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!

Friendship with a Twist

Maori Single Twist Silver Pendant

Maori Single Twist Silver Pendant

I always feel especially happy when I’m asked by a friend to create a bespoke piece of jewellery.  On this occasion, it was even more special as it was to be a gift commissioned in celebration of a 40th birthday and the design had to reflect both the birth date and, more importantly, the significance and value of a long-standing friendship.

I had suggested something along the lines of a Celtic Claddagh, representing love, friendship and loyalty, but my friend had a very definite (and very different) idea in mind. She told me that the birthday girl was fond of large, bold pieces of jewellery.  After some research, she had decided upon a Maori Friendship Twist as the perfect solution.

The single twist is a Maori tribal symbol and is often given and worn as a token of love and eternal friendship.  As we also wanted to represent the November birth stone (in this case Topaz), I thought I’d add a twist of my own to the Twist (so to speak) and came up with this design:

Maori Twist Pendant sketch

Maori Twist Pendant sketch

Adding the wave effect ‘arms’ to the centre of the design presented me with the ideal location in which to set the beautiful Swiss Blue Topaz stone I had bought to compliment this piece.

So, with the design parameters all now met, it was time to set to work.

I started by converting the design sketch into a black and white image that I could apply to thick silver sheet using transfer paper.  My choice of method was influenced by the fact that I wanted to create a 3D effect where the twist overlaps to form the bail loop. Rather than tracing out the flat design and then using my piercing saw and files to achieve the desired grooves in the metal, I opted for etching the shape onto the silver, thereby allowing the acid to eat away the metal to create the effect I wanted.

Once the acid had completed its work, you can see below the initial stages where the shape has been pierced out of the metal and the initial filing completed:

Maori Friendship Twist - Work in Progress

Maori Friendship Twist – Work in Progress

The next task was to fabricate the bezel setting for the stone and then solder that into place between the ‘arms’ which would appear to hold the gemstone at the centre of the pendant.  A circular bail of half-round wire was then made and attached to the bail loop.

After the usual processes for finishing with emery paper, Tripoli and Rouge polish, the stone could be securely set within the bezel.  I am very pleased with the result and am happy to say that so was the lucky birthday girl!

Sterling Silver Maori Friendship Twist Pendant

Sterling Silver Maori Friendship Twist Pendant with Swiss Blue Topaz gemstone

Wearing a Heart on your Wrist

Solid Sterling Silver Celtic Knot Heart Charm Bracelet

Solid Sterling Silver Celtic Knot Heart Charm Bracelet

I’ve a real passion for Celtic knotwork and after the success of the Celtic Cross pendant I was longing to explore more ideas.

Charm bracelets are still proving very popular, so I thought I’d have a go at creating my own version of this style.  Working with a large link trace chain in solid sterling silver for the bracelet element, I chose a knotwork heart design from which to handcraft a single silver charm.

Heart Charm - work in progress

Heart Charm – work in progress

The detail of the design was hand-pierced from solid silver sheet, then filed into shape and formed.

Silver Heart Charm attached by figure of eight link to bracelet

Silver Heart Charm attached by figure of eight link to bracelet

The charm is then attached to a custom made figure of eight link on the chain via a jump ring.  Additional charms could be added to the bracelet chain, but I am all for classic simplicity and think that the beautifully detailed Celtic knot charm needs no accompaniment.

‘Heart’s Desire’ Sterling Silver Celtic Knotwork Charm Bracelet

Elemental Spirit of Earth

DRYAD, SPIRIT OF EARTH

Sterling Silver Dryad Spirit of Earth Pendant set with Imperial Topaz

Sterling Silver Dryad Spirit of Earth Pendant set with Imperial Topaz

With this piece I have continued the Elemental Collection theme; you may recall my earlier design representing the element of Fire (Salamander, Spirit of Fire) ~ here we move on to the Earth element.

I felt this beautiful Celtic knotwork tree image was a perfect representation for elemental earth, and the name ‘Dryad’, being the name commonly associated with a tree spirit, certainly fitted the piece’s theme to perfection.  The tree’s roots stretch down far into the earth beneath it and the stunning cinnamon coloured Imperial Topaz gemstone set at the foot of the tree gives the sense of a light and rich soil from which the tree can forever draw its nourishment.

This piece can be seen at my stockist’s in Colchester, Handmade at 6 Sir Issac’s Walk.  If you’d like a similar piece made just for you, please get in touch – my contact details can be found at the top of the page.

I will be continuing this theme with similarly styled pendants for both Air and Water, so please do keep in touch if you’d like to see the results.

Ana

Simple Elegance in Silver

‘Deco’ Collection – Artist’s Impression

This collection is still very much a work in progress.  I felt these pieces had an ‘Art Deco’ feel to them, hence the collection’s title.  They are hand crafted out of sterling silver sheet; there’s a lot of piercing (sawing) and filing to be done to achieve a professional finish here, so the pieces are rather time consuming to work on, but all the more satisfying for that.

I am attempting two finishes on the surface of the silver with these – as there is a three-dimensional effect created by cutting grooves into the sheet, one side will be polished to a mirror finish, the other given a matt satin texture to help emphasise the perception of depth created by the design.

'Deco' Pendant ~ Design Sketch

'Deco' Earrings ~ Design Sketch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I anticipate making  a couple of different sizes and weights in the pendant ~ one to complement the necessarily lighter and smaller feel of the earrings, the other a larger and more substantial piece; it’ll make something of a statement all by itself, though could still be paired with the earrings quite successfully.

Progress is slow but steady and I am hoping to have these ready in a week or so.  An update will appear here when they’re  completed.

Ana

How a Glass of Wine Inspires?

Symmetry Collection of Sterling Silver Rings

Here are some examples from my latest collection of rings – the ‘Symmetry Collection’. Each ring has been hand forged from solid sterling silver, one example is a simple plain band of silver with beautifully crafted scrolled shank ends (using only hand and eye) , the others are similar but set with stunning gemstones.

The starting point for the design of these rings was the twirling tendrils of the grapevine. My affinity for the fermented juice of the grapevine is pretty legendary among those that know me (though never when playing with fire in my workshop – far too tricky to juggle a flaming torch and a wine glass at the same time!). The delicate tapering scrolls at the tips of the ring shank pay homage to the tenacious grip of the vine as it climbs to reach for the sun.

The taper is created by filing down the ends of a measured length of round silver wire using hand files and emery paper; after annealing the silver to soften it, the shank is formed using half round pliers and brute force, and then hammered around a ring triblet or former to the correct size and overlap. Constant annealing is required as the metal soon becomes work hardened and impossible to shape. Pliers are used to bend the thinner metal to create the scrolled ends; after further finishing and polishing the plain band ring is complete.

For the gem set versions, a similar process is undertaken to create the shank, but a bezel setting must be made and soldered into place to fit the chosen gemstone. Here I have used a 5mm round Iolite stone and a 4mm round Pink Tourmaline.  Both look fabulous in the finished rings.

Below are a few more images of the rings, but do take a peek at my studio on Artfire for more information.

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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.