Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A new collection

Several months ago, I purchased a lovely lampwork bead from a very talented glass artist who happens to have a website that is hosted by the same company that hosts my website. I immediately fell in love with her focal beads and when I received the bead, I was not in the least disappointed. Like most items of jewellery, the bead was even more beautiful 'in person.' The necklace that resulted from the partnership of Anita Lawrence's lampwork bead and my stones and wood is, if I say so myself, quite beautiful. I call it 'Blue Jean Baby.' The colours of the lampwork bead lead me to choose nangka wood and lapis lazuli for the necklace.
'Blue Jean Baby'

Soon thereafter, I found myself looking at Anita's offerings again. I purchased a second lampwork and then another. After creating two more beautiful necklaces, I made the decision to purchase three more so that I could offer a lampwork collection of six necklaces. Each necklace will have complementary earrings to make a coordinated set. I am so pleased with what has resulted and photographs will be taken very soon.

The lampwork beads, all abstract and full of colours and textures, are created with great care and talent by Anita. Her website, Birtle Bead Studio, displays her lampwork beads and her own lampwork jewellery. I highly recommend you see her work and read about her beautiful lampwork creations. I am so glad I found Anita and I hope to have a long and successful partnership with her. 

With many events taking place throughout October, November and December, I have been busy creating more pieces for both The Selkie's Haunt and for Ailleas Designs. I have added new stones to both collections. One of the lampwork necklaces features beautiful, tiny genuine turquoise faceted rondelles. Because of the size of the rondelles, the stones have been stabilised for strength (turquoise is a very soft stone), but it is genuine gemstone quality turquoise and you can see that in the vibrant colour. Another new necklace for The Selkie's Haunt features a stunning African green opal. I am excited about all the new pieces and promise they will soon be posted on the websites so you can see them.

In the meantime, please visit the websites to see what is currently on offer. Christmas is not that far away and it is time to start thinking about what the special ladies on your Christmas wish would love to find under the tree or in their stocking.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Romancing the Stone

One part of the business of creating beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces of jewellery is the process of choosing the stones to be used in the designs. The first part of this process, for me, is finding the right supplier. I research all my suppliers, making sure they have excellent reputations for honesty and integrity. There are a lot of fake stones out there and I don't ever want to be required to question the authenticity of any of my designs. The stones have to be right and true. Once I have chosen the supply partners with whom I want to work, the next stage is to find the right stones. 

When choosing stones, I like to find pieces that are unusual and unique. To a certain extent, you can say all natural stones are unique - no two are ever the same. That is the joy of working with the products of Mother Nature rather than the products of laboratories or factories. But I like to find focal stones that have that 'wow' factor. When I see a stone, I know immediately whether or not I want to use it. There is no hemming or hawing. And sometimes I find a stone when I don't have the funds with which to purchase it. Fortunately, the suppliers I use will allow me to reserve stones so that I can purchase them within a specified time. What do I look for, specifically, when I am shopping for focal stones or even for the smaller stones that act as complementary parts of a design or used for earrings on their own? 

Firstly, I look for the right size. If I am looking for a focal stone, I try to find stones that are about 2 inches or more in length. A focal must make a statement and it can't do that if it is too small to be seen or gets lost in the design. Secondly, I look for colour and pattern. Do I have stones in my inventory that will work well with the stone? Does the stone lend itself to working well with copper or bronze? Does my mind immediately start designing around the stone? If the answer is yes to these questions, then I know I simply must have the stone. It is already part of my collection before I've even purchased it.

Boulder Opal
I like to buy stones that are less known or less available. The brecciated red jasper in the 'Flame and Ash' design is a good example. Brecciated jasper is becoming more and more difficult to find. The colours in this particular piece were amazing. I knew the moment I saw the stone that I had to have it for my collection. The bonus is that it is even more beautiful in 'person.' I have recently added a boulder opal to the collection to be used in The Selkie's Haunt jewellery. Usually reserved for use in the sterling silver designs of Ailleas Designs, the boulder opal is expensive and completely unique. But the colours of this particular opal seem perfect for use with bronze or copper. I hope to start working on a piece incorporating this beautiful opal very soon. It's not time, yet, though. I will sense when it it time to sit down and work with this incredible piece of Mother Nature's artwork. As you can see, it is a stone that easily captivated my imagination. I think it was a case, this time, of the stone romancing me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I have been working hard on new pieces for the collections and, if you have visited the site lately, you will see all the new earring and necklaces that have been created. I am working on bracelets right now and having a wonderful time.  I have three each for bronze and copper - I would like to have at least six for each category. Hopefully, they will make an appearance on the website in the near future. I am also beginning work on brooches. These will be in a variety of designs and uses - from substantial pieces for wearing with your coat and scarf to stick pins that will, hopefully, have a bit of the playful about them.

