Chainmail, goth, and rosaries: An interview with Kyra Matsui of Iron Lace Design

“I watch my kids cover themselves in duct tape and use whole rolls of wire to wire their siblings together,” says Kyra Matsui, proprietor of Iron Lace Design, “and I can see who I was from the beginning.”

Kyra, 39, lives in Toronto and turns out a dazzling array of intricate, sturdy jewelry and rosaries, at once heavy and delicate, many incorporating Japanese-style chainmail and vintage watch movements.

Her drive to create started early, she says:

“I was an isolated child, hiding in my room, making stuff. I remember when I was six, there was this plastic dollhouse stool. I figured out if I wove Kleenex around it and wet it, then when it dried, I could slip it off, and I would end up with a little basket. I started painting Kleenex with food coloring and hanging it all over the ceiling. My parents were so patient!”

Kyra, 39, who is separated, has boys ages seven and nine, and five-year-old twin girls. She recently got a diagnosis of autism for her oldest son, who also has diabetes. Kyra uses a combination of homeschooling and public school.

“My own public school experience was pretty bad,” says Kyra. “I didn’t really learn any kind of work ethic, or how to concentrate, but I did learn how to be quiet so I could get away with anything.

“What I wanted to do [with my own kids] was give them a space to socialize with people not just in their own grade level, but who were interested in the same thing. To give them the space to figure out what they were interested in.

“For me, that was making stuff. I remember reading Rosemary Sutcliffe’s Warrior Scarlet when I was nine or so, and teaching myself to weave on a little loom I made out of a cardboard box. I was supposed to be doing schoolwork. Instead, I pulled stuffing out of a pillow and figured out how to make a spindle.”

Here’s the rest of the conversation I had with Kyra about her current work:

How did you get started making jewelry? What is it about chainmail that appeals to you?

It’s because of my Japanese cultural heritage, plus historical interest, plus fantasy. When I was fourteen and hiding in the school library, they had a couple of really good costume history books, and I devoured those.
I was briefly in the Society for Creative Anachronism doing costuming, and some friends were doing chainmail. The kind I do, Japanese, is the simplest. Usually what you see in movies is European. It runs in one direction, almost like snake scales.
What I like about Japanese chain mail is you can hang it any way, like fabric.

You can attach dangly stuff to it and incorporate it into the construction.

Lapis lazuli and stainless steel choker

You also have some jewelry made of watch parts on your page. Tell me how you got your hands on that.

Two brass watch movement pendants

It all belongs to my father, whose parents emigrated from Japan in the 20’s.  He was eight or nine when the Japanese Canadians were interned. His family ended up in Toronto after they were relocated. He trained as a watchmaker and repairman and jeweler, and he had a workshop in the house I’m sitting in now, the house I inherited.

When digital watches came, he became a tool and die maker, but did watch repair privately. He had a workshop that was floor-to-ceiling tiny drawers full of watch movements, gears, springs, some of them almost microscopic. You need tweezers to pick them up.

After he died, I was clearing out all his stuff, and thinking, ‘This is beautiful stuff. ” I’m not going to learn to do watch repair. I tried to sell it, but I didn’t get any takers.

What would he think of the jewelry you make with his watch parts?

He would be appalled!

Chainmail and vintage gear charm necklace

Well, he would be happy it was being used, but perturbed. He wanted me to go into fine arts and into jewelry-specific programs, metalworking, gemology. But I’ve always come at things more from a costuming and textile end.

Chainmail is a lot more like working with fabric then metalwork. I’d like to learn to solder, but that requires a lot of precision. Chainmail is more like knitting.

How long does it take you to make one of those necklaces or rosaries?
A rosary takes about four or five hours of intensive labor. Because I make them out of stainless steel, it’s really hard on my hands, so I split it up over two or three days.
I’ve ended up with carpal tunnel from doing too much! I made a Mexican wedding double rosary over a weekend, and that was a bad idea.
It’s very intricate work. 
And I’m extremely myopic. I was told by an ophthalmology student that my close-up vision is excellent. I can see much finer detail than most people, as long as I hold it an inch and a half from my eye. I also have a jeweler’s visor loupe.
You have four kids, you’re completely renovating your house, you exclusively homeschooled up until recently, and you’re a single mom. So in your abundant free time, what do you do?
When I was in my early 20’s, I did about ten years of belly dance classes. Then I had four kids in four years. But I love to dance. I found that goth clubs are the only place you can go and belly dance for the entire night without being hassled. My friend Cynthia and I found this lovely place that has industrial goth night once a month.
It’s the same people from twenty years ago. We’re all older and tireder. We have a few drinks, thrash around on the dance floor, and then go back to our lives as attorneys or whatever. There are some really terrified-looking twenty-year-olds who turn up, too. Half of them embrace it, and half of them sidle quietly out the door away from the scary, old people.
[Below: Kyra in her Halloween costume as Jadis, Queen of Charn:]
If you had unlimited time, energy, and resources, what would you make?
I was looking around Etsy and found this chandelier thing you hang between your nipples. This . . . is not what I’m going to be doing.

