Green Light for Blue Skies

Green Light for Blue Skies

Written by : Posted on January 11, 2011 : 10 Comments
Blue Sky in the Jewellery Workshop

View From the Jeweller's Bench: Blue Sky in the Workshop

New Space for Creating

Yesterday’s inaugural apéro evening for my new workshop took place last night! Several naughty but nice nibblies were served and a good time had by all. Great atmosphere. Auspicious.

From this day forward, my one of a kind silver and gold jewellery will be created in this new space.

Actually, I must admit that I began making a bracelet yesterday – the space was just calling me to get in there and get started! I couldn’t resist.

Blue Skies

One of the things that I’ve noticed about living in France is just how big the sky is here. The picture above shows you just how blue it was yesterday, too! If you were to sit at my jewellery workbench in its new position, the photo shows exactly what you’d see.

I’ve read so many great blog posts about the importance of getting your work environment right and, you know what, I think I’m on to something here. That’s a pretty good outlook.

Green Light

There’s nothing left to do – the green light is shining for me to go ahead. To create jewellery and compass pendants to my heart’s content.

And to the content and delight of others, too.

Am keeping in touch with the lady for whom I’m making this bracelet so that we get the length just right. I have really tiny wrists and know how annoying it can be when a bracelet is just that little bit too long.

Her custom made bracelet is going to be exactly the way she wants it to be.


Bend, Stretch … Adapt

Written by : Posted on January 10, 2011 : 4 Comments
jewellery workshop view

Doming Punches, Rolling Mill ... One View of my Jewellery Workshop


Here we are, 10 days into the New Year and I’m on track with my new workshop. I’m back in there properly today, starting work on an Golden Wedding Anniversary Bracelet – I can’t wait!

Was the journey straight forward?  No!   The proposed new location presented unexpected challenges and with so much custom jewellery to create, following that path would have taken too long.

So, I decided to adapt.

Adjust to New Conditions

I’m still going in exactly the same direction; the workshop will relocate in the future as planned. In the mean time, I’m being flexible. Bending the direct path into something that’s more achievable, stretching the timescales and enjoying the journey. Learning.

Seems to me, life is about constantly adjusting to new conditions. Whenever we set out in a new direction there’s a strong chance we’ll encounter surprises! The new location called for heaps more work than imagined and being without a jewellery workshop for so long just wouldn’t have worked.

So, I adapted. I adjusted to the new conditions.

Make it Suitable for Use

The workshop refit has made it wonderfully suitable for use.

More than that, it’s an enchanting space in which to create.

The heating is much better, the dust created while polishing is now contained and there’s an abundance of natural light in the design area. I’m truly delighted.

Being flexible and adapting to the situation has also given me the opportunity to try out ideas for the final layout. A bonus that I’d otherwise have missed.

Are you giving yourself enough of a chance for success? Bending, stretching and adapting?

The Glorious Opal

Written by : Posted on January 7, 2011 : 7 Comments
Boulder Opal

From my gemstone collection: A Beautiful Boulder Opal

Opal Colour

As the design area within my workshop evolves, I’m already salivating at the prospect poring over my collection of gemstones there.

For me, the opal is a sheer celebration of colour.

Opal Origins

Opal is amorphous, that is, without a crystal structure. Instead, it is made up of microscopically tiny spheres of silica – you need to magnify them 20,000 times to see them! Beams of light bend and split as they pass through the spheres to produce glorious patterns of coloured light.

It starts with the cracks and cavities left after bones and shells within ancient rocks have crumbled away with time. Through weathering and erosion, this silica gel makes its way into these cavities to form what we know as Opal, with its veritable fiery rainbow of colour within.

Opal Varieties

Opal is the birthstone for those born in October as well as being the traditional stone of choice for those celebrating their 14th wedding anniversary.

Boulder Opal

Here, Opal fills the hollows of pebble rock. There is often a fabulous play of colour against a dark base surface.

Opal Matrix

Bands or leaves of precious Opal are embedded in the matrix rock, the rock in which the opal is found. Often wonderfully decorative and colourful and allowing you to look deep into the opal.