I am always so inspired by the beautiful stones with which I work. As I have with Ailleas Designs, I have decided to concentrate on building a working relationship with just one company for the supply of my stones. I am very happy with my supply partner and also with the woman in the States from whom I buy an occasional specimen piece of stone to include in the designs. (I bought the rainbow fluorite focal and pietersite from her.) I think it is very important to know and trust your suppliers, and I have utmost trust in and respect for my supplier. I am looking forwards to a long and hopefully lucrative future with her.

I've included a photo of one of my favourite pairs of earrings. These are relatively new. I love them. I had no idea what I was going to end up with, but I think I have managed to get a sort of cascading, organic feel from these. These earrings are copper made with pure copper wire in both heavy and light
gauges and also with beautiful B-grade tourmaline. Tourmaline is an amazing stone when in the lower grades. You don't get the sparkle and transparency, but you get a myriad colours and inclusions in the stones. To look into my container of the tourmaline used here, it is like looking into a rock pool at low tide - the colours and markings are so earthy and real.

I am awaiting delivery now of two more focal stones. One is banded black agate - a truly beautiful stone - and the other is brecciated jasper, which is becoming more and more rare. I can't wait to get my hands on them and see what happens. The process is nearly as much fun as the outcome.

So, until I write again, thank you for your support and interest in The Selkie's Haunt.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

More to come!

While a great deal of my time has been spent creating new pieces for the various stockists and sourcing display paraphernalia, I have finally had some time to create some lovely new pieces of jewellery. I am now awaiting some lovely tiles now on which I can photograph said pieces. Suffice it to say, the muse has been present, helpful and incredibly inspiring. I adore working with the beautiful stones I've sourced and the bronze and copper. While I had hoped that I would be able to create more affordable pieces - and they are more affordable than those offered by the Ailleas Designs side of the business - I am spending more time creating with the metal because I am not hindered by weight restrictions. I have just completed a necklace with a bamboo stone focal, graywood pokalets and labradorite. The labradorite is A-grade and each and every link of the necklace was handmade using .8mm bronze wire. The price tag? This one will sell for £82. However, I promise it is worth every penny. It really is a stunning piece. Photos to come as soon as the tile arrives.

Along with that piece, I have created a dozen or so more earrings, in both copper and bronze, and most of these are falling within the £29-34 mark. The designs are singular, to be sure. What I love most about the process is my complete surprise when I get to the end. I never know what I am creating until I have completed the process. It is fascinating for me to watch as somehow designs appear from the wire and stone. That is the beauty of what I do - the sheer randomness of designs.

I have so much more to complete. I only have one copper bracelet at this point and no brooches or pins (there are both bracelets and brooches at The Perfume Studio & Aroma Cafe), so I need to get busy and create some of those to include on the website. Visitor numbers are low and I completely understand. The site hasn't really changed since the first of February. I've been so busy getting ready for the start of the season. But I promise the site will change - dramatically - sometime in the next week. So please do continue to check. I promise it will be worth the wait.

In the meantime, here is a photo of a new piece taken when I was experimenting with using hessian cloth as the background (result - a great, big, fat, hairy NO!). This is called Malachite Moon. When I was working with the copper disk (which I cut from a copper sheet and chased and repoussed with a hammer), it reminded of the moon and its surface of craters. The malachite is stunning - A-grade and equaling (if I remember correctly) about 80 carats. A lovely piece. (Will be even lovelier when photographed on a tile.) 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Busy and happy...

As we are approaching Easter, we are also approaching the time of year that this area comes alive in anticipation of the visitors that come with the spring and summer. Galleries and shops dust off their shelves in readiness and, obviously, those who provide goods for those shelves find themselves busy in preparing items for sale.

I have spent the past month readying pieces for their new homes. I have been concentrating on the sterling silver and premium gemstone pieces that will find their home in a display case on Skye in a couple of weeks' time. But yesterday, the impending opening of a gallery in Inverness prompted me to ready a necklace. The gallery is only able to take my bronze and copper jewellery, which is fine. It makes perfect sense to not include the sterling silver work as the gallery already has two sterling silver jewellery designers and makers. So, I wanted to be sure to provide some killer pieces to represent The Selkie's Haunt. After a drive out yesterday, I settled down to my table and started creating a necklace that will make its way to the gallery. I had had the main part of the necklace in mind for several days. Three pieces of very large gauge copper, each slightly smaller than the other, linked together. That is as far as the design had gone in my mind. It would take siting down at the table to complete it. And that I did. The design is very deco/Egyptian. When the Carter expedition and the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb occurred, it was also the time of the Art Deco movement. The influence of the ancient jewels on the jewellery of the day was enormous, particularly in Britain. While I would never dream of comparing my jewellery to that of the time, it does have a real sense of the era and I will look forward to seeing whether or not it will prove popular. Today I will be creating some earrings and a bracelet to match. The design features carnelian as the only gemstone and I have created a satin finish on the copper, all by hand. It was great fun to watch the design emerge. But then, it always is. In most cases, it happens just as this piece did. I start with an idea that has been bouncing around in my mind for a couple of days and then I see where it goes from there. And that is what today will bring - we will see where it goes as I create earrings and a bracelet to complement the necklace.