If time and money weren’t a factor, I’d love to be working in precious metals and gems. I’m learning how to solder and make my own findings. I’d love to do some sort of elaborate fantasy set, with headpiece, necklace, hand flowers, and neck piece, and make a dress that goes under it. I’m not watching Game of Thrones, but the costuming is fantastic. I’ve been looking up jewelry for the Southern Kingdom. Very East Indian-Ottoman Empire-Persian stuff.

If people want to order from Iron Lace Design for Christmas, when should they order?

 

If they want a special order shipped before Christmas and they’re in the states, get the order in by early December. Regular mail tends to be a week. Priority mail is faster, but pretty expensive. But if I have to source material, I may have to order it online.

[Two special order stainless steel rosaries, one in lapis, one in garnet:]

Kyra also makes single-decade pocket rosaries like this one in jade:

Stainless steel and jade one-decade rosary
Tomorrow, I’ll be hosting a giveaway for a single decade rosary handmade by Kyra. Entry will be free. Stay tuned!

Handmade veil giveaway in honor of the Elizabeth Ministry Rosebud Program

Thinking of veiling for Lent? A generous reader has offered to donate a completely gorgeous hand-made veil for free, just because she likes doing it.

Here is a photo of one veil that you could win (blocked out on foam so you can see the amazing detail):

Isn’t that lovely? So delicate and graceful. Here’s a view of the full veil:

OR, she says she is willing to make one to your specs, in a custom color, size, and even design!

If you win and you’d like a custom-made veil, I’ll put you in touch with the donor, and you can work out details. She says it will take less than a week to get one ready to ship, as long as the color thread you choose is readily available where she lives.

Usually, when I offer a donated prize, the sponsor has a business to highlight. In this case, the donor would like to remain anonymous, and would like to draw your attention to the Rosebud Program of Elizabeth Ministry.

Elizabeth Ministry International offers a wide variety of programs and support, including through parishes and online, “designed to offer hope and healing on issues related to childbearing, sexuality, and relationships.”

The Rosebud Program “helps a church identify, pray for, and support those who are pregnant, celebrating birth or adoption, grieving miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, infant or child death, or wanting to become pregnant or adopt.”

The donor would like to encourage those whose parishes don’t yet have a chapter to consider starting one, especially if there are members who can provide support for families experiencing miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant or child loss. A worthy cause, indeed. No one should suffer through these things alone. Sometimes people want to help, but don’t know how; and sometimes people need help, but don’t know how to ask.

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To enter to win the veil, please use the Rafflecopter form, which you will find at the bottom of this post. Or maybe you’ll find a dumb-looking link that says “a Rafflecopter giveaway,” and you’ll just want to click on that.

There are several ways to enter the contest, but you must use the Rafflecopter form to be entered. 

Note to subscribers: One of the options is “subscribe to this blog.” Unfortunately, when I changed hosts, I lost all my email subscribers! I’m so sorry. If you subscribed anytime before last week, you will need to re-subscribe (and you’ll also get an entry into the contest, if you choose that option in the Rafflecopter form!). If you want to re-subscribe without being entered into the contest, simply re-subscribe via the blog and don’t use the Rafflecopter form.

Good luck! And thanks again to our generous and talented donor. The contest ends Saturday the 25th at midnight, and I’ll announce the winner as soon as possible after that.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Advent Calendar winner!

And the winner is . . . Colleen Halbur. Congratulations, Colleen! I’ve emailed you with info about how to get your prize.

Everyone else, you can order the calendar directly from Ignatius, where it is under $10 for online orders. Thanks for playing!

Maite Roche Advent Calendar giveaway! Introducing Sister|Sinjin! and a little punching.

Advent begins in less than a week! This year’s Advent is the longest that Advent can possibly be, but it surely came up quickly, didn’t itly? I have three lovely things to share with you.

One is Incarnation, a new Christmas album by Sister|Sinjin, a musical group made up of Elizabeth Duffy (a fellow Patheos alum) and two of her friends, one Catholic and one Lutheran.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-9-19-11-am

From one of the blog posts giving some background about the project:

Once we realized we were a band and began thinking of a name, we knew we would feel inclined to self-identify more as mothers than musicians. Our various experiences of motherhood certainly bear down on these songs.

When I’ve been pregnant (I have six children) I almost always fall into a depression, inability to pray, distance from God, and a heavy darkness that lifts almost immediately once I’ve given birth. In the midst of those pregnancies, I’ve thought more than once that I should name my child for the author of The Dark Night of the Soul, St. John of the Cross.

As Kaitlyn notes, creativity often springs from this sometimes painful, always holy duty to bear and support the lives of others.

We hope you enjoy these songs, which both extend from, and are an homage to the darkening season of waiting for new life in our Beloved Savior.

Very beautiful stuff. You can hear a sample of two of the tracks here, and you can pre-order the album, which comes out December 2.

