Thursday, May 26, 2011

Donna Barrett, jewelry of intricate weaves

Donna Barrett in her studio.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Jewelry making is Donna Barrett, Sea Cliff jeweler's, third and, so far, the most rewarding profession. She first trained as Latin teacher in her hometown in Pennsylvania, then run a research department at a law firm in Manhattan.

Jewelry was a bit of a natural progression as she was fond of fashion and exercised her creative powers before. Inspired by her mother, who knitted, crocheted, made dolls, Donna sew her own clothes, made table linen and curtains for her home, she even attended a semi professional tailor school to learn to make patterns. She also enjoyed faux painting.

Different weaves in sterling silver
by Donna Barrett.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Donna's plunge into jewelry, though not unexpected was adventerous. Donna went to visit her sister in California who herself had just discovered jewelry making. Her enthusiasm was so infectious that the two sisters went to a bead store directly from the airport. While in California both worked side by side and made jewelry together.

On returning to Sea Cliff Donna took classes in chain mail jewelry at Garvis Point Museum. She found it fitted with her interests in antiquity - chain mail was known to Romans in 300 BC. Chain mail technique of joining small metal rings into a mesh was utilized throughout the ages by armor makers in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, and the Far East including Japan and Korea.

Bracelet by Donna Barrett.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
The wide geographic and historic usage answers for the rich set of different weaves. Maille Artisans International League has an online catalogue of well over a thousand known weaves. One would think that there are just so many ways to join metal rings yet there are new submissions still entered into the catalog. Weaves are generally divided into a few major categories - European, Byzantine, Persian, and Japanese. Donna's favorite weave is called Vertebrae, but she likes the challenge of adding new weaves to her repertory. The correct name of the technique is mail or maille, but chain mail is commonly used, as well.

Bracelets by Donna Barrett.
Photo by Ewa Rumprecht
Selecting a proper weave for a piece is only a part of the battle. There are colors and various types of metal wires to consider - silver, brass, copper, or bronze. Stainless steel makes interesting looking jewelry for men though it is difficult to handle due to its hardness. Recently rubber rings entered the field introducing a new element of stretch. Wires can be round or square in cross-section. Jeweler will have to adjust with mathematical precision the aspect ratio of diameter of the ring to the diameter of the wire to retain the consistent look of a weave. Donna frequently embellishes her jewelry with beads of metal, plastic, or semi-precious stones.

For more information on Donna please visit her website and Facebook pages.

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