Social networking sites are all the rage. The best known are Facebook and MySpace. Even bloggers like me lurk around MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog communities where we can "meet" and interact with others who share common interests.

So when I came across a new social network site just for metal and jewelry artisans, I was quick to join The brainchild of Marcy aka Jewelry Geek, Metalchasers was born out of a need for a one-stop venue for jewelry enthusiasts. She felt there had to be a better way to learn and to socialise than just forums. Membership is free and open to those who are interested in any jewelry making crafts : bead stringing, metal smithing, chain maille, lamp work, metal clay, wire work and so on. Jewelry Geek was adamant Metalchasers be absolutely free of charge because artisans are so often charged for offering their art for sale on some sites, whether the pieces sell or not.

Only a month old, Metalchasers already offers several features with more in the works. Navigation is very easy to figure out. When I got stuck, a quick message to Jewelry Geek soon put me straight.

Virtual Studio
After I joined and filled in the essential account/profile information and uploaded a mugshot, a ready made mini website appears. The screen capture above shows mine still in the default design. You can then customize the look a bit further if you wish. The URL of the studio is provided for you to send to interested parties. This is a fantastic option for those who want a website but not the additional cost and hassle.

If you like to drool over jewelry designs, this feature is the ticket. Browsing is also a good way to revive your creativity when you temporarily lose your mojo to bead. Uploading and labelling photos are easy tasks. Just select the Submit Items tab when in your account. Wrong photo or tag? Click on the My Items tab to correct. To see your gallery, go to your studio and click on, yes you guessed it, Gallery. The photos not only appear in your studio but are also streamed into the general member gallery for everyone to ogle and perhaps rate. There is even a fun competition which picks two random designs and allows members to say which one they liked more.

A nice option for those who wish to blog but don't have the time or inclination to maintain an independent blog like mine. A blog linked to your virtual studio is a useful tool to inform and update viewers on what you do. The Metalchasers blog view is very basic as you can see from Jewelry Geek's blog. Writing a blog does require discipline, routine and some creativity, so this is a good way to find out if you are cut out to be a blogger.

Social Interaction
This is the fun part. You browse through other members' studios and find the artisans you admire and want to be friends with. You can publicly comment on other member websites or send them a private message.

ForumsThe format here is typical of forums where members can contribute comments, suggestions, ask questions under specified topics.

As jewelry making is such a broad field, I was pleased to see this feature where focus groups are created for those interested in a specific skill. This site is still very new but I envisage more groups forming with increasing membership.

Basically a classified ad section. It's still too early to say how this will perform as a selling site. However, within the community, members could potentially sell off excess beads or unwanted books or trade/barter material or skills.

As the site is all about learning and sharing, artisans can also upload their videos. Future plans include video interviews and weekly video newsletters.

I have a poll on my own blog where readers can vote for their favourite jewelry item - necklaces, bracelets, earrings,rings or brooches. Over time, the statistics could be surprising and fun to see. In Metalchasers, poll questions can be uploaded by any member but is subject to site owner approval.

So check it out. If you bump into me there, be sure to say hello.

UPDATE : This site is has been renamed and later closed down.

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