Linkt is the brainchild of Rebeca Mojica, an award-winning jewelry artist, instructor, and best-selling author who has been designing chainmaille jewelry since 2002. Rebeca uses striking colors and innovative designs to push the limits of a style of jewelry known as “chainmaille.” She has heavily influenced the industry by introducing new weaves that hundreds of artisans all over the world recreate and sell today.
A perfectionist to the core, Rebeca was disappointed in the quality of the chainmaille supplies she found when she first began making. She felt her artistic vision was often compromised due to substandard material; no existing supplier met her high standards for precision-sized, perfectly cut rings in colorful and solid metals. So, in 2003, she founded Blue Buddha Boutique as a supplier of chainmaille components. The company grew to sales of $1M+ annually, serving customers in all 50 states and more than 40 countries. In 2016, Rebeca shut down Blue Buddha’s store and main website and moved to West Hollywood. She began work on Linkt Craft Kits by Neat-Oh! International, the first line of chainmaille kits for tweens, which launched in 2017.
Rebeca’s work has appeared in local and national media including The Huffington Post, Art Jewelry Magazine, The Crafts Report, The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times. She is the author of the best-selling instructional jewelry book, CHAINED, (North Light Books, 2010) and was a contributing editor to Step by Step Wire Jewelry magazine from 2009-2013. Her micromaille necklace Poseidon’s Embrace was a 3rd place winner in the Finished Jewelry category of the international Bead Dreams 2009 competition—marking the first time a chainmaille design was juried into the finals. In 2014 the same necklace won first place in the Jewelry category of the inagural Craftys Awards. In 2013, her Chainmaille Mandala won People’s Choice in the Bead Dreams competition.
Rebeca teaches chainmaille locally and at a select number of international bead/gem shows and out-of-state crafting shops. She has created dozens of tutorials for making chainmaille jewelry through Blue Buddha Boutique and graciously allows other artisans to create and sell any of these Rebeca Mojica original designs. When she is not weaving maille or running the business, Rebeca enjoys cooking, powerlifting, cuddling with her cats and contemplating quantum physics and fractal cosmology. She recently discussed her incredible career via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get into designing jewelry and why did you focus on this particular style?
Rebeca Mojica (RM): I started making chainmaille jewelry in 2002 after seeing someone wearing a chainmaille belt. For a long time, I’d felt like I wanted to do something with my hands, and as soon as I linked my first chainmaille rings together, I was hooked. Originally, I thought I would branch out to do other forms of jewelry. While I do occasionally take a workshop to learn new techniques in different media, there are so many possibilities with chainmaille, that I’m always engaged and excited to see what I can explore next.
MM: What were some of the biggest culture challenges you faced when you entered into the jewelry industry?
RM: I was coming from a background of fundraising and public relations, so jewelry-making was definitely a new world. I had to learn new industry jargon and wound up spending a lot of time and money researching suppliers, trying to find the perfect components for my jewelry. Especially back in the early 2000s, there was a mainstream perception of crafters as just being hobbyists—like, people didn’t think this was my real job, or they somehow thought it was easy and laid-back. Remember, this is before the days of Etsy and the recent movement to “shop local” and “support handmade.” Back then, I don’t think most people thought crafting was a legitimate way to make a living. I would attend entrepreneurial workshops, or seek out mentors, and some people would treat me with an incredibly condescending attitude! Thankfully, there were many people who *were* supportive and provided great guidance. But yeah, there was definitely an attitude shift from me entering a business meeting and introducing myself as “Development Director” vs “Jewelry Artisan.”
MM: How did you get your own company off the ground, and why did you decide to end it in 2016?
RM: I officially started my company, Blue Buddha Boutique, in 2003. I sold finished jewelry as well as tools and supplies. I also taught at local shops and art studios. When I started the company, I gave myself five years to make it my sole source of income. At the time, I had four other part-time jobs. Little by little, I was able to quit one job after the other and devote more time to B3. It happened gradually—adding more teaching gigs, finding more galleries to carry my work, creating a website that allowed me to ship to people all over the world—and then all of a sudden, it was four and a half years later and I was ready to quit my final job, hire an assistant and take that final leap. That was in 2007 and over the next nine years, the business grew larger than I ever imagined. At our peak we had a full retail store in addition to our online warehouse, staffed by eighteen part-time and full-time employees.
When I started my company, one of the main driving factors was that I felt my artistic vision was often compromised due to substandard material; no existing supplier met my high standards for precision-sized, perfectly cut rings in colorful and solid metals. So, I created the company in order to make better designs, and at the same time realized there was a huge demand for instruction and supplies, as chainmaille wasn’t as established as other forms of jewelry-making. As Blue Buddha grew, so did the competition; new and established vendors stepped up to increase the quality of their offerings. YouTube came around and all of a sudden there were tons of free video tutorials. Our sales declined slightly, but more problematic was the fact that our operational costs kept climbing. I ultimately realized I had a bigger desire to focus on designing, rather than to lead a company through figuring out manufacturing and operations issues. Once it was clear we were not going to be in the black any time soon, I decided to shut down. Well, mostly shut down. I still operate Blue Buddha Boutique as an Etsy shop, but it’s just me, selling primarily tutorials and a few kits. It’s much more manageable, and honestly, far better for my stress levels and health.
