Monday, October 10, 2011

More Vocabulary of Chains

Linda Kaye-Moses' The Vocabulary of Chains (in the latest issue of Metal Clay Artist Magazine, vol. 2, issue 4) and Joy Funnell's Summertime Bling chain necklace project (MCAM's last issue, vol. 2, issue 3) will have you thinking about chains and metal clay in a new light.

Coincidentally, I just completed a course about chain-making with Leslie Hartwell at Metalwerx, in Waltham, MA. Inspired by Linda's and Joy's articles and Leslie's class, I thought I'd share some more ideas for expanding your own chain vocabulary.

Often, we spend so much time and effort working on a piece that when it is ready to be paired with a chain, we grab the most convenient commercially-made one and we're done.

Integrating the chain and pendant requires a little pre-planning. Think about the chain, too, when you are designing your piece. What kind of chain will complement the pendant? Will the finished piece look unified?  How will the chain connect with the pendant? Also, think about other things, such as proportion—should the chain be large and chunky? Or thin and delicate?

If fabricating a custom chain is not your thing, there are ways to modify commercially-made chain that might be a solution for you.

Consider altering chain by methods like hammering, cutting apart, or applying patina.

Upper left: Altering commercial chain by cutting apart and interspersing with beads, plus adding patina
Upper right and bottom photos: custom made chains
For example; if you have a chain with large, open links—you can rest the edge of a link on your bench block and hammer it. The link can be turned and hammered all the way around, or just partially hammered. A pattern can be created by hammering alternate links or every link. How about hammering just a centerpiece where the pendant will hang?

Chains can be cut apart and the segments re-joined with interspersed beads—or like Linda's project—custom-made metal clay components. Graduated size chains can be linked into one, unified look. You can connect multiple strands of chain to single strand sections. How about mixing metals?

Adding a patina to the chain might be just that little extra something to bring the entire piece together with a customized feel.

If you enjoy making more complex work, there are many additional ways to design chains to complement a pendant. You can be daring and fabricate a chain, or a section of chain, from metal clay. Or, you can make your own chain by soldering wire. Several books are available for soldered chain technical information and design inspiration. Here are three that I really like:

The Complete Metalsmith by Tim McCreight. This book has a wealth of information—so it's a worthwhile addition to your books anyway—but in this case it offers many tips on chain construction, chain styles, clasps and bails.
Creative Silver Chains by Chantal Lise Saunders. Nice step by step instructions on some interesting designs, plus a very good introductory section with information on materials, techniques and design inspiration.
Making Silver Chains by Glen F. Waszek is another well-organized book with great step by step instructions and a lot of good lessons for working with silver.

~ Evelyn

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