Escape and Escapades

Escape and Escapades

Written by : Posted on September 14, 2010 : 6 Comments

Gold Compass Pendant, silver compass pendant, tsavorite garnet

Silver and 18ct Gold Compass Pendant with twinkling Tsavorite Garnet (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)


Apparently, a change is as good as a rest. Speaking as someone who doesn’t really “do” relaxing in a big way, this proverb suits me well.

We all need a rest from the stressful bits of life. But when life overall is stressy, the idea of any rest or change, can seem impossible; that there’s just not enough room.


There are some great resources to help deal with stress. Whichever option you choose, it will definitely involve change. The change, whatever it is, can be a form of escape from the norm. Better still, it can blossom abundantly into an escapade. In fact, that’s precisely how it was for me. I changed pretty much everything about my life.  It was, and continues to be, an escapade. Fabulous.


Being a goldsmith, I have my jewellery workshop to escape to. A place where I lose track of time through applying myself to some creation using the skills that, a goodly while ago, became second nature. As with any business, however, there are also the less favourite aspects that need attention. The bookwork and record keeping, the marketing; you know the sort of thing. Sometimes, there is so much work to be done that it’s difficult to know what to focus on, what to do first. However, my workshop is always there; a place where the equilibrium can be restored, my mind calmed. A change is as good as a rest there, for sure.


Like it or not, we are each of us individuals. With this in mind, the right change for you is very likely to differ from what works for me. Your own personal escapade. Exciting stuff.

Whatever direction you’re heading in, the nature, magnitude and significance of the change is truly unique and personal to you. There are no rules, just choices.

Enjoy your escapade!

Are You Ready for Adventure?

Written by : Posted on September 7, 2010 : 2 Comments
Let's see where this goes

An adventure in Caune Minervois: Let's see where this path goes!

I like to interpret the word adventure as a fun and exciting opportunity to live a great life. Yes, there’s often some risk and danger thrown in, and it’s this fabulous mix that makes it an adventure. I’ve chosen to live a life of adventure.

What does the word adventure mean to You?

What I mean is, if you close your eyes and say to yourself “I’m setting out on an adventure”, what sorts of things come to mind?

How prepared are you for your own adventure?  What would you take with you?

What is it about the adventure that appeals to you?

In what ways would an adventure be different from your everyday life?

Adventure and Opportunity

We had a storm last night. The rain pelted down noisily, soaking the bone dry earth and rinsing away months of dustiness. Sitting on the back doorstep this morning, with the rain still pattering down gently, left me feeling poised for whatever adventure comes my way today. As I crouched down on the step, our two dogs nuzzled against me, with their ears back and tails wagging gently. Almost as if they felt a sort of readiness and excitement, too.

Whilst today’s adventure might not involve moving to live in another country (eek!), it can still be adventurous. Yes indeed. In fact, tackling a challenging stone-setting task in one of my gold compass pendant creations is going to be the first adventure of the day!

Your Adventure.  Your Direction.

Whatever your direction over the next day, month or year, and however you’re planning to achieve your goals, I hope yours is a great adventure and would love to hear about it.

Celebrating Change

Written by : Posted on August 26, 2010 : 2 Comments
Star Sapphire Compass

Your Own Personal Direction (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)

I am a goldsmith and I specialise in making unique compass jewellery.  Having changed my own life in many ways, I relish where I am right now.  I’m also inspired by the idea that, sometimes, others will see my compasses in the light of their own personal changes and adventures.

My clients are from all over the world and I feel privileged to discover their reasons for choosing a compass. Sometimes, it’s a snippet about the intended wearer. Often, it’s the occasion the compass is proposed to celebrate. Its destiny in terms of future travels, is another. I’ve also heard some sensational stories about how the compass will be presented to its new owner. There are some incredibly inventive individuals out there.

Bound into each compass, is my hope to inspire individuals to choose their direction. My commitment to each one being unique is a significant part of that. That they are of exceptional quality, is essential.

Something I have noticed, however, is that many of my clients choose a compass for someone else. A big birthday, a Christening, a wedding gift, a get well wish. Kind and thoughtful individuals giving others a gift of inspiration, hope and happiness.

Now and then, someone chooses one for themselves. I don’t get to hear so much of a story from these people; just that they love it, or that it’s perfect and just what they were looking for. I like to think their choice is a bound into the beginning of some new, personal adventure.  Perhaps a commitment to their chosen direction.

A unique way to celebrate a change for the better.

Redirection of Attention

Written by : Posted on August 24, 2010 : 5 Comments
Goldsmith's Workshop

The Workshoppy Smell of Oil (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)

Life is Pretty Damn Good

There is a great deal that I like about my life. For example, I have a kind and considerate husband, a comfortable home, a fascinating job and some fabulous friends. There’s more, much more, but that’s just to give you an idea.

Sometimes Life is Less Good

In spite of all this, however, there are still less good times and occasions when I worry. This is because, wait for it, I am completely normal. Often, whatever is on my mind can be dealt with by going out for a good walk or bike ride. Sometimes, it takes a little more.

