In Brian Galloway’s North East home, the wall next to the front door was the only space large enough to display his most recent creation. The pictures on the wall came down, replaced by a black curtain rod adorned with 33 rings and hooks.
Hanging from the rod is Galloway’s handmade Maryland state flag, one that will be 6.5 feet long and 3.5 feet tall once completed.
It will also be the first state flag, possible ever, to be made completely out of scalemail, the scales traditionally used to make medieval armor. Galloway’s scales are of a more modern variety and are made from aluminum.
“It’s kind of a weird hobby,” he conceded.
Galloway, 46, has spent seven months meticulously weaving together the red, silver, black and gold scales to recreate the coat of arms of Maryland’s colonial proprietors. Between the time spent hunched over his wife’s crafts table and his daily train ride to his job with a defense contractor in Odenton, Galloway estimates the flag will have taken 200 hours to complete.
With just the lower right quadrant to go, Galloway said he’s on track to finish by mid-September. His goal is to wrap up by October 11, the 137th anniversary of when the Maryland flag first flew over Baltimore.
A Cecil County native, Galloway began doing chainmail — the crafting of a kind of armor made by connecting a series of small rings — 15 years ago while stationed in Australia with the U.S. Air Force. He already had an interest in armor from online games like World of Warcraft and EverQuest, and his new skill proved useful for friends acting in Renaissance festivals who needed shirts and head pieces.
Upon moving to Colorado in 2006, Galloway began making chainmail jewelry, which often involves smaller rings with distinct weaves made from precious metals and gems. His wife always wears the sterling silver byzantine bracelet he made for her in 2008, right around the time she encouraged him to turn the hobby into a business. Nine years later, Gallomaille — a small company selling chainmail jewelry, armor and artwork— was born.
Stuck in traffic one February morning, Galloway noticed the reproduction of a Maryland crab on the back of a car. The red sections of the state flag embedded within the crab reminded him of the vibrant red scales he’d just received but wasn’t yet sure how to use.
“It kind of screams the European, medieval era,” Galloway said of the Maryland flag.
He workshopped the idea online with “mailers” around the world who agreed that no one had ever taken on the giant scalemail reproduction of a state flag. The finished product will weigh between 22 and 25 pounds and include 22,272 scales — 128 across and 174 down.
Balancing his full-time job and his role as the stepfather to three children, Galloway has always treated chainmail largely as a hobby. Galloway spends between five and six hours per week weaving the scales together, often with an episode of Game of Thrones playing in the background and, if it’s not a school night, a cold beer.
Galloway estimates that the materials required for the flag will cost around $1,100. But given the fact that a fellow mailer recently sold a scalemail dress for $5,000 online, Galloway hopes to make a significant chunk back.
If, that is, he can find a buyer.
“My friends and I were kicking around ideas asking ‘who would buy this’?” he said. “Anyone who is a die-hard Marylander.”
But before the flag hangs permanently on a buyer’s wall, he hopes it will make at least one stop at the Maryland State House. On his personal Facebook page, Galloway even wrote an appeal to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) asking for his consideration.
Hannah Marr, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said the administration appreciated “Galloway’s art and the passion and effort he put into this remarkable project” and that it would connect him with the “proper channels to display his work in the Annapolis complex.”
When the flag is finished, Galloway said he’ll continue to focus on scalemail, perhaps making banners of family crests. Copyright infringement laws prevent him from making scenes from Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. But he does have a request for the Arizona state flag from an Arizona native now living in Maryland.
The Maryland flag suspended in Galloway’s home may be the only one for some time.
“It’ll never be made again,” he said. “At least not from me.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that aluminum was traditionally used to make medieval armor. Though Brian Galloway is using aluminum scales for his flag, aluminum was not invented until the 1800s.