By making my pieces available in shops and galleries, I am hoping for more time to design and make. The non-creative side of this business can eat up my time when I'd rather be creating. My calendar is now full of events and markets, which I will never cease to do because I enjoy meeting and chatting with customers who are genuinely interested in what I do and how I do it. That goes hand-in-hand with the joy of creating. But the going to and from markets can be tiring for both of us. Our local market participation is being reduced to twice a month rather than five times a month. We have added the Torridon summer markets this year and look forward to them. All in all, I have a feeling it is going to be a very, very good year.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I will write a blog, I will write a blog, I will, I will, I will, I will, I will write a blog!

(In case that blog title sounds entirely mad, I am thinking of the Cowardly Lion in 'The Wizard of Oz' with his 'I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do, I do I do believe in spooks'. Yes, I know, random. But that's me.)

The Selkie's Haunt has been up and running for nearly three weeks now and I'm not unhappy with its progress, but it could be better. I am so passionate about what I do and this new little iron in the fire is quickly proving a favourite. I just want everyone to be as excited about my offerings as I am. Without the hallmarking limitations imposed when working with sterling silver, I can have a ball with the copper and bronze and design the most amazing things. You see some of my designs already on the site, but the ones I have waiting in the wings are amazing. And I don't say that as self-praise. My hands simply work through the inspiration that comes to me when I look at the shapes and colours of all the wonderful materials I have. I have fallen in love with malachite and have discovered the hidden treasures found in a piece of jasper or agate. (I have just discovered a source of Scottish agate which I will be tapping into when next I need some focal pieces - how exciting!) I am having a great time. And now I am dying to learn how to solder and bezel set stones because the designs that are flooding my mind require skills I don't already have. That is going to be sorted very shortly with a visit to my fellow American ex-pat, the brilliant silversmith and goldsmith Garth Duncan, who has so kindly agreed to share his incredible knowledge with me. I can't wait to have the limitations of only doing wire work removed and allow me to use fire and stone together to create jewellery as it has been created for millennia. So much to create. I am excited.

As the spring arrives, and we are enjoying warmer and longer days, I feel that surge in creativity that comes with the sunlight. I enjoy sitting at my work table with the huge window looking out at the loch and beyond. How can I not be inspired by the views? I can't wait to see what the market season will bring. The Selkie's Haunt will make its debut at the Aultbea Market on 1 March. So exciting. I do hope people like what I've created. I made just enough to make a website debut viable, so I need to get busy in the next week to be ready. A week from Friday! February has sped by.

If you've seen the site, you've seen what sort of jewellery is going to feature. Lovely, organic, chunky, sculptural jewellery art. Like this lovely piece to the right here. If you haven't yet seen the site, I hope this will tempt you. I love this necklace - handcrafted bronze metalwork with beautiful fresh smooth rondelles of green fluorite and hammered and tumbled disks of gem-quality rose quartz. The necklace (and there are matching earrings) was very labour intensive with the metalwork, but I really enjoyed the process. There are even lovely earrings to match. The name of this creation: Signs of Spring. An appropriate name, I think, for a piece of jewellery that is pastel and fresh. Like its sister site, Ailleas Designs, The Selkie's Haunt is all about bespoke, one-off, limited edition pieces of jewellery art. Oh, and between now and 6 March, I have a mother's day sale running. See the site for details. I am also planning on a giveaway once the subscription list for the monthly newsletter hits the magic number 50 (I have over 500 for Ailleas Designs). So, if you want to subscribe, you can go here to do that. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Welcome to the Selkie's Haunt

This is the first of what will be many fortnightly posts regarding the new jewellery business, The Selkie's Haunt. The online presence will not be unveiled until 1 February, but I promise you will not be disappointed. In addition to incredible pieces of jewellery art, I have artwork gracing the banner that was provided my friend, the extremely talented Scottish artist, Fiona Mackenzie (www.fionamackenzieart.co.uk). She was one of several trusted and valued friends who convinced me to continue making jewellery using the more modest metals and stones. And so I have.

In addition to my online presence, I will continue to take part in markets and Exclusively Highland events and have been thrilled to secure stockists all over the Scottish highlands (today Scotland, tomorrow, the world!). I do hope you will check out the site on Friday, 1 Febuary at www.selkieshaunt.com.

Don't forget to check out my other two blogs: ailleasdesigns.blogspot.com that tells you all about my fine jewellery designs and hillsandheather.blogspot.com that is a personal blog about my life in the highlands of Scotland.