Sunday, April 1, 2018

Warmth and light

The days are more cheering now. The sun is shining and the air is warmer. Gracie the cat follows the sun around the house during the course of the day, finding little puddles of light in which to stretch and sleep. While I can't physically do that, I find myself feeling that same sort of unraveling on these sunny days. As if all the physical discomfort of the colder weather is slowly slipping out of my body, replaced by warmth and light.

And with the warmth and light, my creativity begins to flow again. I've been spending more time in the studio, challenging myself to find joy there again. And I have and continue to feel the joy of creativity. I'm afraid I've created very few new pieces in bronze and copper, as I have far less fine jewellery in my stock and must increase the number of pieces - for both my own sales and the sales at the Aultbea Hotel. But, I am currently working on a split shank bronze and amethyst ring that is going to be amazing. Stay tuned for that one to show up in the next couple of weeks. I want to concentrate more on the metals this year and creating pieces that challenge my metalsmithing. I finally found a solder that is a really good match for both the copper and the bronze, which makes it easier to create linked designs without discernible seams. I hope to create some wonderful bangles and cuff bracelets this year, too. Some of my beautiful turquoise is destined to be part of The Selkie's Haunt collection.

The one piece I have made is this pair of earrings. Called "Amber Rings," these bronze earrings showcase beautiful green amber slices. These earrings were not easy to make. Unlike copper and silver (and gold and platinum, for that matter), bronze is a very hard material to work with, both literally and figuratively. It doesn't have a lot of give and even heating it does not lessen its toughness. I have gone from hard to bend to melted without hitting that perfect temperature that will give me more ease of movement. As a result, the metal doesn't always do what I want it to do, or it will only do it to one of a pair of earrings, for example. I have decided I must embrace the little idiosyncrasies - they are what make it clear that these earrings are entirely handmade and not mass produced.

Despite the warming weather, I can't but help but think about the beautiful brooches I will be able to create with the agates I now have in my collection. The colours are so earthy, so warm - I can see them paired with the warmth of copper or bronze and then displayed beautifully on a lapel or scarf. I will be creating both penannular and fibula brooches. I may even try my hand at bar brooches or "hat pins," 

As I mentioned earlier, I am also working on rings. I love rings and with bronze and copper, the ability to create very textured, very organic pieces always feels right. So, hopefully over the next couple of months, I will create a good dozen or so rings. 

For now, I am just trying to find the right balance of working time and time to spend with my husband. His mood remains buoyant, but his pain is increasing in intensity and frequency and they've recently upped his pain medication. He tires easily and our old life as a couple of creative night owls is no longer, as he likes to get to bed early and have time to just relax and talk while listening to music. Precious, precious time to be together.

May I ask you a favour, please. As I am finding the balance of work and leisure, I find I must do more to create more traffic and interest in my websites. May I ask you to share whenever you can? My visitor numbers are not as I would like them to be - I've never really felt too much concern about my online sales. For me, jewellery is something that must be seen to be appreciated. But I would appreciate more interaction online. Please follow this blog; follow my Facebook business page, and my Twitter. Help me spread the word about my lovely creations. I thank you in advance. 

I will close by wishing you a very Happy Easter and a happy spring. Here the daffodils are finally blooming and the deer and rabbits are more constant visitors in our garden. I love this time of year and hope it is lovely where you are, too. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Fordite and Agate and Jasper Plans

As promised, here is a photo of the beautiful piece of Fordite that I purchased. This is the older and rarer Fordite, sourced from the Detroit factories from decades ago. I love this stone. I was going to pair this with copper or bronze, but think I may end up using silver with it. It has some silver in the piece and feel that silver would best complement this "stone." That being said, I will be sourcing more Fordite and I think it would look amazing with copper or bronze.

Isn't this a stunning stone? As I said in my prior blog, this reminds me of tribal art. This will become a pendant, and I will be adding ruby and black spinel to complement the reds and blacks. You can see the silver in the photograph. Just amazing way to recycle industrial waste.

What I am planning with all my agates and jaspers is that most will become pendants where the stones will be paired with gemstones that help to pick up a colour in the stone one might not see immediately. Some will be used with copper or bronze, some with silver. I will decide each on its own merit, but there will be choices to be made in both my fine jewellery collections (Ailleas Designs) and within the collections for The Selkie's Haunt. Some of the smaller agates and jaspers will make amazing rings. I look forward to getting to work in the next couple of weeks after I complete some pressing commissions.

