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Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chain Making

Lesson 22 of 22

Turning Your Chain Explorations into a Cohesive Jewelry Line


Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chain Making

Lesson 22 of 22

Turning Your Chain Explorations into a Cohesive Jewelry Line


Lesson Info

Turning Your Chain Explorations into a Cohesive Jewelry Line

The last thing I wanna talk about is now starting to think about turning your chain explorations into a cohesive jewelry line. So some of you are here because you just want to do something fun, have a new hobby, maybe play around in your studio, which is awesome, totally great. But some of you are probably here because you actually wanna build a jewelry line that you can sell. And so, I wanna take just a minute to talk about kind of turning your chain explorations into a cohesive line. So the first thing is of course what types of jewelry can you make from chain? So, obviously, as we've been talking about all day, you can make earrings. I think it's the one that people think about the least, but clearly it's fun. And I have to tell you guys, these are pretty giant earrings that are incredibly comfortable to wear. I have been wearing them all day without really even noticing them. So obviously you can make earrings. You can make necklaces. You can make bracelets. And you can make neckla...

ces in obviously all different lengths, all different configurations. Everything from really simple strand chains, to huge, big statement pieces. So, really the sky is the limit when it comes to thinking about chain. The other thing that you may wanna think about, if you're thinking about doing a production line, is combining things like handmade and commercial chain. So, let me grab a couple of samples here. When it comes to chain making, there is definitely a point of diminishing return, in both the sense of making, and in selling. So, while you could certainly make a chain this tiny, it's not really worth your time, right? It would take you forever, because think about, that's an awful lot of links. And commercially made chain of this size is really, really inexpensive. So, one of the things that you can think about doing, if you're trying to create a production line, and you're trying to stay in a certain price point, is you don't have to make a chain that goes all the way around. You could combine commercial chain with your chain explorations, right? So we're gonna actually do that right now. So, one of the things to kind of keep in mind is depending on the commercial chain that you're buying, you may not want to sauter this chain. So, a lot of commercial chain is going to come with some kind of plating, so I believe ... I believe this one is a brass chain, I'm looking at, trying to read the description. I believe this is a brass chain that's been gold plated. So, I don't want to sauter this, because I worry about taking the gold plating off. You'll even find if you buy a lot of sterling silver chain, a lot of sterling silver commercial chain has been plated with a thin coat of fine silver. Fine silver doesn't contain copper, so it doesn't tarnish. So a lot of commercially made chain will be plated. And if you heat it and sauter it, you run the risk of actually burning off the plating, and losing that coating. So, test it out, try your luck, but generally if you order a chain and it says we don't recommend sautering this, I don't recommend sautering it. So instead what you may need to do, is think about just using a couple of little kind of connector jump rings, to get yourself from whatever your bigger chain is, to whatever your little tiny, little tiny chain is. So, let's just actually go ahead. We're gonna turn this into a necklace right now, because why not? So, we'll go ahead and measure. Let's say I probably want this to be, standard necklace length is 16, 18, 20, kind of goes down from there. So let's say I wanna make this about an 18 inch chain. What I'll do, is I'll actually kind of measure this to know where I'm starting. So, it's about four and a half, five inches. We're gonna say four, just for sake of math. So, four minus- 18 minus four, we're at a 14 inch chain, and then I'm gonna go ahead and divide it in half, because I need two pieces. So, and then knowing that I'm gonna basically get about an extra inch out of my connecting jump rings and my S hook, I'm gonna take this down and cut it at about six and a half inches. And so, most commercially made chain, the way to kind of work with it is just to cut it. Find one link, so you're not destroying more than one. And just cut it with wire cutters. These are, I left my big good wire cutters at home, so that I didn't have to worry about them vanishing in my checked bag. So, at home I use much sharper wire cutters. But these will do the trick. So then I'll go ahead and cut this. And I just, again, I always like to measure the second thing against the first thing, rather than against the tape measure. Then I know they're the same. Come on. So now I'll go ahead and cut that. And just like with our, all our jump rings we've been working with all day, I'll take my little jump rings. And these I believe are 18 gauge jump rings, wrapped around I believe a three 16th inch dowel rod. I think those of you who are in our statement earrings class, they're gonna look pretty familiar, because they're the same ones we used earlier. So now I'll just go ahead and put that on here. Thread my chain through. And if I'm not sautering this, which I'm not, as I was just talking about, I wanna make sure ... I'm gonna stop talking and actually focus on what I'm doing for a second. I think this should fit. There it goes. I wanna make sure that I'm twisting this tight. Can you guys see this, or do you want me to go on our little detail camera? It's good. Perfect, alright. So I'm gonna twist that tight. And again, I'm trying here to kind of do my best color match. So I have this kind of gold over brass chain. I've got my brass links here. Of course I did not make a brass S hook, so we're gonna cheat and put a bronze one on here for the time being. And thread this guy on. Put that on here. So you can see how, obviously it's really fun to make the whole entire chain, but clearly, this kind of thing is saving us a lot of links. So if you're trying to sell something, this is something that you're gonna be able to sell at a very different price point, than if you had continued this chain all the way around, right? So now, I won't put the clasp on here, but you can see. Probably just banged it against the mic, but we have a nice little option. So you guys have all kinds of choices here, in terms of finishing your chain, or using your chain as part of commercial chain. So, that's not actually a variable I listed, but technically we'll call that variable number 11, right? But the thing you wanna think about, as you're starting to develop, as you're working through the earring challenge, and you're working, kind of starting to develop your line, is thinking about how will you make your jewelry cohesive. What are you gonna do to make your chain stand out? If you're familiar with my brand, I think it's pretty clear that when you see a piece of Megan Auman jewelry, you see a piece of Megan Auman jewelry, right? And that's really my goal for you guys, is to start to think about what can make your jewelry cohesive, and what really defines your aesthetic. So again, going back to the exercise we did, at the very, very beginning of the day, where do you gravitate towards? If you're creating, again, in your 10 X earring challenge, play around, by all means. If you wanna do something geometric one minute, and organic the next, and play with what happens if you make something really bold, versus really delicate, definitely do that in your 10 X chain earring challenge. But, if you're starting to think about a line that you wanna sell, start to hone in on this aesthetic, so that you're not all over the map. So that you do become something that's really recognizable. The other thing to think about is just how can you add a signature element to your chain? So, I mentioned that my first product line was literally like, how can I add one link of a different color to all my chains, right, it was just that one little pop. Obviously in my case, I have a very signature element, in my kind of leaf shape that I use, so I use the kind of one shape over and over again. So maybe it's a signature shape that you're using. Maybe it's that you're always using one contrasting link. Maybe it's that you're always adding hammer texture to something. Or maybe it's that you always liver of sulfur your clasp, or whatever it is. That one might not be the most practical, but thinking about what is a signature element that you can use throughout your jewelry line? But really I want you guys to feel free to play around a little bit here. So, experiment first. If you guys have taken some of my business classes where we have talked about product development, you know that I really love to kind of think about experimenting first, and then start to hone in and find your focus. And of course, I really, really want you guys to share your designs. Whether that's our 10 X earring challenge, chain earring challenge, that's a mouthful. It's okay, long hashtags work on Instagram. So whether it's our 10 X chain earring challenge, or even as you're starting to build out this chain making, and build out these skills, I want you guys to share with us online. We really wanna see what you're working on. And of course, I know we have our student gallery too in the classes, so you guys can upload things that you've worked on. We wanna see them in the class. So do we have final questions? And then I'm gonna pick on our in-studio audience one last time, and make them tell me what they're gonna work on next. Let's do them. Alright, so you guys online, any final questions, but I'm gonna start with you guys. Tracy, what are you excited to work on, now that you've seen all these skills? I think, well experimenting and defining the aesthetic. Perfect. I think I'm interested in trying out that hammer textures, because that seems kind of an exciting way to change the surface. It's also a really fun way to relieve stress. There's nothing like hammering on metal at the end of a stressful day, to really like get you nice and calm. I think I wanna experiment with chain. Just making different shapes. Yeah, we've covered a lot, and I really wanna thank you for joining us, but really most importantly, I want you guys to share. @meganauman, I'm @meganauman on everything. I wanna see what you're working on. I cannot wait to see what you guys do with everything that you've learned in these classes.

