(Supplied photo Here is our fearless and fabulous creative artist, Dylon Whyte of Gore Bay, who has developed his knowledge and craft of creating chainmail for 26 years.)
In my 24 years summering, and one winter spent on Manitoulin, I have adored this kid, creative, delightful, and funny, now 40-year-old Dylon Whyte. My friendship with Donna and Klaus Bach, living next to Manitoulin’s prodigious and charming painter, Jack Whyte, has enabled me to watch Dylon grow in artistic, intellectual capacities and his innovative follies into the realms of mirth, learning and sharing the beauty of art, and often make me marvel with laughter. And I laugh with his beautiful wife, Ashley. Dylon’s a veteran with the Gore Bay Summer Theatre, enjoying character acting. In one play, he had eight roles.
“Auntie Bonnie, I suffered multiple personalities after that play was over.” He sighs, long resigned to my adoring gushiness. “As Gore Bay is concerned, I’ve become a bit of a character, I love living here.”
But Dylon Whyte is a name to know, when it comes to the ancient art of chainmail. From clothing to costume, couture to couturier, even cinematography, he’s a constant student. Dylon has written three successful books on the creation of chain, including The Art of Chainmail - Volume 1 - European Patterns, Chain Mail Jewelry and Beaded Chain Mail Jewelry.
“After self-publishing my original book, I was invited to edit and illustrate my first title professionally, which I subsequently rewrote and followed with a second title on the topic of chainmail jewelry, both which were published by Lark Books, a division of Sterling Publishing,” he said.
"Creating chain clothing is kind of like being a tailor that receives their materials as spools of thread. This is the sort of thing that must first be woven on a loom before being sewn into a finished garment." Dylon reminds me. “This talk of Canada culture that Manitoulin Island is delighted to endorse, allows us to continue to identify ourselves to the world in order to invite and foster growth in tourism.”
Dylon wrote his first book on chainmail in 1998. “I thought it would be an e-book. But it took another decade for e-books to get popular. In the meantime, I was amazed to sell almost 5,000 print copies. I partnered with companies selling materials and we’ve produced three soft cover spiral bound editions since. Now, I’m able to sell the fifth edition of this digital book on-line along with my chain tutorials.”
“I love teaching folks ways to create for themselves,” Dylon told me. He’s working on a brand-new blog, and a new chainmail book, which will be a sequel to his initial Art of Chainmail. It will be based on the questions he has been asked as a chain artist over the years besides the weaves and project patterns he is known for.
Dylon, Ashley and his dad have opened a family shop at Gore Bay Harbour Centre, displaying Jack’s paintings, Dylon’s chainmail artworks, books and Ashley’s micro-gardening plants. When I tried on a chainmail camisole, it felt empowering, the shiny silver, something to the weight, the texture and to the sound of it. It jingled softly.
“Every piece has its own unique sound,” Dylon agrees.“My new boot chains were inspired by Ashley. I love how the look of industrial metal contrasts with the natural leather. It’s a great juxtaposition. We have an entire selection of chain pieces at our shop, from chain octopi the size of golf ball to chain owls, fish, and butterflies.”
Dylon’s continuing allure about chainmail started when he was 17. “I saw a movie with the coolest costume I’d ever seen, a piece of chainmail, and I had to have one. That movie was Cyborg, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Twenty-six years and over 2.5 million chain links later, I’m still at it,” he said. “I took bolt cutters, pliers and a screwdriver to a length of standard chain, like what folks would use as a dog leash and made what was my first piece of chain mail, a wrist bracer. It’s been a love affair ever since. With each new iteration of my personal armour, I discover something new or unique that goes on to influence the next evolution of my work.”
Dylon’s goal is always to convey there’s a practical side to everything. “Chainmail is simply one example of a specialized technique which can be transformed into a resourceful method of building items we use every day,” he says. Check out www.chainman.me for updates and learn how to support local entrepreneurs.
Two weeks ago, Dylon was involved with Canada’s Culture Days, a non-profit organization that wishes Canadians to be more familiar with our artists and culture. At the Gore Bay Harbour Centre, he gave a demonstration as part of Manitoulin’s Festival of a Thousand Skills, produced by the Manitoulin Tourist Association. The current president of the MTA is Ron Berti, expanding the initiative of the Island’s marketing and shoulder seasons. His talk: “Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about chainmail, but were afraid to ask.”
Dylon has kept me laughing, riffing amazing stories about Bacon and other amusements of life while fixing my computer through the years. “What are your observations about life these days as a Gore Bay technomancer?”
“I received my first royalty check from Amazon for all the books I’ve sold, a onetime payment as I hadn’t reached an official payment threshold. It was for 93 cents. If you’ve made a dollar on the Internet, you’re doing better than 99% of users. I’m a few cents short of my goals.”
As much as Dylon loves teaching, he continues to write. “I overestimated my ability to sell humour, science fiction and pure randomness. My goal was to create bathroom readers, but being electronic they turned out to be a hard to sell. My new plan is to crowd source my next title, so as to produce a print edition and produce my audience before production. The book you liked about Bacon, Bonnie, was funny, but it was difficult to look beyond the cover. It was 64 Shades of Bacomegle: Do you like strange questions? Then you’ll love this book.”
Infiniplex Press is Dylon’s company where he regularly scouts prospective authors for new titles to publish digitally or at least consult with on what kind of solutions best suit their individual needs.
To bring this full circle, the allure of chain mail will be shared with Dylon’s wit and whimsy in his projected new book, titled The Art of Chainmail II: Stories of Real Chain Amor. That’s the Italian word for love, get it, Auntie Bonnie? Amore? Sounds like armor, eh?”
“You bet, keep growing and glow, Dylon.”
And Dylon does.
— Our Bonnie keeps watching others grow on Manitoulin, delighted with the creativity and charm of our region. Please find her bestselling novel, Manhattan Manitoulin, at Chapters and at Turners in Little Current. Find Bonnie with your story at BonniKogos@aol.com.
Original Sudbury Star Article - October 11th, 2014