Speaking of commissions, I have temporarily suspended taking commissions for the time being, but will honour those that already sit in the books. My husband has recently attended hospice to have his meds "fine tuned" and the doctors there have determined that his life expectancy is now a matter of 12 weeks or so. Believe me when I say that is much harder to type than to read and I still find myself finding the whole concept quite abstract. But, obviously, I will be working for the next 12 weeks, but will fit it into his scheduled rest during the day.  I feel quite sure that when the time comes, I will find solace in my work and may create some amazing work while going through the grief process. They say most great art is created by tortured souls...

For those of you who have commented on my Facebook business page or have reached out through email or message to let me know that you are keeping my husband in your thoughts and prayers, I can only say a most heartfelt thank you for your concern. I'm going to need y'all later to help me find my way back from my grief. With your support and the creative process, I'm sure I'll be okay.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

February bonus blog - Accidental Treasures

From the time I "discovered" the family run business here in the UK that specialises in beautiful hand-cut cabochons, I have been drawn to the vivid colours of a "stone" called Rainbow Calsilica. But what troubled me is the debate over its place in the world of gemology. You see, no one was absolutely 100 percent sure if it was natural or manmade. There were claims of seeing "rough" material, and there was the fact that many individuals selling these "stones" at rock collection events were representing it as organic. But, until I could find the definitive information about it, I was not sure I wanted to add any to my collection of cabochons for use in jewellery that I then sell on.

After a great deal of research and after reading points and counterpoints to the argument, I found what I feel to be the definitive answer. And it was pretty much sealed with the inclusion of a photo of "rough" with a cola bottle top embedded within it. You see, like Fordite, Rainbow Calsilica is an "accidental" stone, a byproduct of manmade materials.

Before I tell you about Rainbow Calsilica, let me explain about Fordite, because I love this and I am awaiting a piece of Fordite I've just recently purchased. This gorgeous byproduct of automobile manufacture is amazing. It is simply the collection of old automotive paint in bands of colour that have mixed and swirled and then hardened to a finish that allows for cutting and polishing. It has been referred to as one of the most beautiful manmade gemstones and the original Fordite, going back to the Detroit factories of the early years of automobile production, is considered the most valuable. While the older Fordite displays fewer and less vibrant colours (remember when cars basically came in black, white, blue, and red?), this stone, also referred to as Detroit Agate or Motor Agate, is colourful and interesting. I have seen examples that remind me very much of tribal masks and tribal art. As I said, I have purchased a piece to include in my jewellery and, fortunately, the company here in the UK does carry some - both the older and more rare Fordite and the newer, more vibrant Fordite.

And the joy of "accidental" stones or gems doesn't stop there, either. I am old enough to remember the days of bowling balls that were somewhat sparkly and had an almost chatoyant finish (tiger's eye reflection or movement under light). Old bowling balls are now being cut and polished. The name of this man-made "stone" is Bowlerite. But, unlike Fordite and Rainbow Calsilica, it is not accidental, but intentional. This "stone" is not one I will be adding to my collection. But I can understand the attraction some people may have for this "stone."

Now, Rainbow Calsilica. As it turns out, Rainbow Calsilica is caused by the build-up of slurry from Mexican tile factories! Offcuts of tiles are disposed of, obviously in order of colours produced, and over time the slurry hardens and it offers up a striated lump of various colours. Once cut and polished, these stones are so beautiful, so colourful, and what a terrific way for "waste" to become useful again. The piece I bought is pictured at the top of this blog. Isn't it lovely? I believe this piece will become a very beautiful statement ring - I will just need to decide whether to pair it with copper, bronze, or silver. But I am sure it will make a beautiful piece of jewellery.

Once my Fordite has arrived, I will share a photograph of it with you. As I described above, this particular piece reminds me a bit of tribal art, as if tribal art and psychedelic art were somehow combined. I love the ethos behind these pieces as well - turning waste into treasure. The ultimate recycling. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Yabba-Dabba-Dinosaur!