MM: How do you think up Linkt and how did you come to partner with Neat-Oh?
RM: Back in 2009, I was fortunate enough to be selected for ATHENAPowerLink, a program that works with established female entrepreneurs and provides them with an advisory board. So, essentially, for an entire year I got to pick the brains of people with significantly more experience that I had in a variety of fields related to improving my business. The manufacturing advisor was Dee Farrell, Senior Vice President and Co-Founder of Neat-Oh! International. Way back then, she said to me, “Hey Rebeca, I’d love to do chainmaille for kids!” My response was, “Oh my goodness, chainmaille for adults is hard enough!” And we chuckled a little. We didn’t seriously pursue the idea until a couple years ago when Dee and her partner Wayne Rothschild approached me to find a way to make it work. The toy industry was ready for a new crafts product and we thought it was a perfect time to introduce chainmaille for kids. I was really impressed with their team, and because Blue Buddha was closing down, it seemed like the perfect example of “when one door closes, another one opens.”
MM: Have you any favorite designs and/or kits?
RM: I love the Spinning Halos kit! It makes five necklaces with five matching earrings, and it’s based on my Scalloped Necklace design from the Phoebe collection of my professional jewelry line. (Sidenote: The collection is named Phoebe because it uses large jump rings, and Phoebe is the name of the outermost ring around the planet Saturn. I’m a science nerd like that!) The necklace is elegant and classy and was always a great seller for me at shows. Pattern-wise, it’s simple-enough that someone brand new to the craft can succeed in making it. So that’s really cool – you can have absolutely no jewelry-making experience whatsoever, and then make something truly stunning!
I also love the Bubble Loops kit, based on the traditional European 4-in-1 weave. We have a really cool patent-pending tool that holds the rings in place while you add new rings, and it is so helpful for this weave. The finished piece can be either a bracelet or a necklace, depending if you add the full chain or just clasp it as-is. You can wear it as a bracelet one day, and easily change it to a necklace the next day – the versatility is great.
In terms of my own jewelry, one of my favorites also uses the European 4-in-1 weave – it’s Poseidon’s Embrace. There are more than 14,000 jump rings in this necklace, sized 1.6? mm inner diameter. Um, suffice it to say, this will not be in kit form, ever, haha.
MM: These kits are super popular with tween girls, so what kind of feedback have you received?
RM: Going way back to the early days of testing the product, one of the girls in our focus group wore her necklace to the mall, and she told us she had multiple friends (and even some strangers) come up to her and say, “Wow! That necklace is so cool, where did you get it?” And she was so excited to tell them that she made it herself!
Then there’s this one gal on Instagram—Little One, her mother calls her—who is obsessed with Linkt. She started when she was eight; she’s now nine and I think she’s purchased at least seven kits with her own money. Pretty cool! She’s made some YouTube videos about Linkt. And there’s another gal who’s made videos too. For me, that’s really satisfying, to know that kids are enjoying this so much they want to make videos about it!
Every time we teach a workshop at a toy store, the kids AND moms are so excited once they get started with their pieces. Not only do they think it’s fun to make, but the end result is beautiful. As we like to say, it’s not a macaroni necklace! The moms want to wear Linkt pieces because they love the designs and colors, not just because they love their children who made the jewelry.
MM: The designs are easy to do when you follow the instructions, but kids can also create unique designs…so, have any original creations really impressed you?
RM: One young gal, Lily, is one of our packaging models and she’s also made and tested the product. Completely on her own, she put together leftover rings from a kit and made a lovely hand flower—a bracelet that connects to a finger ring. it’s funny, I’m sure she didn’t even know the word hand flower; she just created something she thought was beautiful, and it was!
MM: Right now, how many kits are in the Linkt series and which are most popular?
RM: There are nine kits total. Spinning Halos is the most popular, probably because it is both simple and beautiful. I mean, it looks more like a necklace you’d see on the pages of a fashion magazine rather than in a kid’s crafting kit!
Bonding Bracelets and Bubble Loops have also been popular. Bonding Bracelet works great for parties as well as the youngest of tweens because the design is very simple; it combines silicone rings with metals rings, which allows the pattern to come together quickly and easily. It’s a great choice for birthday parties because the kids need very little guidance with this piece once they get started. Spinning Halos, Bubble Loops and Hoops and Loops (a kit that makes twenty pairs of earrings) have all won industry awards.
Four of our kits are brand new as of a few weeks ago (one is still being shipped to stores, actually), so it’s hard to say which of those will be most popular, but I’m guessing Metal Petals is going to be a big hit, because it uses new components and has a different look from everything we’ve done thus far.
MM: What is coming up next for you and is there anything else that you would like to mention?
RM: We’re already working on the next few rounds of designs for Linkt. These projects are created by other award-winning designers to allow the brand to branch out beyond chainmaille. We’re developing kits of increasing complexity that introduce wire wrapping, wire forming and other wirework techniques. Our goal is to create a comprehensive and progressive curriculum, allowing users to progress and expand their skills.
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To learn more about the Linkt brand, visit the official website of Neat-Oh!
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