Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Mail man' outfits city knights, damsels

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MOSES Dueck is a mail man. The 26-year-old Winnipegger -- graduate of a Mennonite high school in Gretna, former university music major and reformed computer technician -- makes his living carefully crafting tiny metal rings into jewelry, knickknacks and clothing. It's his passion, he says, and he makes a good living outfitting local knights and damsels.

Without bragging, he makes it clear he's the codpiece maker of choice for Winnipeg's discerning fetishists.

He has also contributed to four giant chain mail banners that are scheduled to be hung at the Tower of London later this summer.

"If you can think it, I can do it," says Dueck, who has created everything from metal tunics and bras to g-strings. "I've always been a guy kind of outside the norm."

This from a man who is his own best advertisement just by sitting outside Fuel, an Osborne Village coffee shop, wearing a chain mail vest over a T-shirt and an assortment of his own jewelry. He says he gets a lot of reaction from strangers -- most of it positive.

"I get occasional smart-ass jocks coming up and saying things like: 'Where's your horse?' I haven't received any really, really negative remarks."

Dueck began by making wire jewelry and, a couple of years ago, started with chain mail. He saw a picture of someone wearing an outfit on-line that piqued his curiosity and, after taking out a book from the public library and researching the art on-line, he was in business. His first project was a 26,000-ring vest. "That was really a labour of love," he says.

The process starts with seven-mile spools of wire -- everything from aluminum and steel to copper and titanium. The wire is drilled to form a tight spring (about a 12-second process per small section), then cut into rings. Dueck, who makes and seals all his own rings, can produce between 100 and 200 in five minutes. The rings are woven in a predetermined pattern into a garment or other item.

It's a painstaking task. There are 33,000 rings in the vest he wears, each of them made by hand.

"I pride myself on not ripping people off," says the earnest Dueck. "The majority of people who do chain mail charge too much. There's like seven bucks of material in a vest." He sells the majority of his work on his Web site.

A ring is only $15 and a pair of earrings $7. The large, specialty items are pricier to reflect the amount of time they take to finish. Vest armour is $150, halters are $100 and, for 50 bucks, you can have a bikini, thong bottom or codpiece. Dueck says his most unusual commission came from a man who wanted a g-string combined with some very intimate jewelry.

"There's usually a lot of sitting around naked," says Dueck of the specialized clothing fittings. "Mostly I do bras and halters. They're bought by the least likely people, usually women between 30 and 45."

His Tower of London work was a sub-contract from another chain mail artist who asked Dueck to complete intricate insets into the 440,000-ring banners. He created two, both 10 feet by six feet, one of three lions and the other of the heraldic shield. He worked two months almost around the clock to complete the assignment.

He makes most of his money from less prosaic items. Hacky sacks are popular, as are the dice bags that people in the role-playing community carry. The bags, which come in a variety of sizes, are also used by other gamers to carry cards. Dueck was tickled when a woman in her fifties bought one at the Fringe Festival to hold her cellphone.

What does his Mennonite mother think of his unusual livelihood?

"She thinks it kicks ass," says Dueck cheerfully.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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