What, you may ask, is that headline all about? Well, I will tell you. I recently purchased a genuine agatised piece of dinosaur fossil! Yup, you read that right - agatised dinosaur fossil. This is where a dinosaur bone is left in the earth and agate builds up around and inside the bone. We've all seen old bones - with all the little holes and crevices that appear as the bone ages. With dinosaur bones, because they are underground, they often fill with agate or other minerals. So, amongst my offerings this spring will be a lovely copper pendant showcasing this lovely "stone." I've decided on a fairly simple pendant design that a young man might not think it too feminine to wear. A uni-sex dinosaur bone pendant. Well, it's certainly a first for me!

And here it is! Isn't it fabulous? The agate that forms inside the bones can be various colours and this
particular specimen has taken on a red hue. I find it amazing that I can hold this piece and know that the dinosaur to whom this belonged lived at some point during the Mesozoic Era (between 230 and 65 million years ago). Was the dinosaur this came from alive during the Triassic period, the Jurrasic period, or the Cretaceous period? All we know is that this particular dinosaur was roaming what is now Utah when it came to the end of its life.

Speaking of agates, I also acquired a gorgeous little agate that will be perfect in a statement ring. I haven't decided yet whether it will be bronze or copper, but I do know it will be lovely. This stunning little agate is called Orpheus agate and comes
from Bulgaria. As with all my recent acquisitions, both this agate and the dinosaur fossil stone come from the small family-run business here in the UK. They are, as I've shared before, as fastidious as I am about the provenance of their cabochons. That means that both you and I can buy with confidence that we are buying the genuine article.

The months ahead are perfect for creating, as the first event of the season isn't until late March. So I will be busy in my studio creating lovely jewellery for your consideration. 

---------------------------------

A short note about my husband, Chris. He had chemo in early December and it nearly killed him. Just nine days after his chemo (which had to be stopped 2/3rds of the way through due to excruciating pain), he was hospitalised with an infection of unknown origin and dangerously low potassium levels - basically just hours away from developing sepsis. After all that, Chris and I, and our incredible kids, all decided that chemo was not the way to go. Chris is now on palliative care only. We don't know how long we have, we don't want to know. We just know we need to cherish each and every day as it comes. Thank you to those who have sent message of support and good wishes. We will keep up our spirits and keep up the fight...

Monday, January 1, 2018

Wishing You a Wonderful 2018

Another year has flown by. And what a year it has been. While I could dwell on the sad and shocking, I am, instead, going to focus on all that was wonderful. A new granddaughter - what could be better. She is starting the new year by having mastered crawling. Oh, her poor mum! It really gets busy now.

For me, the new year is going to be one of sitting down and getting to work - creating beautiful jewellery with amazing materials. If you are a frequent visitor to my Facebook page (click here), you will have experienced seeing the photographs of the amazing cabochons I have been collecting over the last couple of months. While some will be reserved for work with sterling silver, there are several that will most obviously be used in settings with bronze or copper. My first thought is of this amazing
stone of orpheus agate. It is so beautiful. I will be setting this with copper - either as a statement ring or as a brooch. Either way, it will be amazing addition to someone's collection of jewellery. These stones are rare - most of them from areas where the stones have been depleted or the habitat has been destroyed (shame on humans). Many of these specimens have come from collectors and I have been amazed at the cost and value of these stones. I will be using them in bezel settings, I would not wish to drill the stone. Please do check out the Facebook page. I have displayed a photo album of the pieces available and would love to create something special just for you. Find a stone that speaks to you and make it your own, and together we can create something amazing.

It has been nearly a decade now since I started my business. I started making jewellery out of a need to occupy myself when we returned to States to help my mother following my father's death. It was late 2008 and the economy had tanked. Jobs were scarce on the ground, more so for those over 50. And for the 14 months it took me to find a job, I found my fulfilment in making jewellery. And that sense of fulfilment has continued ever since. Nothing makes me happier than sitting at my bench creating beautiful art with materials that are, in their very essence, the treasures of nature. I intend to keep doing this until I am no longer able to hold the tools or see the intricate work I must do. And even then, I will teach my granddaughters so that they can continue after I'm gone.

Jewellery is very subjective. Unless you are buying costume jewellery for a night out or a party, one usually buys jewellery only when it "speaks" to you. When you come across that one piece that you know must be yours. That is how I want my clients to feel.  Creating this jewellery brings me such joy. I want you to feel that same joy when you wear it.