Other Times Life is Crap

A long time ago, I turned up at a friend’s garage workshop, in tears. Life was not going according to plan and the whole going-for-a-walk approach just wasn’t going to work. Instead of offering me a tub of ice-cream and a lengthy commiseration session, they got me to change a wheel on my LandRover. For me, that was perfect.

Growing up, I spent many hours working on old LandRovers so the workshoppy smell of oil was fabulously familiar. Immersed in the job of changing the wheel, together with the exertion (those wheels are pretty heavy, I can tell you), made a great way to take my mind off things. It helped me get some perspective and see which direction I needed to take.

Keeping the Crap in Perspective

Now, whilst I realise that changing a wheel might not be your bag, I do believe that redirecting our attention to something positive can be a fantastic start point for getting things properly into perspective. Instead of dwelling on what’s not working, engaging in something we enjoy can be a great way to starve the problem of the fuel it needs to fester. For me, shifting the emphasis towards the positive, brings about a balance.

Sometimes life is crap, but it’s where we choose to direct our attention that counts, don’t you think?

The Meaning of Maintenance

Written by : Posted on August 15, 2010 : 2 Comments

Oiling the Pendant Drill (Photo by Kiff Backhouse)

The tools in my jewellery workshop have been designed to last for years. However, to ensure their optimum performance requires some regular maintenance.

In the same way, good health means looking after both the mind and body. I know this. It’s obvious and makes perfect sense. However, I do often find myself tending to the needs of my workshop more than my own. I don’t think I’m alone in being this way … am I?

My weeks and weekends are not so separate as they used to be, the distinction between work and play is blurry. That’s a good thing, right? I enjoy being in my workshop, creating. Each of my creations is unique so, far from being boring and repetitive, my work is absorbing. Seems a bit weird even calling it work.

However, what I do notice is that when I change my environment, even for a short break, then my mind is much more receptive to new ideas. The ideas about what I can create next and how I can overcome some fabrication challenge the seem to flow towards me. Yes, but what about not thinking about the workshop?

OK, so I’m not good at the sitting very still and doing nothing approach to relaxation. I prefer go out on my bike for a long ride, take in the scenery, enjoy the wind in my hair and and get a view of villages that you miss if you’re in a car. Heading to the beach on a sunny but blustery day and walking for miles along the water’s edge is also entirely wonderful. To me, this is an excellent bit of personal maintenance. Returning from one of these journeys leaves me feeling revitalised.

What’s your favourite way to take care of yourself?

The Peridot Gemstone

Written by : Posted on August 13, 2010 : Comments Off on The Peridot Gemstone
Compass Pendant, Compass Jewellery, Compass Necklace

Peridot framed in Gold (there's a compass on the other side...)

Today is Friday the thirteenth. I’m not really a superstitious person, but then again, when I see a lone Magpie, I often find myself looking out for the second. Better to think of Friday the thirteenth as an auspicious day, much better.

There’s a certain mystique surrounding gemstones, too. As well as being a colour palette in my creations, gemstones fascinate me. Their origins and formation, their colours, symbolism and their stories. In ancient times, gemstones were used as talismans and amulets to protect against evil and to promote and preserve health. Although scientists continue to struggle to produce hard evidence of how gemstones can influence health, I remain content to delve into the stories and beliefs that have outlasted such attempts.

Surrounded by enchanting olive groves as I am, I’d like to share what I’ve learned about the olivine. Olivine is the alternative name for the peridot, used because of the olive-green colour of the gemstone.

The peridot originates from Zabargad Island, a small volcanic island in the Red Sea. In the time of the Pharaohs, well over 3000 years ago, this ancient stone was found to have been used in Egyptian jewellery.

Peridot emits a warm and friendly energy. It is said to provide a shield around the body to protect it from outside influences. Peridot helps to lessen anger and jealousy and inspires happiness in the self, and delight in the nature of one’s life.

Often referred to as the evening emerald as it holds its colour in twilight more tenderly than true emeralds. With its gentle glow, early lapidaries pronounced peridot a good talisman against terrors of the night.

Well, it’s made me feel happy just thinking about it. Hope it’s been a pleasure for you, too.  I wish you an auspicious day.

Mistakes and Miracles

Written by : Posted on August 12, 2010 : 6 Comments
Peridot Compass

The Compass of Direction (one of my compass creations)

Don’t let making a mistake get in the way of your miracle.

Recently, I met someone who had decided to change her career and who spoke about her new idea with a sparkle in her eyes. She chatted enthusiastically about her plans and listed off an impressive inventory of her latest qualifications. She had her family’s support and had already met up with some promising business contacts.

Up until now, she had been following her new direction. Everything had gone well. Without any real financial worries, she had been able to prepare herself for this new career in a safe and supportive environment.

Great, really great. However, she then told me she felt that she was in limbo; that she needed to find something so she could get started. All her enthusiasm and certainty seemed to evaporate and she even drifted on to talking about a completely different career.

She had arrived at crunch time. Ready to go live. Primed to put everything she’d learned into action. She was all set to give it a try but something was preventing it.

Here’s the thing. The shift from preparing for a new path to actually following it, requires a degree of courage. What if you make a mistake? What if it doesn’t work out they way you’d imagined? What if, after all this ground work, you’re not a success? What if, now this is a big one, what if you look silly?

