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 Gift ~ A Silver Stocking Filler!

Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

I thought it might just be the perfect time to do a ‘giveaway’, what with Christmas just around the corner, and this beautiful woven silver bangle just desperate for a new home!

My intention is to make a collection of these bangles, each of differing widths, so that they can be bought as a set and worn stacked together on the arm.  This bangle will fit an average female wrist, being 21 cm in diameter, and the band is approximately 4 mm wide.

I started with three lengths of sterling silver wire of around 1.6mm diameter.  The three lengths were bound tightly together with iron binding wire and then the ends fluxed and soldered to hold them firmly together and in place.  Next, the bundle of wires was secured in a vice and, using a pair of mole grips to hold one end, the bundle was twisted around and around to form a uniform spiral.

Woven Bangle - Work in Progress

Woven Bangle – Work in Progress

Twisting the silver like this causes it to work harden significantly; before any further progress could be made with the piece it had to be annealed (heated) to relax it and make it malleable once more.  The next step was to flatten the spiral.  This could be done easily with a rolling mill (if I had one), but my methods are more basic but probably a lot more satisfying – the use of a hammer can be very therapeutic! Using a hammer and a steel block, I flattened out the spiral into a long piece of woven silver that I could then shape into the bangle.  As you hammer the twisted metal, the weave loosens and the pattern starts to appear.  Repeated annealing is necessary during this process to keep the silver workable.

Once the correct thickness and length is achieved the piece is cut, fluxed and soldered together to form a circle.

Woven Bangle after soldering

Woven bangle after soldering

After the finishing processes of filing, emerying and polishing, you have the finished piece all dressed up, but with nowhere to go …

Thus the ‘giveaway’: I’ll be doing this via Twitter and tweeting regularly over the next week to get as many involved as possible.

For the chance to receive this beautiful handmade solid sterling silver bangle free of charge, you will need to follow me on Twitter (@anabenedicta) and either retweet one of my #BangleGiveaway tweets or give me a mention including the #BangleGiveaway tag – simple!

The closing date for this giveaway is Sunday, 16 December 2012 at 12 noon GMT – the winner will be chosen at random from all qualifying followers using Twitrand and will be announced by 6:00pm on 16 December.

Go on, join in the fun and win a beautiful free silver stocking filler this Christmas.  Good luck!

Handmade Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

Handmade Sterling Silver Woven Bangle

Please note that only UK entrants will be guaranteed to receive the bangle before Christmas; overseas entrants are welcome but may not receive their gift until January 2013 as I am unable to guarantee international postage times.

The Solace of Success

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross Pendant

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross Pendant

What a relief when a challenging piece of work you took on with gritted teeth turns out well; even more so when the result is so much better than you could have hoped and leads to another commission!

This beautiful Celtic Cross pendant did give me one or two sleepless nights, but my client was so thrilled and enthusiastic about the result that I have to admit that every moment was worth it.

The whole piece was hand pierced using a saw frame with blade and then each and every element of the detailed design had to be hand finished with file and emery paper; it took time and patience, but I hope you’ll agree that all that work has paid off with interest.

I now feel confident enough to tackle another similar project, and am currently playing with a few designs that I think will make a good home for a stunning facet cut blue moonstone that I have in stock.  I’ve been wondering for a while how best to use it and I think I might well have found the perfect answer.

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross design hand-cut Pendant

Sterling Silver Celtic Cross design hand-cut Pendant

Infinite Possibilities

Infinity Fossil Pendant

Infinity Fossil Pendant in Sterling Silver

Another variation on the ‘Fossils in Silver’ theme, this time making use of the perfect symmetry created by the seamless  joining of two ammonite fossils to create a representation of a figure of eight on its side, which is customarily associated with ‘Infinity’. This symbol might also be used to depict the ‘ouroboros’, the alchemical sigil designating the cyclical nature and endlessness of all things.

This is a solid sterling silver piece which is both bold and beautiful. It is enhanced by a black silk necklet which has been threaded and knotted through the pendant’s integral bail loop.  A stunning complement to that little black cocktail dress now that we’re racing headlong towards the Christmas party season … grab it while you can!