This year, I will be creating the bridal jewellery and wedding bands for my darling step-daughter and her fiancé. I will be creating the wedding bands for a dear and cherished friend, and I will, no doubt, be creating more pieces made with love and passion. That is what it is all about.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Cabochon crazy...

One of the ways I've found to deal with my anxiety right now is retail therapy. For me, that doesn't mean designer handbags or shoes or anything new for the house. Nope, for me that means shopping for gemstones and jaspers, agates, etc. I've added two new strings of pearls to my collection and I've added nearly a dozen new cabochons as well. 

As many of you know, I am pretty watchful about my sources - always trying to assure that my stones are not only genuine, but sourced and cut with care. I very happily came across a small UK-based family business that carefully sources and meticulously hand cuts truly remarkable jaspers and agates (along with some other stones - but not gemstones). And while these cabochons are bit more expensive than those I've purchased in the past, I think you will agree that they are worth it.

Many of these jaspers are considered "collector" pieces. These are often from mines that are no longer active, some as the stones have simply been mined out. I can't wait to start making new designs with these stones - while many are ideal for pendants, I can imagine some of the smaller ones being showcased in statement art rings. Those that I am sharing here are just four of the many I have added to my collection. Just wait and see - we are all in for a treat with these beauties.

So, to the stones themselves - and please remember that if you see a stone here that you particularly like, we can always discuss a commission using that particular stone. These stones, by their very nature, are completely and utterly singular. There is only one of each - and they are so, so special.

Bruneau Jasper - this jasper comes from near Mt. Home in Idaho. The colours and striations remind of creme brulée or creme caramel. I love this cabochon - incredibly "soft" and romantic.

Morrisonite Jasper - this jasper comes from the Owyhee Mountains in eastern Oregon. This is a blue Morrisonite and the colours and patterns are mesmerising. This jasper will make a stunning pendant.

Willow Creek Jasper - How beautiful, feminine, and elegant is this jasper? This jasper comes from the Boise, Idaho area and is considered one of America's finest jaspers, with almost a porcelain china look to it. Again, a pendant will be the perfect way to showcase this stone. I intend to buy more of this particular jasper. So pretty. Some of the jaspers they have in stock remind me of Clarice Cliff china. 

Septarian Nodule - Septarian nodule (also referred to as Dragon Stone) is a perplexing stone to geologists, who aren't completely sure how they are formed. The name comes from the Latin word septum, for partition, referring to the partitions that form in the "cracks" of the stone. This particular septarian displays a perfect square of pyrite that shows through on the surface.

These will probably start appearing on the website in early January. Keep an eye out. And, of course, I will share the new designs as they emerge from the studio.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Forgive my lateness...

I am so sorry I was not able to get this blog up on the 1st of the month, as I usually do. I have been seriously busy with getting my fine jewellery site transactional and published. That happened today. Unfortunately, events during the month of October has impacted on my work. I will explain more of that later.

Firstly, dates for this year's holiday purchases. For any orders in the UK, I would ask that orders be placed no later than December 20th. This will give us adequate time to get the package to you by December 25th. For any international orders, if you could please place your orders by November 20th, that would give the international postal service plenty of time, once again, to get packages to their destinations by Christmas.

Secondly, I hope to add some additional bracelets - in both chained and bangle style - to the offerings by mid- month. I am also working on some gem set rings and some pendants. Hopefully, they will be online and ready to go within a couple of week.

Finally, just to let you know what is going on so you can understand my situation. After nearly three years of remission, my husband's cancer has returned. While the original cancer was located in his bowel, it has returned and has shown up in several liver lesions. This is not an ideal place for recurrence of the cancer. Chris has had two additional scans - scheduled within days of the news - and we are now awaiting a letter from the surgeon so we can find out what happens now. Any wishes or prayers of support will be most welcome.

That's about it for this month. I will have the newsletter out to you within the next few hours. If you are not amongst my subscribers, please do take the time to subscribe by clicking HERE. The newsletters not only offer news on what is happening and events that are occurring, but provide subscribers with discount codes for their purchases. It costs nothing to subscribe and you only receive one newsletter a month.

Thank you for your interest in The Selkie's Haunt. I appreciate your support.