Yearly Archives: 2010

Some Things Never Change

Written by : Posted on December 28, 2010 : 3 Comments
Compass Pendants Workshop

Creation of Compass Pendants on Hold - Workshop Relocating!

The Stuff that Doesn’t Change

Some things in life never change. Of particular note, is my husband’s somewhat limited comprehension of just how much dust will be created when he knocks down an interior brick wall!

I was reminded of this today as knocking down a brick wall is part of relocating my jewellery workshop.

Is Change Necessary?

Tough question. In the grand scheme of things only you really know the answer; it involves you being honest with yourself, too. I truly believe that we all have the answers within, but that getting at those answers is often the tricky part!

Do I need to change my husband so he doesn’t make so much dust? Er, no.

My husband is an inspiration. A multi-facetted man, he’s a wonderful cook, a brilliant photographer and something of an historian. He’s talented when it comes to technology, handy in almost every area of DIY and has a head filled with ideas of things he’s yet to do in life.

When my idea to make compass pendants into something extraordinarily special, imbued with meaning, he encouraged me. He urged me to nurture my belief and felt that in doing so, I would inspire the lives of others, too.

A Change in Attitude

Some of us seek perfection; we imagine a perfect person, world or situation, and believe it’s real. I believe that striving for the best is healthy, but that the secret is accepting that life is about balance.

My husband is messy; whether he’s building or cooking, that’s just the way he is! But it simply doesn’t matter.

When I look at life, I see many things that I can’t change but take comfort in the fact that what I can change is my attitude towards them.

It’s Christmas!

Written by : Posted on December 16, 2010 : 4 Comments
Labradorite Beads

Labradorite Gemstone with Flashes of Colour

Christmas Market

It is customary for the French to go to untold lengths to celebrate occasions throughout the year with fêtes and fun. Since moving here, we’ve taken part in several and are just about to once again, this coming weekend!

A gathering of local artisans are getting together to exhibit their creations and provide a festive opportunity for some Christmas shopping, wine tasting and … well, just getting together!

A Splash of Colour

The season is cold but vibrant. Decorations and lights, regional foods and wines, traditionally hand crafted works of art ranging from mosaics to sculptures. It’s a special time … and a special place. I find the energy and enthusiasm of the locals unsurpassed.

For my part, I shall show jewellery creations of colour with gemstones of auspicious qualities.

Labradorite is one of my favourite gemstones and displays flashes of colour when viewed at certain angles. Typically flashes of peacock blue but can include greens, coppery reds and dusky golds.

It is also a mineral is believed to protect one’s aura; to dispel insecurity and apprehension and to attract the strength and perseverance required to achieve one’s destiny. A perfect jewellery gift imbued with hope for the New Year.

A Feeling of Unity

I feel privileged to have been invited to join these people to exhibit and am really looking forward the day we will share. The variety and skill of the individuals concerned is breath-taking and the atmosphere is always sensational!

Custom Jewellery Workshop

Written by : Posted on December 14, 2010 : 2 Comments
the goldsmith's workshop

The New Home for my Jewellery Workshop - complete with wood effect beams!

My Workshop Today

Today, my jewellery workshop is as it has been for several years. Filled with a magical mélange of tools, my jewellery workbench, polishing equipment, a rolling mill and so on.

All that, however, is about to change! In the name of progress, the workshop is to be relocated.

Custom Jewellery, Custom Workshop

When I make jewellery, whether it’s to add to my gallery of creations or to work on specially commissioned jewellery, I need a custom workshop. I need a specially designed workshop; somewhere that is functional and comfortable, a place to lose track of time, doing what I love.

The picture above shows the new location – but in it’s current state. This place that hasn’t been decorated since at least the 1920s – just look at those beams! They’re wooden beams that have been covered in plaster – and then papered with a wood effect wallpaper!!

French interior design has obviously moved on since then, thank goodness.

My Workshop of Tomorrow…

There’s a lot of work ahead in creating my new jewellery workshop, but I just know it’s going to be fabulous.

Rest assured, the faux wooden beams will be no more!  Wish me luck?!

With Best Wishes

Written by : Posted on December 9, 2010 : 3 Comments
Gold Compass Pendant

Handmade Gold Compass Pendant - the compass is on the reverse! (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)

Wishing You Well

At this time of year, best wishes are everywhere. An abundance of best wishes are being and sent and received across the world.

When I think of those I love and the people I’ve met, I wish them well.

I wish you well.

Wishing You the Best

When a child is born, we wish them the best possible future. We wish them the courage to stay true to their pure ideals and dreams. How many times are we told to harness our inner child, to play more freely without constraint? To rediscover our inner child.

When a friend sets out on a new path in life, we wish them the resolve to stick to it, to see it through when things are tough. To strive for the success that is waiting for them beyond the uncertain terrain.

When a friend is unwell, we wish them contentment. We wish them the spirit and determination to achieve a feeling of positivity and cheerfulness. It’s hard work, but a worthwhile journey that can lead to better experience of life.

