This is a labradorite pendant with handmade metal chain created by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.

Handmade metal chain links joy to one-of-a-kind pieces

Making handmade metal chain is a long process. The detail involved in forming each link involves a repetitive process of planning and making that was incredibly satisfying for me.

In the chain that’s a part of my labradorite pendant, I melted shot or scrap for the centerpiece of some links. The shot, weighed prior to melting for size similarity, was a chain detail replicated from the pendant. Yellow brass and a bit of copper interspersed with sterling silver so mixed metal added to my less-than-precision aesthetic. 

As a new-to-handmade metal chain student, I experienced the surprising joy of placing three link pieces next to three others (each soldered together in groups of three) and deciding how it looked. Did it work? If so, what a wonderment. If it wasn’t quite right, I rearranged. 

In some worlds, it’s akin to a dinner party seating arrangement. Thought must be given to the individual components and how they fit into the whole. Each link relates to the vision you have for the project.

Handmade metal chain is strongly individualized and artistic. It involves detail. For me, the formation of each link represents my connection with the project at hand. Let the attention go and the work suffers.

It’s as if the metal talks with you and asks for specific things: a smaller jump ring connector, a deeper, stronger link next to the focal, a tighter more dainty s-hook, and so on.

This handmade metal chain is part of a  project by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
© 2019, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Handmade metal chain on Labradorite pendant

In addition to providing a higher level of artistry, a distinctive edge to a project, handmade metal chain gives me a higher level of satisfaction. This was my second chain experience. My first handmade metal chain was created of copper and brass.

Some of the other gifts of the project were unexpected. I noticed I began to pick up the torch with more confidence. Repeating the process made me a better, stronger maker. Decisions about the finishing with its texturing and oxidation played into the piece’s completion. Because these decisions were made over a period of weeks, it was not immediately apparent to me that I’d taken in as much information as I had. 

When I’m deeply connected to my craft like this I know joy. I resonate with satisfaction as I successfully form a link, solder a joint or paint a patina. It’s all part of the learning curve. Maybe this is the basis for my new work. How can I offer a greater understanding of creation, of an invitation for others to join in my fascination with excellence? 

Will all my work now include handmade metal chain? Not likely. The practical side of the project focuses on the time involved and reminds me that most people don’t appreciate or prefer to pay for that option. But they can see and notice a difference in presentation when excellence is involved.

I’m giving serious thought to the possibility of adding a few links of handmade metal chain with a handmade clasp to my bead projects to combine the two. For now, I can’t resist adding earrings that coordinate with the handmade metal chain.

The handmade metal chain inspired these earrings for Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
© 2019, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Handmade metal earrings

The little extra – the heart work – makes a real difference. That’s what I’m after. Over and over I commit to design that represents me. I commit to work that makes my soul sing. 

The question I ask myself in the studio is this: How can I share the highest resonance possible? What kind of difference does that make for you?