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Traditional Workmanship of the Goldsmith

Written by : Posted on November 16, 2010 : 1 Comment
annealing gold

Annealing: Gee Preparing Gold in the Workshop (Photo by Kiff Backhouse)

Working with My Hands

Perhaps I was destined to work with my hands. Today, I work with my hands and my heart as well as my head.

The shape of my life has changed enormously. Although from a family of fine art dealers, my first career started in the world of Information Technology. Today, however, I am a Goldsmith living in France.

The Jewellery Workshop

The jewellery workshop is a place where I lose track of time. Creative ideas are realised in this special place.

Amply equipped, the workshop is home to a variety of tools; tools from the past, some newer, and some individually crafted to meet a particular need.  It also houses numerous discarded items that might one day be useful.  A veritable den.

The Goldsmiths’ tools are never lent or shared for there’s an intimate relationship between them. The way one uses a file, for example, is unique to the individual.  So, too, is the knowledge of its age, degree of abrasiveness and its idiosyncrasies; a dead area here, a nick there. A familiarity exists that’s key to knowing what to expect from a certain tool and how to achieve a particular outcome.

A Master Craftsman of Goldsmiths’ Hall was my teacher and I, his apprentice. An advocate of the classical skills of traditional workmanship, he’s a gentleman I’m privileged to have met. Creative and mechanically inclined, I remain fascinated by the challenges and rewards of the profession; of working directly with gold and silver.

Jewellery for the Individual

Working with my hands and my heart, as well as my head, continues to inspire me. Part of what makes my jewellery so special is that it is uniquely created using the classical skills of traditional workmanship.

Jewellery often makes the perfect gift. Individually hand made jewellery makes it unique.

The Business of Risk

Written by : Posted on November 6, 2010 : 4 Comments

Risico. The story of a barge on the Canal du Midi.

Risico Means Risk

Risico is the name a beautiful barge on the Canal du Midi that I was recently fortunate enough to be aboard. When I enquired about the name, Risico, the gentleman owner explained that it meant Risk and told me the story to accompany it.

A Time for Risk

In years gone by, the canals were the route by which goods were transported. Barges would navigate up and down the canals laden with their cargo and a crew. An apprentice would be watching and learning the ropes to become a captain.

From time to time, an apprentice would approach the owner about buying the barge for himself. The time would come where the apprentice wanted to take the risk and put everything he had into owning and running the barge.

Risk and Ownership

At the time of taking on the barge for himself, this new owner re-named the barge Risico. He gave the barge a name to suit the occasion, to celebrate and cement the commitment.

The Rarity of Risk

Not everyone acts on the decision to take on a new project and give it their all. I mean to take a real risk as part of changing their life for the better; to risk the security of the familiar, for the adventure of the unknown.

In fact, I think it’s something of a rarity.

However, I can’t help but admire those who do for their adventurous spirit.

How Serious an Adventurer Are You?

Written by : Posted on November 1, 2010 : 1 Comment
Dog Digging Mole Hole

Seriously Dedicated Adventurer & Pooch

If Only

How many times have you heard someone say how, if only they had such-and-such and opportunity, then they wouldn’t waste it? No indeed, they’d grab it by the horns and give it all they’ve got.

Right?

Maybe.

Yes But

When it comes to it, so many of us humans say one thing … but do another. Oh-so-often there’s some obstacle preventing us from grabbing that opportunity, checking it out, turning it upside down and looking at it from another angle. All this kind of attitude does is dilute the adventure. This kind of attitude waters the adventure down to some insipid, tasteless soup.

Yes but, I can’t because the kids are in school (how many times have I heard that one?!)

Yes but, it’s easy for you; life’s different for me.

Yes but, it’ll be a lot of hard work.

Yes but, what if it doesn’t work out?

Agreed, all of these “Yes Buts” are the stuff of responsible individuals.

However, the adventurers amongst you will move beyond the “Yes-Buts”.

The adventurers amongst you will choose your direction and explore ways of achieving it. Yes, I use the word explore as that’s exactly what’s required when it’s time to move out of your comfort zone and try something else.  Creativity is called for.

Can You Imagine?

Can you imagine how difficult it was to distract this little dog of mine away from the mole hill?

She was determined. Are you?

Preparing for Winter

Written by : Posted on October 28, 2010 : 7 Comments
Pile of Logs

The Log Pile : Stack of Logs for the Fire

Preparedness

Here in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, winter is cold. Seriously cold. When we moved here almost 7 years ago, we never imagined that winters would be so harsh. We had expected something milder, more temperate. In reality, winters here are mostly dry, with very low temperatures and a cold wind that cuts right through you.