Wishing You Companionship

I meet clients both at exhibitions and when they’ve arranged a private visit to see my compass jewellery. When they see their compass pendant for the first time and just know it’s for them, it’s heartwarming. Beyond it’s appearance and the way it feels when they touch it, it means something to them. It is significant in some special way.

It often transpires that the compass gift is particularly fitting, that staying true to a new direction is especially important.

When it’s a purchase for themselves, the compass pendant is tried on; the connection is made, the relationship has begun. The compass has become a companion and rarely does it leave in it’s pouch!

Wishing You Happiness

However you’re celebrating life, I wish you every happiness.

An Element of Fire

Written by : Posted on December 7, 2010 : 4 Comments
Star Sapphire and Ruby Libretto Pendant in Silver and Gold

Star Sapphire and Ruby Libretto Pendant in Silver and 18ct Rose Gold (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)

What lights your fire?

According to astrologists, the Zodiac element for the Aries star sign is fire.

I am an Aries and certainly enjoy burning the leaves threatening to clog the storm drains at this time of year! Watching the orangey flames catch with a sudden “whump” gives a colourful thrill!

It also reminds me of starting the fire within. Igniting the imagination, giving the oxygen of life to your dreams.

Fire in Your Belly

What does it mean to follow your dreams?  To explore your hunch?  To investigate your inkling?

The adventurer within me led to my becoming a Goldsmith, to becoming a creator of hand made jewellery. Jewellery with character and individuality which has taken time to make using high quality materials and professional workmanship.

Many’s the time I’ve faced the question “why don’t you get that mass produced?”

The thing for me is not to make as many as I can bang out – or to get some machine or automated process to make them for me. Yes, for some, that may well be a great business plan and money spinner. It’s just not for me.

I am a designer-maker creating jewellery where each piece is one of a kind – hand made, unique designs.

That’s what lights my fire.

Not Everyone’s a Pyromaniac

I know my jewellery’s not for everyone – and that’s the point.

What I offer is specialist compass creations for people who are choosing, changing or re-discovering their direction.

Unique jewellery creations for the individual.

Jewellery Just for You

Written by : Posted on December 2, 2010 : 14 Comments
Morgan Sweet Apple Pendant

Custom Made Jewellery: Morgan Sweet Apple Pendant (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)

Bespoke Jewellery

A recent conversation with an American friend highlighted that the term “bespoke jewellery” isn’t always associated with custom made jewellery; that is, jewellery especially made to your design.

I was born in the UK, have been living in France for several years and have clients all over the world. Now that I know that there are many ways to refer to jewellery that’s made just for you, I thought I’d better elaborate!

Specially Commissioned Jewellery

This is when I work with a client to create something just for them – a fusion of their design ideas and my workmanship. Sometimes we start with a very clear idea of what is required. Other times, I sketch out some suggestions based on a feeling a get from a client and what I’ve gleaned from our conversations.

Getting a clear picture of what we’re heading for is really important. Exchanging, refining and perfecting the final jewellery design is truly a pleasure. Together, as a partnership, we arrive at something unique and valuable that is just for you. At the same time, I often get to see my clients discovering that they’re a lot more creative than they had imagined!

Custom Jewellery

Custom jewellery is another term. Many of my clients browse my gallery and contact me to request something based on a particular piece of jewellery they’ve seen there.

Others have very detailed specifications, for example this Morgan Sweet Apple Pendant. It represents the inside of a halved apple and was to celebrate the arrival of a baby daughter, Morgan. The “pips” in this apple are also the baby girl’s birthstone. This thoughtful gentleman, and proud father, asked me to make it especially for his wife.

Personalised Jewellery

Whether you call it bespoke jewellery, specially commissioned jewellery, custom made jewellery or personalised jewellery, this is what it means to me:

A fusion of your design ideas and my workmanship.

Tips on Buying Jewellery: Gemstones

Written by : Posted on November 29, 2010 : 11 Comments
Beautiful Tanzanite Cabochon Gemstone

Beautiful Tanzanite Cabochon Gemstone - Stone with Inner Beauty

Flawless Gemstones

I recently saw a checklist of tips for buying jewellery for your loved one. One of the tips was to make sure that the gemstone is flawless, that it has no faults.

Understanding Gemstones

Firstly, one needs to have a good grasp of what a “fault” is.

The Tanzanite cabochon in the picture above has “inclusions”. This means that it is not 100% clear and uniform in colour; that it has visible “defects” or “faults”.

It is also, however, a stone with profound inner beauty.

The fact is, the visible structure and colour variants within this tanzanite occurred as part of its natural formation. It is an entirely sound gemstone and has a uniqueness accentuated by the signature of nature within. It is for this reason that I chose to add it to my collection of gemstones and I take enormous pleasure in looking at it!

Choosing Gemstones

A truly delicious aspect of being a Goldsmith is the continual search for gemstones. I create jewellery for my own gallery and also work to commission, creating customised jewellery to individual requirements. To this end, it is essential that I maintain a delightful collection of gemstones from which my clients can select.

