Where Heaven and Home Meet

Silhouettes and Reflections by Per Ola Wiberg

Silhouettes and Reflections by Per Ola Wiberg

Well here we all are at the beginning of another year; does the prospect of the exciting adventure ahead in 2013 fill you with enthusiasm, or do you find the start of a new year a little daunting with so many possibilities out there and the choice of which path to take (should you decide to step off your already well worn one) something of a challenge?

I usually find the Christmas and New Year period exhausting, both for all the usual reasons, but also because I spend so much mental energy making and breaking resolutions before I’ve even reached the end of the first week of January!

And this year is no exception …

So far, though, I’ve kept my promise to myself to hunt down new and interesting websites which showcase beautiful, innovative, unusual or unique items which compliment my own creative endeavours. Whether they be beautiful home wares, original gifts or handmade creations, I thought I’d begin sharing those I particularly like here with you.

My first discovery in this fledgling month of the year is ‘Aster Online ~ for Heavenly Home and Gifts

Aster Online ~ for Heavenly Home and Gifts

Sian Boffey set up Aster in 2011 prompted by a search for that ‘perfect’ gift for a friend’s wedding – but that special something that ticked all the right boxes of being original, personal and of fine quality seemed impossible to find. Surely, if there was no one out there offering the right combination of things, then one solution must be to source and stock them herself? Thus, Aster Online was born.

The website is extremely easy to navigate and even at first blush, I found several beautiful items which I could quite happily have indulged in purchasing, either for myself and my home or as gifts for others.

Can’t you just imagine yourself snuggling up on the sofa with this enchanting embroidered cushion, sipping a glass of something special and indulging in your favourite romantic movie? Oh yes, so can I …

And at only £23, it’s not too expensive either.  Go on, treat yourself or that someone special!

Dotty Sage and Rosebud Applique Cushion

Dotty Sage and Rosebud Applique Cushion

Or how about a luxurious bath before bedtime with one of these? With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, (I know, we’ve all only just recovered from Christmas, but time waits for no man – or woman – so you can’t avoid it) these exquisite heart shaped bath melts would make a wonderful gift, but hurry as they’re currently on sale and I’m sure won’t stay in stock very long.

Oriental Tea Garden Bath Melts

Oriental Tea Garden Bath Melts

Aster also has gifts for him, for the little ones and some lovely personalised items for home and garden too, so do pay a visit and have a browse soon.

As a bonus, all of Aster’s products are sent postage and packing free to the UK mainland and a complimentary gift wrapping service is also available. Indeed, what more could you ask for? I think Sian has thought of every detail to make your experience of browsing, buying and presentation as carefree as possible.

Happy shopping and a Happy New Year to all!


The Artist by Snowhawke

This beautiful piece is for anyone who is passionate about their own and others’ individuality and creativity; it expresses so eloquently why the light shone into the darkness by art and artists of all persuasions should be rejoiced in by all. In a fast dimming world, Snowhawke’s words are a beacon of truth and offer hope for a better tomorrow.

The Animist Druid

I attended a graduation ceremony this past Saturday at the Maine College of Art, in Portland. I found all of the speakers deeply inspiring. They spoke of the value of the artist and the art they create. They also spoke from experience about the power of exploration and creativity, reminding me not to worry about the end result but rather focus on the process of finding inspiration and letting it flow. As someone who views Druidry as a religion of creativity, so much of what was shared rang through with beauty and truth.

After the ceremony concluded we went to a view the senior thesis works at the Porteous building. I have to say I was blown away with most everything I saw. The sheer newness and beauty and truth in the artworks on display was greatly heartening – so much courage on display! It was a good reminder that…

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Breaking with Tradition

Gondolas at rest ~ Image by LN Photography

Every artist needs a little adventure away from the daily round every now and then, even if that adventure takes place in the comfort of an armchair with a glass of wine in hand (from Veneto, of course) and a little time carved out of a busy day to wallow in happy memories or hopeful dreams.  This is something that inspirational writer Julia Cameron refers to as “filling the well” or “stocking the pond”  ~ really just time out to unwind, reflect and be inspired, to give the child within some new toys to play with so that there are new creative energies available to be harnessed when you next sit down to work.  I guess you might just think of yourself as “Gone Fishing”, and I’ve created a new category called just that for when I get the urge to share my fishing expeditions with you here.