Class Description

Go beyond the basics of handmade chain making and discover your own creative voice.

There’s no need to buy boring, store-bought chain. In Explorations in Metalsmithing: Creative Chainmaking, you’ll learn the basics of creating your own handmade chain (including how to get comfortable soldering with a torch) and how to take the basics of chain making and add endless variations to create designs that are uniquely yours.

Designer and metalsmith Megan Auman has built her own jewelry line by discovering her signature style in chain making, and now she wants to help you do the same!

In this class, you will learn how to:

  • Make and solder jump rings into a basic link-in link-chain.
  • Create variation in your chain making through wire gauge, link size, shape, and more.
  • Hone in on your aesthetic to find a style that’s uniquely you.
  • Finish your chains so they’re sturdy and stunning.
  • Turn your chain making explorations into amazing earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing, or you’re looking to inject some creativity into your jewelry designs, you’ll leave this class with the skills and ideas necessary to create your own unique chain. Plus, you’ll explore your ideas by creating a series of chain-link statement earrings - perfect to wear, share, or sell!



Megan' an excellent instructor and lays things out very clearly, with a lot of good tips based on her extensive experience. I've experience making wire wrapped chain and have taken a beginning metalsmithing class before, and this class had some good refresher information. I particularly appreciated seeing her techniques and process for streamlining production.

a Creativelive Student

Megan is an awesome teacher! She is genuinely enthusiastic about sharing her metalsmithing skills with us. I am really looking forward to trying my hand at designing and making a chained necklace on my own soon.

Vernell Bevelander

Another excellent class! Thank you Megan!