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V Day always has me wistful for its Roman counterpart– Lupercalia– a festival of purging fevers and she wolves. Surely there is something worth celebrating on this day besides cupids and St. Valentine? Let’s call it Self Love Wednesday. (I confess I’d always liked the empty tissue boxes decorated as post boxes on our desktops in grade school, and counting up the hearts afterward. Maybe I just like getting post, even if it comes in a heart-covered tissue box! Won’t you be my Feral Valentine?)
We are the niche-est, you and I, so I’ve compiled some super special gift ideas to inspire you. The benefits of shopping small during the holiday season means you can find unique gifts that are as special as the people in your life.
For the Flash Knitter— a custom stitch marker set in their favourite colour. Opt for a simple marker keeper or a beautiful necklace so the set doubles jewellery.
I know we are all bombarded with sale messages during this season, and I’ve chosen to thank my loyal customers with my biggest sale of the year during this time. This is my 7th holiday season in the shop and the gratitude I feel for my customers, many of whom have become friends, is great. Know that if you are inspired to shop during this time, choosing small, independent business like mine make a huge difference in a life and I strive to reflect that in the quality of my work, the personal service and attention to detail, right down to the gift wrap of each purchase which includes dried lavender and Scottish heather.
(Please note coupon can’t be used on custom orders and can’t be used retroactively.)
The Mina Harker Necklace is one of my oldest designs. Originally, I did not make them to sell, because I made them before I even had a business selling my wares. I made them to wear with black slips and vintage black kimonos back in the day when I went to goth clubs in London. They combined my love of intricate statement jewellery and my extensive collection of broken, and abandoned rosaries.
I named this design after one of my favourite fictional characters, the typist and undead survivor, Mina Harker, that ex-school teacher who traversed the liminal world of the damned, the infected of soul who lived to tell the tale. There have been many Minas in other fictions but perhaps my favourite is The Letters of Mina Harker by Dodie Belamy, where Mina is re-visioned as a sexually active woman living in San Fransisco during the 1980s– she is also the author, speaking. If you have not read it, you should!
This design has had more manifestations and versions than any other– and probably each has been a little painful to let each one go. Most have found fascinating homes with artists, designers and creative visionaries. Here your can see a recent custom design I made for Joey of Scout LA.
For nine days in September the artists, craftspeople and makers in the North East of Scotland open their doors to the public. It is a widespread, highly organised and volunteer run festival where the public can venture across this scenic landscape to find unique workspaces, converted mills, chapels and and magestic castles-turned galleries displaying no less majestic and unique work. The rich artistic tradition in this seemingly remote part of Scotland is laid out, waiting to be discovered.
A comprehensive book and clear map become your exhaustive guide to the festival– there is so much to see and do, that even if you have a plan and are highly organised, you probably won’t be able to see it all. At least, I wasn’t able to make it to all the venues I wanted to. The book makes a lovely catalogue guide to artists and makers in the area, even after the festival is over. (I used the one from last year to become acquainted with the creative landscape of the area).
Highlights for me were visiting Lynn Pitt at the Mill of Nethermill whose small stone built studio is nestled in lush, wild bay– a few steps from the studio wrack-covered stones jut out into the sea. Lynn also runs award winning, self-catering accommodation on this site. I purchased a beautiful pit-fired urn which I hope to use as a spirit box. It feels alive in the hand– marvellous. Her studio is full of sturdy, elegant pieces that one could use everyday– mugs, plates and vases– in deep blues and greens that no doubt get their colourings from the shifting moods of the sea outside the studio door.
One of the closest venues (to my own home studio) in the festival is also one of my favourites, Watergaw Ceramics. Watergaw is the Scots word for a shimmering, indistinct rainbow and it suits the otherworldly glaze of Fiona’s work which utilises “glaze reduction lustre”. The light in the converted-chapel studio brings out the luminous and nacreous surfaces of her work brilliantly.
Brian Cook Shand, Fiona’s partner, was demonstrating making round, perfect things on the wheel on the day we visited. Also at the studio was Woodwork of Neal Graham as well as the intricate Picticish and Celtic carvings of Jamie Fergusson of Pictish Designs. I was able to talk to Jamie for quite some time about his process and what it’s like to be a jewellery maker here, including the interesting potential development of a silver-smithing co-operative in Banff in a newly renovated listed building, but that is a topic for another time.
Another highlight was visiting the studio of icon painter Maria Guerreiro of Portsoy. The intimate scale of the paintings allows her faith to shine out. She uses medieval materials and techniques in traditional yet accessible ways. I fell in love with the profile of an angel on paper which I purchased.
We also met Mary J. Torrance, painter of cats. Her sunny studio outside of Fraserburgh was open to the public. I enjoyed hearing about her wide-ranging process and the kind of creative explosion that happens when women decide to stop giving away their ideas and energy and instead employ it to service their own vision. On the whole NEOS impressed me particularly for the women participating, all at the height of their creative powers. I thought perhaps it is no mistake I have ended up here.
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 peices 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.