19 September 2013

Origins (Part 1)

I realized last week that I talk about my maille all the time, but I've never actually told you how I got started. There are two parts to this: How I got started in the hobby, and who got me started. The latter will focus on my family, my heroes. I already wrote that part but in an extremely unfortunate incident, the draft was deleted before reaching the server. It'll take me a while to rewrite it because I need to do it justice. The former is what I'll tell you today. So gather round, ladies and gents and everyone, it's story time.

In 2003 I was a freshman in college. Uni life opened up a ton of new experiences for me that I never had access to in high school. I had a roommate for the first time in my life. There were new sports to try and new subjects to learn and new religions to explore. One thing that introduced me to nearly everything else was the Fencing club. Swordplay, huzzah! Finally, I met a group of people who liked the same kind of sport as me, and we had other similar interests too. These same people got me into Tabletop RPGs, Halo 2, new sports, new classes, new everything.

So one of my friends from the club had a roommate who made chain maille. The first time I saw him working on it, I was flabbergasted. No way was this still a thing! I thought it died hundreds of years ago? I was captivated. Thrilled. It looked like a style of knitting that I could do. I needed it. It was incredible. So I asked him to make me a bracelet. I think I paid $20 and then pestered him about it for the next 6 weeks while he waited for his Ring Lord order and then put it together for me.

When I finally got it, I only wore it for about a week. It wasn't badly made or anything, but owning it wasn't enough. The small college town was well-stocked with art & jewelry supplies because of the uni's art department, so it didn't take long before I found 2 sets of toothless pliers. I still use the same bent-nose pliers today, 10 years later! I took apart the entire bracelet, and then stopped. I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I tried to figure out the pattern from memory but it was no good. Google to the rescue! I was able to find when I recognized the logo from watching my friend's roomie order the rings. I signed up for their forum (on an account I've long since lost) and began browsing for tutorials. Eventually I came across some, including cgmaille.com - a valuable tool for anyone starting the hobby. Not only does that place have 4-in-1, but a bunch of others too! I tried as many different patterns as I could before the rings began to snap apart from being worked too much. I still couldn't get enough, and my roommate was equally enthralled. We took what little money we had leftover from books and supplies, and we ordered a bunch of aluminum and steel from TRL.

It was so much fun. Not only did we now have a cool new hobby, but we each had someone to bounce ideas off of, to offer criticism, and to help each other improve. We were both completely self-taught but we helped each other out and learned how to make some cool stuff really quickly. The resources online were also a massive help, as well as the great folks at the TRL forum.

Later on, my roomie and I decided we were good enough to take the hobby a bit more serious. There's a craft & wares faire on campus every year at the beginning of December, and we thought "Why not?" We applied for a temporary state tax ID, registered ourselves as The Mischief Makers, and applied for a one-day spot. Our lucky stars aligned and we had a most ideal location, right by a main entrance to the student union building. I really don't know how we did it. That weekend was a blur. We easily made a profit over what we spent on the show and supplies. The success and the money only fueled the love for the hobby more, and after that I always found time to work on some maille.

I don't know why it piqued my interest so hard at first. Maybe because it was so unique, or maybe because it hit that same part of my brain that Robin Hood and King Arthur live in. Maybe it's a giant cocktail of emotions and passions and interests. But this is how I really got started. I haven't put down the pliers since then. still have an old piece of maille from when I began, and it is full of flaws. I keep it as a memento of how much I've learned and improved, because the difference is easily noticeable.

As much as I love how unique this hobby is, I realize it's becoming more popular every day. Craft stores now have small chain maille sections by their jewelry supplies. It's fantastic! I want to encourage its growth too. If you ever have questions about getting started, I'd love to help you. Don't be shy, hit me up!

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