So how did I find myself in Venice today?  I’m in the middle of reading ‘The Glassblower of Murano‘ by Marina Fiorato and the detailed description of the glass blower’s techniques and the stunning miracles in art they wrought with molten glass just inspired me to type ‘Venice’ into a search box and follow where the browser led me.  I have, in fact, visited Venice at least three times, but the last time I set foot in La Serenissima was sadly far too long ago.  I must make plans to return – soon.

On letting my fingers do the walking, I came across the story of Giorgia Boscolo, the first female gondolier in Venice.  Now that IS inspirational when you consider her achievement breaks the 900 year tradition of an all-male Guild!  This is the first time in Venice’s long history that the profession has been handed from father to daughter, with Giorgia demonstrating not only her aptitude with the single oar and flat bottomed boat, but also her thorough knowledge of Venice and its canals, the English language and sailing law, by passing the City’s rigorous official examination.   She is now entitled to wear the traditional blue and white striped shirt which is the hallmark of her profession.

Gondoliering has a history so esteemed that Venetian mythology tells us the boaters are born with webbed feet, as a symbol of their affinity for water.  There are, of course, those who believe it is still a man’s job and that a woman is not strong enough to control the heavy boats.  Apparently Giorgia’s wonderful response to their concerns was “childbirth is much more difficult” – with two of her own, she knows what she’s talking about.

So now, when I finally get to return to this most beautiful of Italian cities, I shall be casting my eye over every blue and white striped shirted gondolier to see if I can spot the pretty one with long blond hair – I shall be sure to give her my business.

The Legendary Celtic Knot

Celtic Knot Work Sterling Silver Pendant with Black Onyx Cabochon

Celtic knot work is perhaps the most widely recognisable art from early times. Despite extensive study, the Celts remain one of the most elusive and unknowable of ancient cultures. This stems largely from the fact that the Celts appear to have relied extensively on an oral tradition for the passing on of knowledge and skills. Though it is without doubt that they were an educated people, written records of their beliefs and traditions are few.

The artistry of the Celtic knot is regularly seen by around 450 AD and, following the Christian influence on Celtic culture, this art form began to be incorporated into early Christian manuscripts, perhaps the most famous and lavish of which is the Irish Book of Kells ~ an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels of the New Testament recorded in Latin in circa. 800 AD.

There are a great variety of knots, swirls, plaits and other motifs which make up traditional knot work. Can any meaning be attributed to the various knot designs? Well, although probably more folklore than absolute truth, the knot is often referred to as the ‘mystic’ or ‘endless’ knot and is associated with endings and beginnings ~ as the knot has no true beginning or end, it represents the infinite cycle of birth and rebirth of the spirit and emphasises the timeless nature of the soul’s journey. It can also be seen to represent the uninterrupted life cycle of nature and the turning of the wheel of the year through the seasons.

In this way, the Celtic knot has become a symbol or talisman and is often incorporated into items of jewellery, clothing and other ornamentation and given or acquired as a charm against misfortune and ill health. Today, it is often given as a gift with good wishes for health, longevity and good luck with all new projects or endeavours.

By the Light of a Silvery Moon

Well isn’t January just flying by?

At long last I’ve managed to grab a little “me” time to get a couple of new jewellery ideas down on paper. I’ve been rather too fascinated with pendants as neck wear for the past twelve months, and so these two little gems are going to be a bit of a departure for me – and somewhat of an experiment in the making of a complete necklace design.

The inspiration for the first necklace came over the holiday period when we had a particularly clear, beautifully cold and crisp, and exceptionally dark night – I found myself mesmerised by the ghostly crescent moon – she was barely more than a couple of days old as she made her journey across the night sky. I knew I had to pay her homage in crafted silver, and thus the idea for this design began to take shape in my mind.