However, our move here was a decision we took … and then acted on.

Preparing for the Unexpected

Here’s the thing. When you spend masses amount of time preparing for such-and-such an eventuality, there’s a chance that you’ll be paralysed by preparation. I am absolutely not suggesting that you don’t prepare.  Rather, it’s more that the search for every answer in advance of the event isn’t realistic. If you think that you’ll have covered every angle before taking the plunge, you’ll be kidding yourself.

Also, and very importantly, you could be missing out on a seriously exciting adventure.

Prepare to Adapt

When you decide to take the plunge and do something different, it is often partnered with adopting a new attitude. At least, the beginning of seeing things in a new light. For me, there was a shift from being very organised to becoming freer and easier. However, it didn’t happen overnight.

In new situations we need to be prepared to adapt. Give yourself permission to make some mistakes because that’s a great way to learn. Forgive those who criticise you when you slip up;  chances are, it’s their way of dealing with wishing they had your courage.

Be gentle with yourself.  Give yourself enough time and space to discover along the way. Enjoy the journey. Relish the adventure.

Embrace the Seasons

Winters may be cold here, but there’s almost always some sunshine.

Let’s get out there and stack the logs in preparation!

Dance with Life

Written by : Posted on October 26, 2010 : Comments Off on Dance with Life
Dancing Shoes

My Sparkly Dancing Shoes

Dance

When dance is a part of life there’s something special going on.

In the words of Baz Luhrmann, Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen)

“Enjoy your body, use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.. Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.”

The dancing shoes shown in the picture are my own, sporting a few scuffs from the delightful activity of dancing. Did you spot the undeniably fabulous sparkly band across the toe? Go on, take another peek!

Dipping in to Dance

As part of our immersion into French life when we moved here, Chris and I began dance lessons twice a week. Great exercise, fantastic for improving general balance and enormously fun. It also offered a whole new dimension on language acquisition as we were the only English speaking students.

Firstly, of course, the instructress was French. She was inspirational – boy oh boy could she move.

Secondly, the call to “décalez-vous” every five minutes meant moving round a place to dance with the next person in the circle! When you learn to dance, it’s good to be able to do so with someone you’re unused to. It’s a versatility thing.

Oh so very much more than just dipping your toe into French life!

Dance for Health

I love to dance. I can’t help but dance when the music starts. Some tunes appeal more than others, but I find a good rhythm irresistible.

If I’m feeling off colour or just a bit down, dancing gathers up the endorphins and helps me on the road to recovery. Really, it does.

Also, as the master of my own jewellery workshop, I can get up and dance whenever the impulse takes me! Mercifully, I’ve spared you a photo of that.

Dance with Life

We all express ourselves in different ways. Dancing is one of my favourites. Making compasses is another.

The World is Your Oyster

Written by : Posted on October 21, 2010 : 3 Comments
oysters with lemon

The World is Your Oyster

Your Oyster

There are numerous ways to interpret “The World is Your Oyster”. Some definitions suggest it means that if you have enough money, then you can have whatever you want. Others focus more on beauty, fame or youth as the keys that open doors to happiness.

However, this definition is the one I choose: “When the World is Your Oyster, you are getting everything you want from life”.

Impromptu Adventure

I recently made an impromptu trip from France to Holland and back. An opportunity presented itself and my husband, Chris, and I decided to take it. It was one piece in the puzzle making up the dream of where we’re going in the future. We grabbed some overnight things plus basics for picnics en route. My compass pendant was, as always, around my neck and ready for adventure!

The Warmth of Human Kindness

Throughout the journey, we met several lovely people. It was a heartwarming experience. Yes, I know, there are lovely people everywhere, but this felt extra special. On this journey people have helped us in so many ways, given us their time and made us feel welcome.

It has been a pleasure to share our joy with them and to hear their stories.

Thank you to all those individuals out there who made this trip so special. It was a pleasure to meet you.

Cycling in Southern France

Written by : Posted on October 14, 2010 : 1 Comment
mountain bike

My Marvellous Mountain Bike (including gadgets and stuff)

Sunny Explorations

I now live in a part of the world where it’s bright and sunny for a remarkably large part of the year. One of my favourite ways to exercise is to go exploring on my bike. Since I’m the master of my own jewellery workshop, I can choose to get out a-pedalling when the weather is irresistibly enticing!

Following a recent journey around these parts on two wheels, here’s a list of ideas for those intending to cycle in the area.

