Laura Poplin’s hybrid style has an urban feel that’s easy and fun to make. Her versatile approach uses chain mail not just as the focal point of jewelry, but also as an unexpected accent to pearls, metals, and even leather. A technique tutorial opens each chapter and covers five basic weaves: Euro 4-in-1, Byzantine, Unbalanced Euro 4-in-1, Japanese 12-in-2, and Chrysanthemum.
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Combining two or more different jewelry making techniques is a sure fire way of coming up with novel designs. It's a tactic used by many innovative artisans. One of them is Laura Poplin who applied her metal and leather skills in concert with her love of making chain mail jewelry. The result is some really lovely jewelry and a book!
Unconventional Chain Mail Jewelry includes 21 projects covering 5 types of popular weaves. As this book is so novel in its approach the beginning of the book contains chain mail, leather and metal work basics. A 3 for 1 deal!
One great example of how the author teaches the combination approach is the Clichy pendant and earrings design. Twisted wire is used to form the large hoops and the ends are soldered. The familiar and ever popular European 4-in-1 weave is used to add the pearls and herkimer diamond (uncommon quartz crystal) dangles. She then added a Japanese 12-in-2 weave bail.
The Oops weave or more correctly, an uneven European 4-in-1 weave adds informal fun for her Pontoise bracelet. This weave is less open than the more uniform version. So it might appeal to people who like a fabric look. Laura also uses leather pieces instead of metal ones for a number of her designs. As she pointed it, her designs do allow for interchanging the two materials depending on one's personal preference.
The Otobe necklace again is another design which combines 3 different disciplines - Japanese chain mail, metal work for the cloud element and wire work where the side drilled beads were wrapped.
It's easy to be inspired by all her designs. I could see myself using even purchased metal discs and punching holes for attaching the chain mail portions. Does it have to be copper or bronze? Nope.
The book had inspirational designs at the end of each section. In a couple of sections, there was only one design so I was puzzled by the "Gallery" title to these pages. A gallery implies more than 1 piece. Perhaps the original intention was to have a Gallery section at the end of the book for all of them.
A small point really for a book that does a good job in making chain mail artisans think beyond just jump rings.
-Pearl Blay, The Beading Gem
I always find contemporary chain mail exciting. It's one of those techniques that it's very easy to get caught in a rut making the same style things over and over again. The best contemporary chain mail books are the ones that inspire new ideas. This one is an excellent example. Laura Poplin combines techniques and materials with classic chain mail weaves to come up with jewelry projects that are absolutely contemporary and wearable at the office.
The introduction covers the materials and basic techniques like soldering a hoop, using a dapping block for doming metal disks, basic leatherwork skills and how to color metal. Because of the use leather, beads and metal shapes, a lot of the pieces work up fairly quickly for chain mail. For people who dislike the S word, most of the projects don't use solder, and those that do can be modified for wire wrapping instead.
If you're interested in metal working, she uses cut, textured and domed metal pieces in a lot of the projects like the one pictured on the cover. The S curves of chain mail around pierced domed and hammered disks is part of the Ume suite which includes earrings and a bracelet.
The projects are separated by chain mail weave types, and each chapter begins with an introduction to that weave.
Euro 4 in 1 Weave is the first chapter. The beaded and spiraled Champs-Élysées earrings are one of my favorite projects in that chapter. The shape is interesting and fun with lots of movement and a splash of color added by the beads. They would look gorgeous with a cocktail dress, or with jeans and a favorite t-shirt. The Lille Bracelet is one that could be modified for a man easily, it combines metal shapes, chain mail and leather for an edgy casual fashion look.
Oops weave, or unbalanced 4 in 1 is the next chapter, it's shown using colored rings to make it very clear how to weave it. My favorite project in this chapter is the first one, the Autoire Earrings, she shows them in blue dyed leather, but you could also stamp leather with a rubber stamp for a more personalized pair of earrings.
Complicated and visually stunning Byzantine weave comes next. If you've ever woven chain mail, this may have been one of the most challenging of the standard weaves to learn, but it makes gorgeous chains. The chain is used most effectively in the De-Luz baroque pearl lariat. If the necklace, as shown, is too bold, you could easily use the same technique with smaller faceted crystals for a different look.
Chrysanthemum weave, a 4 in 1 variation that makes round rosette shapes comes next. Th Joie De Vivre pendant dangles one in a ring with stamped metal charms hanging from it for a nice affirmation necklace.
Lastly comes Japanese weave. I mentioned the Ume suite earlier, I also love the rich and bold looking Keitaro choker, which combines metal shapes with the weave using different ring sizes to make a collar necklace with enough shaping to drape beautifully. It could easily be a signature piece.
Great contemporary projects and good instructions for using leather and metal in your chain mail pieces make this an inspiring and interesting book for beginner to intermediate chain mail weavers.
-Shala Kerrigan, BellaOnline
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