Crescent Moon

Crescent Moon - to be pierced from sterling silver sheet

I started simply, with a fluid crescent shape to be pierced from silver sheet.  To this I wanted to add a gorgeous array of sterling silver round beads, reminiscent of the moon when she is at her full glory.

I think somewhere in the back of my mind I held this image of a beautiful Celtic Priestess, holding this necklace aloft as she whispered the words of an ancient incantation to the Moon.

Crescent Moon Necklace design sketch

Crescent Moon Necklace design sketch

The Celtic theme was still pulling strongly at my psyche and from that came another, similar, necklace design. This one though will be a little more complex to make than the Crescent Moon piece.

Starting with a sterling silver disc, I plan to etch a celtic knotwork design, punctuated in the centre by a bezel set cabochon of black onyx.

Celtic Knot Necklace design sketch

Celtic Knot Necklace design sketch

Once again, I want to embellish the necklace with beautiful silver beadwork and heavy gauge belcher chain – it will have a weighty and substantial feel to it when complete – a stunning piece against a black sweater.

Celtic Knot Necklace design sketch

Celtic Knot Necklace design sketch

The finishing touch will be the central setting of an 8mm round black onyx cabochon and an oxidised finish to the silver of the celtic knotwork pendant element.

Celtic Knot Necklace design sketch

Celtic Knot Necklace design sketch

Work on these pieces is progressing well – watch out for further news about them here over the next couple of weeks.  I so hope you’re going to just fall in love with them as I have!

International Year of Forests 2011

“The International Year of Forests 2011 offers a unique opportunity to raise public awareness of the challenges facing many of the world’s forests and the people who depend on them. Great success stories and valuable lessons on how to promote sustainable forest management already exist. The Year provides a means of bringing those voices together and building momentum towards greater public participation in forest activities around the world.”

UN Report by the Secretary-General to the UN General Assembly, 6 August 2010 http://www.un.org/en/events/iyof2011/index.shtml

The UN has delcared 2011 the International Year of the Forest in an attempt to raise awareness and promote sustainable forest management and conservation of forests and woodlands worldwide for the benefit of current and future generations.

Living in the beautiful New Forest District on the south coast of England, this initiative is particularly close to my heart.  The New Forest was declared a National Park in March 2005 and the National Park Authority, together with the Forestry Commission, are responsible for maintaining and sustaining the Forest environment.  At the time of writing, however, I am unsure of the contribution that the UK authorities plan to make to this initiative locally or nationally – I will be keeping an eye on the Forestry Commission website which promises great things to mark this special year, but details are not yet available.

Some interesting facts about forests:

  • Forests cover 31% of the total land area of the earth
  • Forests are home to 300 million people worldwide
  • Forests are home to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity
  • The livelihood of over 1.6 billion people depend on forests

While the Year will be a global event, a large number of activities to celebrate the International Year will take place at national and regional levels. These activities promise to be of a diverse nature and will encourage anyone with an interest in promoting this initiative to “have a go” and get involved.

There will be competitions ranging from photography, art, slogan and essay writing to sports and athletic competitions with venues in forest locations.

Exhibitions will be staged to draw attention to critical forest issues, ranging from deforestation and forest degradation to the protective functions of forests, using photography and other visual media to communicate the messages.

Many countries are planning to undertake and promote tree planting, distribution of seedlings and publish guidelines as awareness-raising activities to highlight the important role of afforestation and restoration in sustainable forest management.  According to the UN Report, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has specifically indicated plans to plant over 1 billion trees throughout the country during 2011.

National parks will play a central role in raising the awareness of the general public, youth, journalists and politicians of the importance of forest resources and the factors that threaten national forests.

It is hoped that the initiative will promote observance of the Year not as an isolated event but as part of a continuing process of advocacy and partnership to foster greater awareness and action towards sustainable forest management at all levels, worldwide.

How will you get involved?

These artisans already show a fondness for trees and forests – please do take the time to check out their work.