Whirs fill the air at Weave Got Maille, as tiny blades cut jumprings. The walls are filled with them in bags — tiny ring of turquoise, ruby red, gold. A century-old vault in the corner holds the precious metals used to make them; topaz, niobium, 14 carat gold.
“My parents wanted me to be a lawyer,” says Edie Ramstad, walking us through the new office space for her company, Weave Got Maille. “So instead I went with most opposite thing I could think of. A goldsmith.”
Weave Got Maille is the product of Edie’s boredom with retirement and love for the goldsmith craft. It’s a chainmaille supply manufacturer she started in 2012 in her living room. At the time, Edie says, she expected to ship around 600,000 jumprings per year. Now they ship over a million a day, to places all over the world.
All from their home base in Ada, MN, population 1,647.
“We just got Liechtenstein and Lithuania. Now we’re at…” Edie pauses for moment, before nodding. “Sixty-one. Sixty-one different countries we ship to.”
Their main customers are small jewelry shops, which buy and sell Weave Got Maille’s 130+ kits for making chainmaille bracelets, earrings and necklaces. But Weave Got Maille is also one of the only U.S. companies that can provide the supplies to create renaissance costumes, like chainmaille vests and headdresses. One recent order was to create a large wall hanging of jumprings, Edie says.
Bigger customers include popular HBO TV show Game of Thrones, and a certain Marvel film that Edie can’t speak too openly about yet. Let’s just say Weave Got Maille designed the costume for a new never-before seen character.
Everything from cutting the precious metals to shipping them to the customer happens in the U.S., much of it at Weave Got Maille’s headquarters, Edie explains. (“I spend over $75,000 on postage each year,” she added.)
Walking through the process feels like a lesson in Goldmisth 101. In order to create the small chainmaille links, they start with copper wire, which is wound quickly around a rod. Currently they use a mechanic developed by Edie’s husband Glenn, which is essentially a propped up drill.
The tightly spun cord is then run through saw, which slices it up into tiny rings. This machine is currently patent-pending, Edie said, and was designed in conjunction with professors and students at North Dakota State University. It involves spraying oil onto a tiny blade to keep it clean while it cuts. The rings are then coated in precious metals and enameled with color.
Other precious metals, like titanium, require stronger methods. In fact Weave Got Maille has developed one of the only lasers able to solder titanium and niobium, Edie says. (Patent-pending as well, so no photos!)
It’s just one of the ways that Edie and her 14 person team have sought to solve their own problems.
“The problem is there isn’t anyone else who is doing this,” Edie explains.
So, they sift the rings in a utensil meant to be a shrimp cooker. They use a paint shaker to tumble and polish the rings. They shop at places like kitchen stores, hardware facilities, even aquariums.
“Thinking in the box is never something I’ve been accused of,” Edie says, laughing.
Prices for the jumprings range from $12 per ounce to $140 per ounce. Likewise, customer orders total from $5.00 to $80,000 per order, according to Edie. In one day, the order amounts range from 50 to a couple hundred, she says.
Out of 700 companies in the chainmaille supply industry, Weave Got Maille is in the top three, Edie says. Their main competitors are a Canadian company and the entire country of Pakistan.
And yet, the surrounding city knows very little about what’s happening at 202 West Main Street, across from Ralph’s grocery store.
“90% of Ada does not know what we do,” Edie tells us. “They think we’re a bunch of ladies in here making jewelry and sipping coffee.”
What she’s actually doing is planning the next step for Weave Got Maille – a spinoff company for anodizing aluminum called Premier Anodizing. It’s yet another way Edie hopes to solve their own problem for anodizing materials.
Although based in Ada for now, largely due to family ties to a farm, Edie eventually hopes to be closer to Fargo, she said.
Their current office is only two months old. They refurbished it themselves, which involved installing five furnaces and two coolers. It was all self-financed using Edie’s retirement plan, she says. She still retains 100% ownership of the company.
But, just as Weave Got Maille outgrew first Edie’s living room, then her garage, then a first office – it’s already outgrowing this one.
“This space won’t last us a year,” Edie says. Already, they’re looking for where to move next.
In the meantime, they’ll continue sipping coffee and making jewelry.
[Editor’s Note: You can catch Edie on occasion at 1 Million Cups Fargo! Read more here. Just look for her car in the driveway – you’ll know it by the license plate.]
Photos by Marisa Jackels.