The Power of Jewelry

By on December 11, 2013
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The Power of Jewelry by Marilyn Gardiner

Lexi Erickson

Marilyn loves jewelry, color, pattern, and design and finds it thrilling to create something new that others love too. She truly enjoys breaking down something complex into an easy-to-learn sequence that she can share with others, both in print and in the classroom.

During the past 13 years, Marilyn has developed her beading and chain mail skills with energy and enthusiasm and created beadwork and chain mail kits with step-by-step instructions that really work. She regularly teaches classes in bead stores in Toronto, Ontario, and at bead shows and retreats across Canada, in Texas, Tucson AZ and at Bead&Button in Milwaukee WI. In 2007 Marilyn was “Folk Artist in Residence – Beadwork” at the Joseph Schneider Haus in Kitchener. Marilyn has published projects available online at Beading Times, Bead Bugle, All Free Jewelry, and The Beading Gem’s Journal and in the Fall of the 2012 issue of A Needle Pulling Thread , they published a multi-page Artist Profile of her work. Most of her time at present is directed to the creation of new chain mail projects. She is currently working on several new designs that will be ready as kits and for teaching at the fall and winter shows.


Marilyn Gardiner

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Explore a few of Marilyn’s Classes this February in Tucson:

Jan 30, 2:30am – 6:00pm

Take a Look

Jan. 31, 2:30am – 600pm

Take a Look

Feb.1, 10:30am- 2:00pm

Take a Look

Transcript of our interview with Marilyn Gardiner

Heather: We are on the phone with Marilyn Gardiner. Nice to speak with you today! How are you doing?

Marilyn: I’m just doing fine thank you.

Heather: Let’s start off by telling everyone what medium you primarily work in and how you came to work in that medium. Was there a process of discovery with other mediums first?

Marilyn: After I retired, it was a process of finding out what I want to do with the rest of my life kind of thing. I experimented with a few things and then the year 2000 I went to Tucson and went to a bead show and it blew me away. I ended up walking out without buying anything because I didn’t know where to start. I ended up signing up for classes while I was Tucson for the month and it’s been jewelry ever since.

So the first few years were beadwork and I’m always taking classes to learn new things and one of those classes was a chain mail class. It was one of the worst classes I’ve ever had. I was ready to pitch the pliers: I hated it. I had these little dainty pliers and we were working with 16 gauge wire and I thought “well that was an experiment.” Took another chain mail class and I quite liked it and found another teacher where I was and took more classes and that was kind of the transition period.

Meanwhile I had been doing a lot of beadwork, teaching, and making kits in beadwork then it was a transition period into chain mail because I found I really liked chain mail after all.

Heather: What are tools you most often use?

Marilyn: Pliers! I love tools. You know they say “tool addicts” and “tool junkies”; I have all kinds of tools, as I’m looking at my racks of pliers of all shapes and sizes and quality.

Heather:What’s your favorite way to finish a piece of favorite effect?

Marilyn: With chain mail and finishing one part you talk about is the clasp. I do have a love affair with clasps. I sell a lot of clasps and use a lot of clasps. I’m always looking for new suppliers and neat things. I think the clasp is very very important. It has to be functional and it has to look gorgeous. The other effect is I play around with chain mail, for example European four in one, I’ve used a triangle of that as the bail so playing with the material as well. Probably the other part of that is that I really like is to combine art beads, glass beads, gemstones, bead stringing sections, bead weaving, wire-wrapped things; it’s not just here’s a plain chain mail thing, it’s trying to incorporate and make it look really interesting with chain mail components and with beads.

Heather: That’s great. What advice would you give to a beginner who’s maybe a bit intimidated by how intricate the process seems?

Marilyn: TAKE A CLASS! But find a teacher that someone has recommended as being patient and good with beginners. The second is to buy a kit or two because you want materials that work together so you don’t get discouraged by stuff that doesn’t work well for what you intended and so that you know the kit is going to work, the instructions are going to be good if you’ve listened to what other people have to say. That’s how I got started in the beginning with beadwork and chain mail.

Heather: Once you’ve made a piece that you’re happy with, where does it go?

Marilyn: I don’t sell finished jewelry. All of my pieces I make either become a kit, a sample for a kit or they are samples that I can show students and say “ok you’ve making simple bracelets but this is how you can adapt this to earrings or necklace or whatever” so it’s inspiration for students. The other thing is that some of these are turning into samples for an upcoming book.

Heather: Oooh wonderful! What gives you inspiration to try new things or what keeps you motivated?

Marilyn: I basically love jewelry. Motivation is not an issue. I’ve been a lifelong learner. There’s not enough years left to learn everything I want to do and try. There’s so much to learn and so many wonderful things.

Heather: Great. So you’ve been making and teaching jewelry for several years now, what have you noticed about your work that has evolved?

Marilyn: For sure it’s clean lines, classic lines, geometry, and elegance. I’m not “blingy” or “trendy” or “fussy” or “cutsie” and it shows in the kinds of things that I create.

Heather: What’s something you’ve learned from one of your students?

Marilyn: There’s not one huge thing and it’s not learning about chain mail, although sometimes little tips and things that people have but, I’m always learning about better ways to teach in a class because you observe reactions and you read evaluations and that’s the kind of learning that I’ve taken from students.

Heather: Why do you think people love to wear jewelry? And why do you think people love to make jewelry?

Marilyn: Jewelry makes somebody ready to face the world. It gives power. It’s the finishing touch and pulls everything together. I can’t imagine going out without jewelry. Sometimes it’s the jewelry that determines what you wear with it and sometimes it’s the other way around. You’ve got things and all the sudden you add jewelry and it’s just absolutely perfect and pulls together your outfit. It makes you feel good. It gives you a sense of satisfactions. The other thing is that if you’re not average size, whether you’re small or whether you’re large or anywhere around there, you can make jewelry that suits you. I could never buy a bracelet when I was growing up because it would just fall off of my arm and now I can make a bracelet and actually have it fit. When you start making necklaces you realize that a necklace for one person will look wonderful but is totally out of proportion for someone else. If you can make your own jewelry, you can make those decisions and have a wonderful piece to wear.

Heather: Wonderful. Well thank you so much Marilyn for taking your time out of your day to answer these questions and share your insight. Marilyn is going to be teaching with us at the JOGS show this year and I hope everybody can make it out and take a class from her. Thank you so much Marilyn, we appreciate your time!

Marilyn: Thank you!

Don’t Miss Marilyn in Tucson!

Jan 30, 2:30am – 6:00pm

Take a Look

Jan. 31, 2:30am – 600pm

Take a Look

Feb.1, 10:30am- 2:00pm

Take a Look

Take a look at all of our other classes on