Sitting down with a client as part of this process is a truly wonderful experience. To see just how much they enjoy it and how the stone of their choice emerges and speaks to them. It happens with friends and visitors, too, just for the pleasure of it.

For those choosing from my collection without a personal visit, I provide a number of photographs and have found this to be hugely successful with clients from all over the world.

I choose naturally beautiful gemstones.

The Last of the Gold

Written by : Posted on November 25, 2010 : 3 Comments
18ct Gold Pendant Smoky Quartz

18ct Yellow & Rose Gold Pendant with Smoky Quartz from the Lentille Collection (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)

Autumn Gold

Here in the Languedoc region of France, our eyes savour the last of the autumn’s golden colours.

After a proliferation of reds and golds displayed in a glorious patchwork of vineyards, the last vestiges of gold are all that remain.

A Mix of Gold

The colour palette of autumn is irresistible. I don’t know how many photographs I have taken over the years, but I never grow tired of the variety of tones. The golden hues, patterns and textures have a mesmerising intensity. I save only the best photographs and the golden colours continue to speak to me from the album.

Rose Gold Jewellery

The rich golden, coppery bronzes in the yellow and rose gold pendant above were undoubtedly inspired by the autumn. An enticing warmth captured in gold that speaks to you and invites you to touch.

My jewellery creations are often a mix of golds … and a mix of textures. Each piece evolves uniquely; exact repeats are an impossibility. Maybe my ideas are romantic, but I believe that jewellery should try to be as special as you are. I’m a Goldsmith creating real opportunities for people to choose unique treasures.

Through the classical skills of traditional workmanship, I create jewellery for the individual.

Workshop Wonders: Pliers

Written by : Posted on November 23, 2010 : 6 Comments
Rack of Pliers on the Goldsmith's Bench

Rack of Pliers at this Goldsmith’s Work Bench

Pliers Poised for Action

Every so often, usually at the end of a creative project in the workshop, I have a serious tidy up.

The jewellery workshop is just that; a workshop.  A place of tools and equipment, metals and materials, filings and offcuts. As each project progresses, tools are plucked from their nests.  Some are immediately returned after use, but others find themselves close at hand on the workbench ready to be used again.

Purposeful Pliers

My rack of pliers shown in the picture is less than an arms length from me as I sit at my workbench. Each pair with its own purpose and function.  Racking them up again punctuates the creative process; it provides a time for reflection as well as organisation.

Pliers … are Personal

As someone who creates jewellery from the basic materials, pliers play a huge role in shaping, curving and bending gold and silver into the desired forms.

Since starting in this profession with a few treasured tools from the Master Craftsman who was my teacher, new pliers have been added to the collection. Since those days, however, the collection has adapted with me; grown with my ideas for design, the challenges I’ve faced, the outcomes I wish to achieve.

The jaws of many a pristine pair of pliers have been pressed against the abrasive wheel of the grinder. In a few noisy and grating seconds, a parallel edge has been eliminated … a uniquely tapered edge created. After final smoothing, they become a part of my world. Reaching for them with the knowledge of how they will perform becomes second nature.

Pliers for Precision

I know each pair of these pliers intimately. Using them for anything other than my creations in the jewellery workshop is out of the question.

Precision work requires precision tools. They’re precious.

The Sound of Quality

Written by : Posted on November 18, 2010 : 8 Comments
Silver and Gold Compass Bracelet with Citrine

Silver and Gold Compass Bracelet with Citrine (Photo by Kiff Backhouse)

How We Perceive Quality

I love boots. When choosing boots, I look for quality using various senses.

The manner in which the leather has been cut and shaped, and the way it has been stitched to the sole, is where the craftsmanship can be seen. The way the leather feels at my fingertips also tells me a great deal. Good quality leather also has an unmistakable smell. Through various senses, I perceive the resistance, quality and design of the boots.

Such quality is of paramount importance when I create jewellery, too.

The Look and Feel of Quality

The compass bracelet in the picture above includes a precision built compass. At first glance, this unique aspect of quality may not be obvious, visually. However, for me to be able to offer compass jewellery that I know will stand the test of time is vital. The north seeking, jewelled sapphire bearing compass inside is both accurate and of sound construction.

Encircled by a band of gold, the compass and other treasures move freely on the chain; a comfortable flow and rhythm of movement. An individually designed and hand made toggle closure safely secures the bracelet on the wrist. A visible Hallmark endorses the quality of the metals used.

The Sound of Quality

Jewellery also has it’s own sound. As you hold this bracelet in your hand and listen to the way it sounds when you move it against itself, it sounds … right.

It’s similar to when you let smooth pebbles tumble out of your hand, the sound they make as they fall together is full and mellow. A rich sound of quality as opposed to a shrill or light tinkling sound.

For me, the sound, the timbre, of a bracelet when it moves on the wrist is very much a part of the joy of wearing it. I only wish I could better describe it!