Fire Opal

It is incorrect to assume that fiery red flashes of colour that occur in many opals means that it’s a fire opal. In fact, the orangey-red fire opal is usually a more translucent gem.

Doublets and Triplets

The opal doublet is where a slice of opal has been cemented to another material, sometimes glass, which can give it the appearance of a black opal. The opal layer can be a single slice of opal, or sometimes several opal fragments glued together.

An opal triplet is where the doublet has a top layer of colourless quartz which also serves to protect the opal layer.

Whilst these doublets and triplets do not occur naturally, they still have a natural opal element and can be extraordinarily beautiful.

Opal Care

Since the delicate opal is between 3% and 30% water, it makes a perfect pendant where it can safely enjoy the body’s natural humidity. Storing your opal with a little moisture is also a good idea.

Interestingly, the opal is traditionally thought to be a stone of happy dreams and changes.

House Warming with a Twist

Written by : Posted on January 5, 2011 : 11 Comments
jewellery workshop bench

Workshop Refit in Progress. Spirit level, masonry bits and tools still there!

Cold to Cosy

Our cold kitchen was made warm and cosy this morning by a lengthy session of making homemade muesli.   The aroma of grilled honey coated cereal and nuts wafting around the house is still being savoured!

It also made me think that, with the advent of my new workshop, perhaps I need to throw a house warming party!

Warming the Workshop

Actually, it will be more of a jewellery workshop warming party…

Given that the workshop has been designed around being a compact space for me to work in, I’m going to need to limit my numbers. To this end, I’m considering inviting the following lovely folk to join me.

Firstly, my husband, Kiff Backhouse, who is responsible for each and every photograph of my creations in my jewellery gallery. Extremely talented and patient, eh?! He’s also generally lovely but I think I’ve already said that elsewhere!

Next, my good friend Jennifer Greco who blogs beautifully about a taste of life in the South of France. She’s also a chef and cheese expert (addict?!), and I’m rather hoping she’ll bring something sensationally smelly along for the event!!

Although I’ve not yet met Katie Zeller, I’m enjoying Tweeting with her. She’s an American expat, restoring an old farmhouse in France; cooking, shopping, stumbling thru French life. Oh, and running a menu planning service for healthy eating! Anyway, she’s in France and she would be very welcome to join the workshop warming!

The Warmth of Friendship

There are many more of you I’d like to invite but my workshop space is limited! How about I work on a virtual tour of this special place for you in the future…?

Keep Warm.

Thinking Big

Written by : Posted on January 4, 2011 : 4 Comments
Green Tourmaline Earrings

Silver and Gold Earrings with Green Tourmaline (photo Kiff Backhouse)

How Big?

I’ve recently been working on a project around 100 times bigger than usual.

Instead of unique and intricate jewellery designs, I’ve been redesigning and rebuilding my workshop! Instead of using silver, gold and gemstones, I’ve been using wood, brackets, drills and a spirit level.

It’s been a great opportunity to take a fresh look at the workshop; a way to step back and see the bigger picture.

Actions Make a Difference

The way we think about our lives and the world we live in has a huge effect on how we feel. How we feel – happy, grumpy, motivated, sad – then influences our actions. Whether we like it or not, our actions are what make the difference between achieving what we’re striving for, and staying just as we are.

While all this appears to make sense, it seems that we need to work at maintaining a healthy attitude if we’re going to get where we want to be. Thankfully, there are talented professionals out there to inspire us…

Jim Connolly suggests that you are almost certainly more talented, admired and loved than you think you are. How about that for a great start to improving any element of your life or business?!

Julie Walraven describes how easy it is to get caught up in how the world seems to us at the minute, and how to avoid letting this get in the way of your job search.

These are just two examples of people who can clearly Think Big.

Bigger and Better

To me, Thinking Big is just one way to look at things differently, to spot improvements that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. To contemplate the ideas of others and consider alternatives.

My jewellery workshop is now even better than I’d originally imagined, too!

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.