Unlimited Possibilities: Inspiration for Making Unique Handcrafted Chain

Until I spent some time looking at spool after spool after spool of unique handmade chain in Tucson a few years ago, I didn't think about the limitless possibilities for wire chain links.

Wire chain links must connect at a minimum of one point and should be durable and comfortable. That's about it, really, when it comes to rules for making chain, isn't it? That leaves lots of room for creativity!

ironwork chain making inspiration ideas

Ironwork on gates and fences in historic towns, patterns found on trees and animals in nature, architectural elements–just as all of these can inspire our metalwork, they can also inspire our wirework and even chain making designs.

New Orleans ironwork chain making inspiration ideas


Chain links can be actual wire loops in any shape that interlock through each other, creating the look of overlapping lilypads, or they can be wire loops in any shape that are connected with jump rings or other connections.

lilypads chain making inspiration ideas

But chain doesn't have to be loops–it can also be made of segments of wire with holes in them that allow them to connect to each other. One design could create a sort of spiky appearance like Spanish moss, and I think it would be fabulous with balled ends.

Spanish moss chain making inspiration ideas

Curlicues, especially those I see in the ironwork gates and fences of historic buildings in New Orleans, Savannah, and Charleston, are beautiful, unique, and endlessly fascinating and inspiring to me. Other jewelry designers have been inspired to re-imagine these sometimes hundreds-of-years-old craftsman's masterpieces in modern jewelry creations like charms and pendants. The crisscrossing filigree figure eights are some of my favorites.

tinwork ironwork chain making inspiration ideas
New Orleans ironwork chain making inspiration ideas

If you prefer something a little more organic and less symmetrical, random water ripples and variegated animal skins can help spark your one-of-a-kind chain ideas. With so few rules determining what chain has to be (see above), anything goes.

nature chain making inspiration ideas
nature chain making inspiration ideas

To learn more about making handmade unique chain and to learn chain-making basics from simple loops to double and triple fancy loops, download Ann Cahoon's new chain-making video workshops, Intro to Chain Making with Ann Cahoon: Single Loop-in-Loop and Further Explorations in Chain Making: Double, Two-Way, Two-Way Double, and Three-Way Loop-in-Loop. Once you've learned to create handmade chain along with Ann, you'll be endlessly inspired by the beauty of the world around us, with elements of nature and public design that you can re-imagine in handmade chain designs.

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