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Second is a GIVEAWAY of this splendid Gospel Advent calendar by Maïte Roche, one of my all-time favorite Catholic illustrators. The artwork is just luminous (the cell phone photo below doesn’t do it justice), and the calendar opens into a scene that includes all of Bethlehem, with a window to open each day. You can hang it on the wall from a little grommet, or it will stand on its own on a tabletop.

advent-calendar

Even better, it comes with a little illustrated companion booklet that provides prayers, short readings, meditations, and suggestions for each day. So much better than the usual routine, where the kids fight over whose turn it is, then mom gets mad and opens it herself, and then you just stand there staring at the little picture of a star or something. It will appeal to children, but would be helpful for adults, as well.

advent-booklet

(As you can see, Corrie liked it so much, she took a bite of it, and then threw it in the dog’s water dish. At least I hope it was in that order. If your booklet is not wet, you can even color in the illustrations.)

Thanks to the publisher, Ignatius, I have one calendar to give away! Same rules as last time:

To enter, leave a comment on the blog, and that’s one entry. To get additional entries, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ or elsewhere on social media, AND . . .  IMPORTANT: Please leave a separate comment for each additional entry you would like to earn.

So if you want three entries, leave one comment saying “Me please!” [or whatever], one comment saying “I shared your post on FB” and one comment saying “I tweeted this post.” And so on.

NOTE: Don’t be concerned if your comment doesn’t show up right away in the combox. The comment moderator is a little strict at the moment, so I’ll be approving comments in batches as time allows. Thanks for your patience!

This will be a quckie contest, since Advent is right at our throats. Contest closes Tuesday, November 22, at noon, and I’ll notify the winners asap.

You can also find the calendar for sale on Amazon and from Ignatius.

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One last thing: One of these days, I’m gonna make me an Advent calendar like this. Each day leading up to Christmas, you get to punch something, and you get rewarded for it. Uh, for the kids. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Kids these days.

In addition, I would like to say that when I tagged this post music, WordPress suggested the tags “soul music” and “butt music.” That means my archives have arrived, and they’ve brought their tags. Hooray?

 

Magnificat app winners are…

Chalyn Myers

and

Anna, who said:

“Alas, I’m a Luddite who’s not willing to do FB or Twitter, though it would really boost my chances at these giveaways!”

Goes to show you never can tell! These names were chosen using a random number generator. I have a soft spot in my heart for Luddites, mainly because we got such a kick out of watching my mother mow the yard with her rotary push mower. She always wanted to downgrade to a scythe, too. Not sure why.

Anyway, I’ll send emails to the winners with the Magnificat app coupon code, so you can get your free app.
Thanks for entering, everyone! You can still buy the app or the paper version of the wonderful Advent Companion from Magnificat here.

Giveaway! The 2016 Magnificat Advent Companion app

November 2016, when everyone’s talking about deactivating Facebook, unfriending almost everyone, moving overseas, taking long, hot showers, and bathing in Purell.

But you know and I know what we really need: We need Advent. Oh, do we need Advent. Some years, I have to persuade myself to get into the spirit of this season of penance, purification, and preparation, but right now I’m like YES PLEASE NOW PLEASE ALL THE ADVENT NOW PLEASE.

Happily, I have a little giveaway to get you going! Besides its excellent and gorgeous spiritual guide that comes out every month, Magnificat puts out an new Advent Companion every year, and I have two codes for the digital version to give away.

The paper version is 96 pages, a pocket-sized booklet. Here’s what this year’s version looks like:

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-11-04-47-am

Here’s a description of what’s inside:

A perfect way to live Advent to the full this year.

This pocket-sized Companion follows a practical, page-a-day format featuring original meditations on the Gospel reading of each day by twenty-five gifted authors.

Each issue of the Advent Companion is never the same as the last and contains these one-of-a-kind extras that you won’t find anywhere else:

– A variety of beautiful and practical blessings.
– An Advent Penance Service.
– Specially-commissioned poetry.
– Advent Stations.
– Praying the O Antiphons.

Magnificat’s products are wonderful. They refresh a world hungry for beauty and help. If you’re busy, you can dip in and follow just some of the content to enrich your Advent as you go; or you can use it as a comprehensive guide to help the season become truly transformative.

You can buy the paper copy here (and they offer discounts for bulk orders), and you can buy the app here.

I’m ditching Rafflecopter this time, because there are always so many glitches. To enter, leave a comment on the blog, and that’s one entry. To get additional entries, share this post on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ or elsewhere on social media, AND . . .  IMPORTANT: Please leave a separate comment for each additional entry you would like to earn.

So if you want three entries, leave one comment saying “Me please!” [or whatever], one comment saying “I shared your post on FB” and one comment saying “I tweeted this post.” And so on (using the honor system, because what kind of monster would cheat to get an Advent app?). Does that make sense? That will help me choose a winner randomly by using a random number generator, and I won’t need to use a raffle service.

Good luck! I’ll close the contest at noon eastern on Thursday the 17th, and I’ll announce the notify the winners on Thursday or Friday.