Top Tips for Cyclists

  1. Take plenty of water.
  2. Remember to drink the water you’ve taken. Have regular gulps and glugs to keep you hydrated.
  3. Take a mobile phone.
  4. Wear a cycle helmet. If you fall off your bike and bump your head, the cycle helmet is going to increase your chances of being able to remember  (a) where you put the mobile phone and (b) what you’re supposed to do with it when you find it.
  5. Breathe Out. Breathing in comes very naturally, it’s automatic. However, when you’re a bit puffed, concentrating on breathing out every last drop of air in your lungs means your next in-breath is enormous. Do it several times.
  6. Use your gears. High and low gears make the ride so much more comfortable and pleasurable.  If you don’t know how to use your gears – learn!
  7. Hunting here is rampant. Wear a luminous yellow jacket or some such – anything that clearly differentiates you from say, a wild boar. Why a wild boar would be riding a bike is anybody’s guess, but why risk it, eh?
  8. Enjoy the view. It’s amazing how much more of your surroundings you notice when on a bike instead of in the car.

And Finally

Bask in the glorious feeling of having had a great bike ride.

Push-Up Bras and Go-Faster Stripes

Written by : Posted on October 12, 2010 : 5 Comments
Tourmaline Gold Compass Pendant

Tourmaline - Inspiration, Courage & Confidence (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)

The Packaging

Each of us wants to be the best we can be; to present ourselves in the best possible light.  However you achieve this, be it a push-up bra or go-faster stripes, it’s a kind of marketing. Being your best self.

Whilst there is a time for the push-up bra – and yes, I believe there is! – I reckon it’s the person inside that really matters. The person beyond the packaging.

The Individual

What sorts of things appeal to you? How do these things reflect the individual that you are?

In terms of trucks, I’m the kind of girl who wants a diff lock for good traction control. You can’t see it, but it’s there and ready when you need it. I go for reliability, performance and quality.

In terms of boots, I want a charming mix of elegance and practicality. You can read more about my thing with boots here.

In terms of jewellery, I want something that works as easily with an evening dress as it does with jeans and a t-shirt. Something distinctive yet sophisticated.

In terms of life, I want to live it. Really live it.

The Adventurer

Lift and separate yourself from the masses!

Express the real you.

Beauty. A Definition.

Written by : Posted on October 6, 2010 : 3 Comments
Spinel

Spinel: Lots of Inner Sparkle

My husband, Chris, recently did a portrait photo shoot which made me think about beauty. Actually, it served to remind me that I’m something of an expert on the subject!

To this end, packed into this post are some top tips on being beautiful.

And here they are. Ready?

First Beauty Tip

You. Are. Already. Beautiful.

No, don’t go.  There’s more.

Second Beauty Tip

In the words of Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen)”

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Third Beauty Tip

This one’s a bit longer but is really a continuation of the First Beauty Tip.

When you choose your direction in life, that is, when you decide to be yourself, then you will be well on your way to a life of fulfilment and integrity. Putting this really simply:

Fulfilment means that you’re doing stuff you enjoy.

Integrity means your doing what you believe in, or as one dictionary definition suggests, you’re in “a state of being whole or undivided”.

So, when you’ve got those two things going on, when you have the fulfilment and integrity side of things licked, chances are you’re going to be one fairly happy bunny.  It can start right from the time you decide to be yourself.  An inescapable happiness.

Being truly happy usually means there’s a smile, a sort of inner sparkle, emanating from your very being. It’s the sort of thing that hangs around even when you’re having a bad hair day, too.

Now that’s what I call beautiful.

Bury Your Feet in the Sand

Written by : Posted on October 4, 2010 : 4 Comments
sand, beach, mediterranean

Sand to Bury Your Feet In, Southern France. Heavenly.

The Beach

The last few fabulous days have been spent with friends who came to visit us here in France. The seasons are changing, but we were easily able to spend a day on the beach, walk along the water’s edge, barbecue sausages and enjoy the warm sunshine. I also buried my feet in the sand. It was all part of a keeping-very-still thing.

In my world, much needs to be done right now. With big chunks of change and amidst various projects, in the workshop and out, time for rest and exercise has been squished. I know I’m going in the right direction. There are also times when it’s all about getting on with what needs to be done. However, having spent some time with my feet buried in the sand, I also know that, from time to time, I need to … just stop.

Bury Your Head?  Or your Feet!

Some people bury their heads in the sand. They avoid dealing with situations that need attention, and refuse even to think about them. However, in my opinion, burying your feet in the sand is the way to go. Burying my feet in the sand meant time to think. It meant keeping still, enjoying the company of my friends, the perfect weather, the special moments. It also inspired some creative thinking about next steps on my journey, my adventure.

P.S.

One of my friends was hoping that I might be quiet for a bit, too. You know – actually stop talking. Didn’t happen.