Designer Spotlight: Meet Glass Chain-Maille Jewelry Artist Kim Edwards
As a new recurring feature on Jewelry Making Daily, I'm going to share with you some of the amazing and talented jewelry designers that I am so fortunate to meet. First up is Kim Edwards of Lone Tree Studio. Since I first met her at Bead Fest Philly last August, I've been waiting for just the right time to share her amazing lampwork glass chain maille creations with you.
You read that right–she makes colorful chain-maille jewelry (beads, chain necklaces and bracelets, rings) using tiny rings she makes out of lampwork glass instead of metal jump rings. It's just as amazing as it sounds! Let's get to know a little about her.
JMD: Tell us a little about your creative background. Other than lampwork glass chain-maille jewelry, what crafts and creative activities do you do?
Kim: I've always been fairly creative (I come from a creative family, so I had early encouragement), but I was a perennial medium hopper for most of my life. You've seen us, the ones that try crocheting for six months and then take up cross stitching, followed by paper arts, etc. Then I took my first lampworking class in 2004 and fell madly in love. That's been my focus since then . . . though in the last year I've taken both a pottery class and a coppersmithing class and really enjoyed those. (And now I'm trying to figure out how to fit a wheel and an anvil in my studio.)
JMD: What inspires you for all of those crafts?
Kim: For things like color and design, pretty much everything does–books, clothing, nature, etc.–but my absolute favorite source of inspiration is the "what if" question. "What if I attach this glass loop thing to this other glass loop thing?" "Hmm, ok, what if I attach the loop things in a chain-maille weave? Or make a glass headpin? Or . . . ?"
JMD: How do you corral all those ideas? Do you keep a sketchbook?
Kim: Well, I'm perpetually disorganized, so I always mean to keep a sketchbook, but in reality I mostly have little scraps of paper floating around. I'll occasionally find a stash of paper from a year before and think, "Oh yeah! That would be really neat!" (I also have a really bad memory, so finding an old stash is a bit like the idea fairy showed up and left me something–I don't really remember having the ideas, but there they are, and in my handwriting!)
JMD: How/why did you start lampworking?
Kim: I had been trying my hand at jewelry making, and my family went to the John C. Campbell Folk School for a vacation. It was my first time there, but it's since become my favorite place on earth. There was a class in making glass pieces for jewelry. It ended up being a fusing class, and I liked it but wasn't particularly good at it. It turns out that I'm very, very bad at cutting glass–so I spent the week using other people's scraps to make mini fused mosaics just so I wouldn't have to do any cutting. I knew nothing about glass at the time, and I felt like there was something really cool that I was missing, but I didn't know what. My mother was taking an Indian cooking class, and I was talking to one of her classmates and trying to explain what I was feeling. She said that she taught something called lampworking and that she thought what I was missing was the bit where the glass actually melts, and I should come to her class the next year. I did, and she was right!
JMD: Thank goodness for her! So then how did you discover the process of lampwork glass chain maille? Where did you get that brilliant idea?
Kim: I lost my grandfather unexpectedly in 2009. Lampworking has always felt a bit like therapy to me, and there were a few days when I just wanted to stand behind the torch and melt glass, but I didn't really have the focus to make a bead. So instead I was just playing–make a squiggly thing, make a round loopy thing, make a drippy thing. When I finally went back to the torch to make beads, I looked at my workspace and saw all these round things and wondered if I could join them together. Once I figured out that I could, I started wondering if I could manage something more intricate than a basic chain, and the rest is history!
JMD: What serendipity that was! Out of such a loss came a brilliant, clever new technique–one I've never seen or heard of before. I'm practically helpless at linking regular jump rings for chain maille jewelry, and here you are, doing it with glass rings–and in a flame, no less! I know your process for creating lampworked chain-maille jewelry must require incredible skill with the torch and glass rods as well as extreme patience. Without divulging your technique secrets, are there any other keys to your incredible lampwork glass chain-maille creations that you can share?
Kim: Well, cross-clamp tweezers help–otherwise your hand muscles will have a tendency to cramp up.
JMD: After creating such an intricate lampwork chain-maille technique, what challenges you now? What's next for you?
Kim: Oh dear. I have no idea! I have some more "what ifs" I want to explore, but they're still a bit fuzzy, so I'm not sure they'll come to anything. I've also not had a chance to play with some of the more complicated chain-maille weaves yet, so I'm really looking forward to seeing if I can manage those.
More complicated chain-maille weaves?! I think she's just showing off now. Ha!
I love that Kim's lampwork chain-maille jewelry journey started during a family trip to a folk arts school–what a great idea! It's something on my to-do list. She's so inspiring to me, and I hope her story inspires you to make your own stunning jewelry and possibly even create a new process of your own. No matter whether you're a fan of lampworking, chain maille, or any other jewelry-making technique, this is a great time to try something new–with the jewelry-making eProjects in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop. Treat yourself to a technique you've been wanting to learn!