18 February 2011

Read All About It:: Chain and Bead Jewelry: Geometric Connections

"Welcome to a new plateau of creativity, where shiny metal jump rings and yummy gemstone beads are combined in endless possibilities..."

So begins the Preface from author and chain jewelry expert Scott David Plumlee in his third book Chain and Bead Jewelry: Geometric Connections.

{Don't you just want that necklace on the cover?
I think that is totally red-carpet worthy!}

David contacted me at the end of last year and asked if he could send me a copy of his new book in exchange for a review. I met him briefly at the Bead & Button show in 2009 {I am sure he doesn't remember me unless he can picture me as the one whose purse went crashing into his display as I nearly spilled my coffee all over his pretty books. ;-}and purchased a copy of his previous book, so I jumped at the chance to see this new resource. Little did he know that I am not the speediest at getting to projects {Procrastination is my middle name}.

Then the holidays took over and it took me some time to come back around to giving this book the time that it deserves. You see, I can tell you from just the first impression that this book is beautifully laid out and the projects are shown with stunningly gorgeous photography. But when I agree to review something I want to be sure that I know more about it than just a surface impression. I think that you, dear Readers, and the author as well, deserve more than that.

So I asked David to be patient with me so that I could really devour the book and find some projects that I could try to be sure that I was giving this task the attention it deserved.

{Scott's Serrated Byzantine bracelet - sorry for the craptastic scans}

I have always been fascinated by chain-making. It looks so complex and yet uses such simple materials. I have taken one small course in Byzantine chain, and that course would be what I classify as a waste of money. It was at Bead & Button and the instructor {NOT David} gave us the kits, provided us with some pointers and then sat back and read a magazine while we worked. The room was dead silent except for the fun hammering sounds coming through the curtains in this cavernous room. I got done with a three hour Byzantine chain class in just over an hour and asked to be excused to go shop while my earrings tumbled {Can you blame me? I was just steps away from one of the largest bead expos anywhere!}. I always felt sort of gypped that I could have learned this all with the instructors kit. I would have learned much more had I just had a copy of  any of David's books or taken one of his classes. I can tell from the care that has gone into this book that he would be a very thorough and attentive teacher.

Since I already had that one Byzantine project under my belt, I was delighted to learn that pretty much all of the patterns in this book are variations and transformations of the Byzantine chain. This particular chain is one of the most enduring patterns in all of chain-making history. I found that the variations on this theme were intriguing and filled with possibilities for how to combine them with gemstone beads. Oh, and I want that one from the cover. {Or maybe I should just make myself one!}

The book is broken down into 8 sections. You definitely want to start at the beginning with "Chain & Bead Basics" and move into "Essential Techniques." These two chapters are like having Scott as your own personal chain-making instructor. I will warn you... there is a lot of math, which I loathe. But this sort of chain pattern requires precise measurements. I will admit that all the talk of calculating aspect ratios makes my eyes glaze over, but it is apparent that David really knows his stuff. And if you are going to take off with doing chain-making on your own, without the benefit of pre-made rings, then you need this knowledge.
{Clear pictures with precise details even for the simplest things like how to open a jump ring properly. I learned a lot here!}

I think that these are really great opening chapters because there is a wealth of knowledge on things like forging an s-clasp, making matching earring wires, and the proper way to work with jump rings. I have to say that I learned a lot in these tips with the great photography clearly showing each step. I will come back to these again even if I am not creating my own chains. {I have to tell you that my favorite thing to do is take jump rings and make them into a flower formation. It bulks them up, adds texture and strength and is a simple way to add your own spacers with an inexpensive material.}

I was going to attempt to make my own jump rings {you can stop laughing right now!}, but there was that whole pesky math thing. Not to mention my fundamental lack of time. Plus I didn't have the right wire to do that sort of thing, and I have never taken my jump ring maker {essentially different sized rods} out of the package. I really hate getting out my jeweler's saw, and then there is that whole kerfless thing {to kerf or not to kerf, that is the question!}. Lucky for me there is a great resource page in the back with suppliers of jump rings and so I proceeded to look them up. But trying to get the right number of rings in the right gauge for the pattern proved a bit daunting to me. Hey, wait a minute! It was then that I noticed that David offers complete kits for many of the projects in this book. Hooray! So I went right out and bought four kits all in brass just to give myself a kickstart: beaded Romanov bracelet and earrings; serrated Byzantine bracelet and earrings. I decided to start with the earrings figuring if I can get that pattern down I can finish the rest.

