.5 oz. Why is that?
EJD: Much of what I make is as much about the negative space as the positive. While the rings of metal define the form, there is all that space in between them that make up the mass of the piece. And air is really light! Seriously, there is a nice substantive quality to much of what I do, especially when I'm working in brass or bronze or even stainless, some of my more involved bracelets are pushing half a pound, but I also try to think about the wearability of say, earrings, especially, where I try to keep the weight down to 3 to 4 grams. So, there's really a pretty good range that way.
GCE: What pieces are the most challenging to make?
EJD: Sometimes the most challenging pieces to make are the ones I've made most often. Many of my designs depend on the rings being coiled and cut to very specific inner diameters, and likewise require exacting wire diameters. And sometimes, the exact materials are simply no longer available. So, figuring out ways to continue being able to reproduce a popular design can be a serious challenge.
GCE: How did customers react to your pieces at GeekCraft Expo Midwest last year?
EJD: Last year the people were awesome! I had a lot of positive feedback to my jewelry. It was my most successful event up until that time—I think I finally found the right audience! It was one of the first times my Steampunk Night Vision Goggles were on display, and I think people got a bit of a wow out of those (one of my most intricate projects to date), and also the first time I'd had my Geeky Kewl line of earrings available, and they were a big hit! Very good responses to my more "regular" stock as well, such as pendants and bracelets, etc.
GCE: What types of pieces are you bringing to the show this year?
EJD: Well, I will for sure have plenty of my core work: my pendants, bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. Oodles of new designs in geek style/fandom earrings, including stuff from Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Star Trek, gaming, and other quirky pop culture stuff. I've branched out a bit with some fashion pieces, including bikini tops and halters—I'm even working on a chainmaille corset, but we'll see if I get that done in time. I'll have a ton of new keyfobs that combine chainmaille with RPG dice, as well as an old favorite, the Fidgets. I've also been playing around with hacky-sack/juggling ball designs, and wall hangings of iconic geek themes made from chainmaille. And maybe I'll have time to follow up on some other fun ideas I've been tinkering with . . .
We cannot wait to browse EnVee's exhibitor space at GeekCraft Expo Midwest—make sure to RSVP now and invite your friends! Also, don't forget to come to our Kick-Off Party March 24 at The Bodgery for your chance to win awesome prizes from local Madison-area business and our awesome exhibitors.