So, as I said, don’t let making a mistake get in the way of your miracle.

Choose your direction. Prepare for it. Then do it. Make mistakes.

The experience of making mistakes leads inevitably to the miracle of learning.

What really great mistakes have you made lately?

The Business of Being Lucky

Written by : Posted on August 5, 2010 : 14 Comments

Four Leafed Clover in Uvarovite Drusy (Photo:Kiff Backhouse)

Luck or Choice?

Recently, a friend visiting from the UK commented on how lucky I was to be living in France and to enjoy my work. Actually, I do feel pretty lucky. When I look at my life, I love what I see. However, another friend instantly countered the idea of my situation being simply a matter of luck. He pointed out that I was living this life as a result of the choices I’d made.

You know what? He’d made a point. Yes, yes, I know that it’s a turn of phrase, but it’s also an important idea. Whereas luck is associated with things happening by chance, I’m living this life because I chose to – and took action.

Choosing to Change

Twelve years ago my life was entirely different. With a good job and a nice house, I was – in the eyes of society – successful.

Then I had an “Is this it?” moment. You ever had one of those?

Right now, I’m sat in the garden of our ancient home in the Languedoc region of France. Our Labrador is at my feet, our Terrier is transfixed by the lizards that come out at this hour and the air is filled with the unrelenting “noise” of the cicadas. My glass of cold white wine has left a watery circle on the slate table top we brought with us when we moved here from the UK. I’ve had an absorbing day in my jewellery workshop making one of my unique compass creations.  I am content.

Inspiration to Choose

Perhaps today’s compass jewellery creation will inspire someone somewhere to choose their direction and be as “lucky” as I am. I hope so.

Isn’t it great that we can choose our direction and that it’s not all down to luck?

Life is an Adventure

Written by : Posted on July 27, 2010 : 8 Comments
Fire Opal Gold Pendant

Fire Opal - An Inner Flame of Vitality (Photo: Kiff Backhouse)

The term “adventure” is often associated with risk and danger. My own interpretation of adventure is that it’s a fun and exciting opportunity to live a great life – with some risk and danger thrown in for good measure!

Patterns of Success

Once upon a time, I had the trappings of a successful career woman, living very comfortably. Heavenly holidays, sumptuous restaurants, new clothes – you know the sort of thing. I’d achieved respectable qualifications and secured senior roles through results based merits. My life had a pattern that it’s easy to associate with success.

However, I didn’t feel fulfilled. Many of the really fun things, the adventures, had to be squished into the small spaces that were left after I’d given enough of myself to my work. The balance wasn’t right.

I met several inspirational people along the way, some of whom are now my closest friends. However, whilst I was interested in doing my job well, I wasn’t passionate about the work itself.

Choose Your Direction

So I took a risk and changed direction! Now, in truth, I can’t tell you that this happened in a calm and timely way – rather, my impulsive nature stepped in and things began to happen. I left my work and changed course. As part of that, my husband Chris and I also moved to France!

Be Yourself

I’m now doing what I love. Creative and mechanically inclined, I’m fascinated by the challenges and rewards of being a goldsmith; and there will always be challenges as I’m someone who wants to keep exploring and trying out new ideas. When I’m in my workshop, I lose track of time. I’m fulfilled. My designs are inspired by the fascinating path of life, the secret patterns of who we are. We are each of us unique and my creations celebrate that individuality.

These days, my work and my adventures are now bound together, they have become one. I’m living my life the way I choose to and take delight in meeting interesting people from all over the world.

Each piece of jewellery that I create is made with a passion. A passion for life – my passion for life.

Stone Setting

Written by : Posted on July 25, 2010 : 2 Comments
Setting a Stone

Traditional Stone Setting

Bringing Jewellery to Life

Setting the stone unites the stone with the jewellery creation for which it was designed. This is usually the last process involved in creating a piece of jewellery.

The union of the stone and its setting brings the jewellery creation to life. So much so, in fact, that it’s sometimes difficult to resist just popping the stone in for a sneak peek before all the work on the actual creation is complete! However, the risk of the stone getting stuck is too great and it needs to be kept away from many of the processes preceding the setting. Each jewellery creation calls for the transformation of gold and silver using a variety of skills, tools and techniques, many of which would harm the stone.

Traditional Skills

When incorporating a stone, I favour what is known as the “rubover” setting. With this setting, the stone is held in place securely by a continuous band of gold which is, literally, “rubbed” over the the edge of the stone. In my workshop, this “rubbing over” is achieved the traditional way using a setting punch and a chasing hammer.

Sensing the Rhythm

Firstly, the band is pushed gently over the stone in four points equally spaced around the stone. Then, a series of continuous and rhythmic taps of the chasing hammer deliver the required force to the smooth tip of the punch, easing the gold over the entire outer edge of the stone. Manipulating gold in this way, little by little, is one of the many satisfying aspects of being a goldsmith. Seeing and feeling how gold responds to the forces applied means I can make fine adjustments for a perfect finish.

A Creation to Cherish

After a final polish, the creation is complete and ready to be cherished!