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Lani Miller/The Ancient Link: Featured Jewelspan Jeweler

The Ancient Link ... modern artisan jewelry designs using textile techniques, ancient artifacts and unconventional devices

golden flow necklaceKnitted 14kt gold-filled wire necklace w/ancient Roman garnets.

How did you get your start in jewelry designing? When you were 20 years old you were in a bad accident that as you say "was a changing point in my life, both physically and creatively." Do you think your career path might have been different if not for the accident? 


Absolutely! Prior to the accident, I attended Syracuse University with a Classical Languages scholarship and with an eye towards a career in archaeology. The head injury caused me to lose every scrap of the skills needed to carry on with my career ambitions. Fortunately, my creativity was certainly sharpened. As suddenly as I lost my ability with Latin, I gained an ability to focus on meditative textile arts. After a while, I was channeling all my energy into this single skill set. And soon enough I began reinventing the rules of textile arts to suit this newly-found creativity. 


Tell our readers how you learned the textile techniques that we see in your work, and what inspired you to use them in your jewelry designs? 


My maternal grandmother was raised in Switzerland where every girl is expected to know how to knit, embroider and crochet. She began teaching me when I was six, and I became reasonably proficient by ten. After the accident, I found those textile skills were the easiest to recall. Years later, and much to my horror, I found moths had destroyed my entire stock of wool and silk. A few days after that (and after wiping away the tears), I dug a spool of fine gauge copper out of my tool box. Having recently read Arline Fisch’s book, “Textile Techniques in Metal”, I thought to try my hand at it. I soon found that in spite of the challenges involved using unforgiving wire instead of fiber, the creative horizons suddenly appeared limitless. Also, wire is impervious to moths. 

 Glass Helix - Two tubes of knitted fine silver with ancient Roman glass shards and beads.


Your hand-knitted pieces are beautiful; tell us about the process and how long it takes you to create one? 


The knitted pieces are among the easiest to make, relatively speaking. All the knitting is done just as you would with fiber on needles or with knitting spool. A knitting spool is a wooden or plastic tube with a number of pegs situated around the tube hole. I knit around the pegs to the length I want my tube to be. And just like knitting with fiber, I measure gauge and calculate the placement of beads or other decorative elements according to gauge. It doesn’t take too long to do the knitting, perhaps half a day, depending on the size of the piece. The time consuming part is in the finishing as I choose not to use store-bought fittings for any of my pieces. 


Spiraling OutSpiraling Out of Control - Eight strands of copper braided over a silver   core using the Kumihimo technique. Beads are ancient Indus Valley carnelians.


Tell us a little about Japanese Kumihmo, and what was the inspiration for your "Kumihimo with Metal" instructional video? 


Kumihimo is an 8th century textile braiding technique originating in ancient Japan and was used to make decorative and functional straps for clothing and armaments. Independently, the technique was “discovered” in Victorian times to make elaborate hair jewelry and even complex hair braid patterns. I searched the internet for kumihimo with metal instructions and much to my surprise, there was nothing. Undaunted, I picked up my kumihimo disc and some long strands of wire and taught myself by trial and error. After becoming proficient with this new skill, I thought to share this technique on YouTube for greatest exposure. It fills a void, obviously, as the video is closing in on ten thousand hits. I go through the process, step by step, start to finish. Currently, I am working on a new video: “Macramé with Metal”. 

Lani workingIridescence - Fine silver crochet with ancient Roman glass shards and vintage cultured pearls.


What gives you the most pleasure in your career as a jewelry designer? 


I love having the idea for a piece in my head, then puzzling out how it will come to fruition. During my travels, I see jewelry in almost everything around me, especially textiles. Once a new design or pattern comes to mind from these inspirations, I start thinking about how to translate it into jewelry using metal. Should it be macramé, crocheted, knitted, woven, traditional metal work, or a combination of these techniques? The process thrills me, even more so than the finished product. And of course, like every artist, I am enormously pleased when people appreciate what I’ve done. 


lani miller working Lani Miller at work in her studio.

Describe your studio and a typical "work" day for you? 

I start the day getting all the “housekeeping” done for the business: answer email, do the books, maintain the website, etc. Then I work on any orders to be filled, after which I can get to the fun stuff of creating new jewelry designs. I am very lucky; since the kids are grown and gone, an entire floor of my home is now devoted exclusively to studio space. My “commute” is a flight of stairs and I am at work! I have several workstations: a jewelry bench, soldering table and a hammering and texturing area with anvil and rolling mill. There’s also a comfy couch to sit on while knitting and crocheting. My dog, cat and parrots are there all day to supervise and make sure I get everything done! In other words, the environment suits my creatively perfectly, I love it and look forward to it every day. 

View Lani's Jewelspan website, The Ancient Link here.



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