Infinity Fossil Pendant in Sterling Silver

Infinity Fossil Pendant

Infinity Fossil Pendant in Sterling Silver

Infinity Fossil Pendant 

Of Silver and Ice

'Fossils in Silver' Pendant with Ice Blue Topaz

‘Fossils in Silver’ Pendant with Ice Blue Topaz

Having achieved a more three dimensional effect by shaping and doming the etched fossil shapes to make the cufflinks, I wanted to play around a little bit and see what other pieces this design could work with.

Having etched and pierced out the spiral fossil design in two sizes, I thought I’d start with the small piece (a little more tricky to work with as the detail is finer, but less to lose if all goes awry) and adapt the design into a pendant. Although I now know it works and will no doubt be tempted to make a plain silver version, I wanted to enhance this piece with a small gemstone. I chose an ice (or sky) blue topaz, only 4mm in diameter, but which I thought would provide a good focal point.

'Fossils in Silver' - early steps with the pendant

‘Fossils in Silver’ – early steps with the pendant

After some careful preparation of the piece with files and emery paper, I constructed a bezel to fit the stone from bearer wire and drilled holes into the pendant where I wanted to place both the gemstone and the bail. Before marking out and piercing the hole for the bezel, I used a doming block and punch to raise the design into a convex form.

'Fossils in Silver' Pendant - raised design element

‘Fossils in Silver’ Pendant – raised design element

Above you can see the result of forming the metal. Once the bezel was fitted and soldered and the bead bail soldered in place, a thorough cleaning and finishing had to be completed before the stone was set. A final buffing around the bezel to remove any inadvertent setting marks and a good polish and the piece was complete.

The finished pendant is now with the Assay Office for hallmarking and I’m ready to tackle the larger version for which I’ve reserved a stunning 7mm round London blue topaz – can’t wait to see the result!

Mosaic of Fossils Cuff Bangle

Mosaic of Fossils in Silver Cuff Bangle

‘Mosaic of Fossils in Silver’ Cuff Bangle

Following on from last week’s post, here are some images of the finished Cuff Bangle.  I’m delighted with this piece and already contemplating how I can use this stunning etch design on another creation.  Perhaps a necklace with three etched drops of silver each with a few highlights of 24ct gold?  Mmmm, worth a little thought …

Any ideas or suggestions gratefully received!

Mosaic of Fossils Cuff Bangle

Mosaic of Fossils Cuff Bangle

Mosaic of Fossils Cuff Bangle

Mosaic of Fossils Cuff Bangle

Fossils in Silver

Jurassic Coast, Dorset

Jurassic Coast, Dorset

Only a short distance away from my home in the New Forest, you arrive at England’s remarkable Jurassic Coast, the cliffs and beaches of which trace 100 million years of history.  This stunning coastline was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 2001, but it is not just its natural beauty that attracts, it is the geology and the amazing number of fossils found in the area that bring so many visitors to walk the coastal paths and explore the cliffs and beaches.

Fossil-hunting here began in Victorian times, often pioneered by men of the church, mostly because they were among the few in society who had the luxury of the time and sufficient wealth to devote to studying fossils.

Often the easiest fossil find, particularly for the novice hunter, is the ammonite, and  it is the beautiful symmetry of the ammonite’s spiral patterns that caught my interest and I began thinking about how I could incorporate this into a piece of jewellery.  Because the spirals of their shells resemble a curled ram’s horn, they are named after the Egyptian god Amon, whose human form had a ram’s head.  When ammonites died, their hard shells fell to the ocean floor and became covered in sediment.  Over time the sediment became compressed and hardened to encase the shell and it is this that is sought by eager beach-combers today.

Ammonite

Ammonite

There are many tales and superstitions surrounding this now long extinct creature; the fervently religious were thought to believe them to be snakes that had been turned to stone by St Patrick.  Carrying one was thought to give protection against the evil eye and sickness.

I have tried to recreate the visual beauty of their perfect spiral staircase form in my designs and this is an outline sketch of an idea for cuff links.

Sketch design for Ammonite-inspired cuff links

Sketch design for Ammonite-inspired cuff links

The concept has rather taken on a life of its own and these initial thoughts have so far extended to two pendant designs with matching earrings and an unusual etched cuff.

So I am now hard at work developing these ideas and bringing the concepts to life – a collection of ‘Fossils in Silver’.

Silver Fossil Cuff Links - Artist's Impression

Silver Fossil Cuff Links – Artist’s Impression