News / handmade in Scotland
Lately I’ve been trying my hand at this, except instead of lead or tin, I’m using sterling silver.
The water casting process fascinates me– as it uses the elements of fire, water, earth and air in a kind of formative ritual. Using a blow torch, scrap silver is melted down in a ceramic crucible and then dunked quickly into a bucket of cold water. (It speaks! the hissing steam was often a portent). I love seeing what has formed, what messages the silver has for me. These auguries inspire my designs.
A selection of recent water cast pieces
The gallery will be open September 8th-10th, and the 13th-16th from 10am to 5pm. You can also join us on the opening Saturday the 8th for special libations and some music in the late afternoon from Gerald Duncan on guitar and Neil Hankin on banjo.
To find out about the myriad artists and makers taking part in NEOS this year, you can download the PDF of the book here. Find below the local Banffshire Coast map.
Next week, Etsy is celebrating 13 years of supporting handmade businesses by hosting a site-wide sale, and I’m participating by offering 15% off my entire shop from June 18th-22nd. No coupon is necessary. (Custom orders and made to order designs are not included in the sale).
(Good old days– this was my first Etsy banner. Maybe some of you remember it!)
I’ve had a handmade shop on Etsy for over 8 years of their 13 year history, and before that I was an Etsy customer. Back then, things were small– crafters and artisans offered a few of their wares and there was definitely a feeling of unique, experimental sharing. Many of the shops I visited were like me– making things on their kitchen tables, photographing them with a dinky point-and-shoot camera.
(One of my first product photos, before I figured out how to use a camera. I still make & sell these Zombie Gnome earrings in my shop!)
As Etsy grew, many businesses, like mine, grew with the site, and the decision-makers at Etsy seemed to be makers themselves, or at least understood the unique dilemmas makers face when running a business– Etsy supported us and we blossomed. Many of us were able to support ourselves by selling our work; a truly marvellous thing. I met other shop owners who remain friends to this day and we continue to support each other in myriad ways. There was a community of sellers sharing knowledge in Etsy Teams, and we celebrated each other’s work by making Treasuries– visual collections of selected pieces that would sometimes be featured on the front page, leading to great exposure for everyone, and a constant source of inspiration and friendship.
(The Chartres Labyrinth Necklace is featured in this Solstice Meditation Treasury from 2011. I still offer this necklace design in my shop!)
Of course nothing stays the same. The CEO of Etsy changed, and those of us who made a modest living had to hang on for dear life– despite Etsy’s “Quit Your Day Job” blog posts, those of us who had done just that knew that it harder for us succeed. Etsy had opened to doors to resellers and drop-shipping, and suddenly we had to compete with people who were not making their goods at all but buying them from the 3rd world, often from sweat shops employing child labour.
(The Folk Reveries Team on Etsy was my favourite.)
Etsy has had a crisis of identity: the front page is no longer curated by Etsy members via the Treasuries. Also since Etsy has gone public on the stock market it must now answer to share holders rather than makers, and this has changed everything.
(That time I modelled as Gunpower Gertie for Catrianna of Deep Midnight Perfume Oils on Etsy! This is an outtake).
I have learned a great deal on this rollercoaster ride with Etsy, but these are the biggest lessons:
- If you want to survive as a handmade business, create your own website, apart from Etsy. (Mine is at http://www.feralstrumpet.co.uk)
- Be ready to spend at least half your productive hours creating a business. This involves trying to anticipate Etsy’s continued changes as you think on your feet.
- Lastly, loyal customers are like gold, and if you have read this far, I know you are one of them. Every day I am filled with gratitude for the customers who continue to return to my shop, year after year. Without you, I wouldn’t be here!
Won’t you be my Feral Valentine?
Sterling silver is the most requested metal for specific pieces like earrings and shawl pins, and is one of the most popular metals for my delicate necklace designs incorporating stones and recycled pearls. Unlike copper or bronze, it is less forgiving and carries with it a certain responsibility as a precious metal.
Silver has long been imbued with magical qualities– aiding in warding, healing and liminal divination. With correspondences to the moon and the element of water, it is a metal I have enjoyed wearing as almost an extension of myself. Increasingly I have moved into this kind of jewellery that the wearer can enjoy daily, that almost becomes part of the self. You can find such pieces in the Feral Sterling Collection.
All my sterling pieces are hallmarked at the Edinburgh Assay Office, which has a long and fascinating history, hallmarking the work of silversmiths since the 15th century. I am proud to be working as part of this tradition.
The Hallmark consists of my Makers Mark, the metal purity– which for my sterling pieces is 925, the lion rampant which is a symbol of Scottish silver and the mark of the Assay office itself, which is a castle. Lastly the letter denotes the year of the piece in the Assay Office dating system. The hallmark is a guarantee of precious metal purity and dates back to 1457 when the law was passed making the mark a requirement, and the castle hallmark dates to 1485.
Much of the work I make is delicate and the hallmark is now applied on such small work with a laser, meaning you will need a jeweller’s loupe to clearly see it on smaller pieces. The photo on the right taken with a macro lens shows a the hallmark on a section of the back of a shawl pin.
We wanted to make shopping with us even easier, so we’ve wrangled with the postal sprites and can now offer FREE SHIPPING on all U.K. orders– as always, orders ship via Royal Mail First Class Post. Plus, International shipping rates are even lower— a flat rate of just £1 to the EU and £3 to the US and rest of the world. No matter how many items you purchase, you’ll enjoy the same reliable international air mail service.
The Sound of the Sea
The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain’s side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I have long been influenced by the sea, but now its proximity seems to come into my work in more subtle ways. I have always loved using shell shapes and ammonite fossils in my work, as well as abalone and repurposed pearls. With my daily visits to the sea I now find different lights and moods and even movement come into play. One instance of this is in the Sea Chains earring design. The hues of deep reds and bright blue-greens echo the diversity of colours in the tide pools at New Aberdour– red, brown and grass green seaweeds mix with blue crabs and pink anemones, and all seem to flow in a meditative dance.
I designed these earrings to move and flow with the wearer, much like the seaweeds in the rock pools!
In this shop update I’ve focused on sterling silver pieces, taking the sea and lunar beauty as my inspiration. There’s a mermaid worthy wedding set of abalone earrings and necklace with freshwater pearl accents (the pearls are all up-cycled from vintage pieces). This set is perfect for a casual seaside handfasting or wedding, and could be worn long after your special event.
The luminous moonstone drop is paired with rustic, faceted garnets in the second necklace. All of my designs are created one at a time, by hand. I’ve created another pair of my ever-popular alchemist hoops–Delicate and lightweight, these hand forged sterling silver hoops are adorned with three stone drops: faceted pyrite and garnet with lovely strawberry quartz, all with hand wrapped sterling silver bails, inspired by the alchemical ideal– through magic you can turn blood, sweat and tears into something golden.
This update corresponds with the Full Thunder Moon this weekend– sometimes called the Buck, Hay or Blessing Moon. It is the last full moon before we start our harvests in ernest. How will you celebrate?