These earrings took me less than an hour to make each pair, and that was with me being sick on the couch that day. So if I can do this using David's clear instructions when I am sicker than a dog, without the proper light, on a co-opted lunch room tray and squinting because I obviously need glasses, then you can do it, too. I wasn't sure that I had all the same tools that David recommends so I punted a little bit, but I think that they turned out great. I can see the potential for this design with different beads and alternate metal options, especially mixing metals which I love to do. {My tip to you: open all your jump rings the same way before you start. Saves a lot of time and futzing.}
{My Serrated Byzantine earrings - LOVE!}

I love the way the serrated Byzantine looks. That simple bend in the pattern and connecting the larger rings gives it such movement. Again, I can see the potential to transform this pattern with different stones. maybe wire wrapped in each large ring or dangling from the bottom. I only got around to making the two pairs of earrings but now that I know how to do them, it should be easy to jump in and make the matching bracelets.
{Someday I will attempt this Trapezoid bracelet.}

Having tried a few projects in the book, I can honestly say that this is a book I am proud to own. I would love to work my way up into some more complicated designs like the Incan Triangle necklace, the Japanese Rose necklace or the Trapezoid bracelet. And David has laid it out in such a way that builds on the previous projects and  I do believe that I would be successful with any of these projects.

I would recommend the book Chain and Bead Jewelry: Geometric Connections by Scott David Plumlee to anyone that is curious about adding chain that they fabricate to their designs, and likes the possibility of combining that with gemstones.

Oh, and anyone who likes math. ;-)
{Win these Beaded Romanov earrings!}

Would you like to win these Beaded Romanov earrings? Their pretty red beads will liven up your ears in the dead of winter! 

How to enter? 

Hop on over to Scott's website www.DavidChain.com and take a look around. Then come back here and tell me which of the kits/designs from his website you like the most. I will pick a random winner from all entries on this post on through Sunday, February 20th. 

Enjoy the day!

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the book from the author in order to provide a review. I purchased all the kits I used in testing out the designs.


somethingunique said...

somehow i don't i don't think anyone could ever forget meeting u you are a beautiful person inside & out! The book looks great too ;p

Barbara Lewis said...

The first time I held a Byzantine chain bracelet in my hands I was amazed at how wonderful it felt in heft and drape. Thanks for profiling this artist and his book. It sounds like it would be money well spent.

jessememan said...

Thanks for posting the link to his site! Wow, he had so many great tutorials on there. I have a byzantine bracelet started from a few years ago...must.finish.now! Too many great kits to choose a favorite.

Craftymoose Crafts said...

I have been intrigued by chainmaille for quite some time but have not as yet jumped in. David's kits look wonderful and very affordable--just what I need to try it out! I love the "Pentagon Pendant"!

cjvierow said...

Oh my word Erin--I'm with you on the math thing. I have to use my fingers to add anything over 1. That being said, I love chain mail! The knotted bracelets and the Byzantine chain bracelet, FAB! Since I have procrastination down to a fine art, I'd probably be better off buying his finished jewelry--lol. That would ensure I'd be able to wear it and not just admire the kit. I may try the earring kit, just to terrorize myself. ;-) CJ

Unknown said...

This looks like a great book!
And your Review here is wonderful Erin!

EmandaJ said...

Hi Erin,

Love the review and with it think I might be able to tackle a project from the book. If I was to purchase a kit it would be fromt he third book -- the cross earrings. I have a thing for crosses and earrings are a managable project.


Cindy said...

Erin, what a fabulous review! I enjoyed reading this post - from how you met Scott at Bead and Button, to how you tried the kits yourself and now you're generously giving away a pair of earrings! One of my favorite projects/kits is the Romanov bracelet. I'd love to give it a try...and it looks like the book is a must-have. I've been wanting to do some chainmaille work lately - this post was timely.
Have a great weekend! :-)

jeanniek said...

Great review. I have his book and love it. I have not made anything yet.
My favorite kit of his is the Romanov Bracelet Kit.

Pretty Things said...

The publisher sent me an advance copy of this and I Loooooooved it. Scott does a fantastic job with chain maille. He was the first person who inspired me six years ago to try chain maille!


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