As we lead up to the Mini Maker Faire November 5-6, we’re spotlighting several internal Makers who will be presenting at the event during the Meet the Makers session. Today we meet Jean Mlynczak, a bookseller at Barnes & Noble in Bloomington, MN, who is also jewelry maker with her own business, Lady Dragon’s Treasures.
How did you become interested in jewelry making?
I have always loved jewelry. Between jewelry, stuffed animals and books I would fill the backseat of any car when I went to rummage sales as a child. My grandmother would assist and encourage the interest in jewelry, often buying me gifts from her rummage forays.
At a historical re-enactment in Prairie Du Chein, WI, I bought a bead ring for 50 cents. It was thin beading wire and seed beads, but I loved it. I wore it all the time and one of the wires broke. I brought it to my mother who promptly said, “You can figure out how to fix it.” Off we went to Ben Franklin where she bought me a number of supplies and sure enough I figured out how to fix it. Many years later I have learned a variety of new techniques, from basic stringing to wire wrapping, but it all started with that ring.
Tell us about your business, Lady Dragon’s Treasures.
I have been running Lady Dragon’s Treasures for about 13 years. I started with craft fairs and eventually moved into more specialized market sci-fi conventions. It is a self-sustaining business – I won’t make a million dollars from it, but I pay for my supplies with the money I make from sales, with a little extra.
That extra lets me vend at the sci-fi conventions, which influence my jewelry. If I can find a pendant that simulates or represents a fandom, I will be all over it. I often look for lightweight key chains, but I also order several of them on the Internet. I go to various stores and wholesale markets to acquire my beads. I use semi-precious stones, Czech glass, wood and various metals. I primarily make necklaces of late, with statement necklaces being very fashionable at the moment. I also make bracelets, anklets, and very recently rings!
Do you have any interesting anecdotes you can share about jewelry making?
I have a variety of stories to go with many of the jewelry pieces that I have made. I have used my jewelry making with two different school clubs when I was teaching. The students learned to make the jewelry and then we sold it at school events. I believe my clubs were the only ones to have finished the year with more money in their accounts than what they started with!
One of the groups I worked with developed a piece of jewelry I still make today called “hair kites.” They are similar to the braided bead strands you can often get at fairs. They are attached to a hair clip so you can take it out. The students came up with the name.
One time I made a rosary for a friend. He sent it with his parents to get blessed in Rome. I have also taken the rosary pattern and used it to make themed Y-Necklaces based on various sci-fi fandoms (Star Wars, Dr. Who, Supernatural)
How do you equate jewelry making with the Maker Movement?
Jewelry making fits in the Maker Movement in two ways as I see it. One, it is handmade. I create it and design it. I come up with the themes and I branch out with new skills as I learn them. It is about creating from nothing. The second way is about sharing. Jewelry is shared whether just by displaying it, giving as gifts, or selling it. It is shared with everyone who sees it. But it is also shared by showing others how to do it. I often make my jewelry before work or during breaks, and show how I do it to anyone who asks. Makers want to share what they love.
Describe your upcoming session at the Mini Maker Faire.
I will have a couple of different items for people to try at the Mini Maker Faire. I will have some beads available where they can make a pendant or a simple bracelet to take home. Mostly I will be sharing what the tools are, how to use them, and very basic skills.
Will you join us at your local Barnes & Noble for the Maker Faire? We would love to see you and your family there. Learn more details here!