I’ve Got a Hammer

Mackintosh Rose Ring.

Rings have always fascinated me. They are the kind of jewellery I wear every day. I collect them obsessively and if I visit somewhere I love, they are the souvenir I look for. But until now, I never made rings. For the past few months I’ve been perfecting techniques which basically involved hammering things beyond reason, doing something called “work hardening” and bathing it all in the sulphurs of hell.

The Fossil Hunter Ring by Feral Strumpet

Tiny enough to be carried across an ocean, rings are some of the only heirlooms I possess.  The most sentimental of jewellery, the ring is also the most intimate. I have a large, antique emerald ring that once belonged to my Grandmother. She wore it constantly– washing the dishes in it along with everything else, and the long, vertical angles of the cut have been worn down, the stone frosted over with her daily labours. I have taken it to jewellers to get it sized to fit me and all have wanted to polish it. No way!

Perhaps because it was the first jewellery I loved– straight from the gum ball machine– nothing seems as perfect as these little circles for the fingers.

I have always made things with my hands– my whole life if I wasn’t making something, I didn’t really feel alive. It’s only now that I make my living at it. Here they are, my rings, from my hands to yours.

The Druid’s Well

Beltane fires were burned upon the crags here in bygone centuries.

The Northern Antiquarian.

Last weekend M hiked to the Druid’s Well in Bingley and took many wonderful photos of this holy well.  The photos reveal a lush Seelie Court. It is a place of historic fairy sightings and where the destroying angel mushroom grows.

The Druid’s Spring, Bingley, West Yorkshire

The companion well, The Altar Well, seems now buried but the Druid’s Well still swells from the earth in a sandy bed, fern-draped and lush with lichen. Also called the Druid’s Spring or Hollin (Holy) Well.  M washed his face there.

Perhaps I can visit one day– though the way is quite steep and my dodgy foot often will not allow me such daring.

Beltane Bride Set, inspired by the lichen of the Druid’s Temple in Ilton, West Yorkshire. For more jewellery inspired by fairy landscapes, please visit my Etsy shop.


Selling at Whitby Gothic Weekend

This past weekend I had a stall at the Whitby Gothic Weekend.  Whitby is one of my favourite places on earth, and for the past seven years I have attended the Gothic Festival there.  So it was with a great deal of excitement I prepared to sell at the event. I am grateful to all the friends and shop supporters who came by and said hello– you kept me sane!

Sadly, selling at Whitby was a disappointment. I found myself displaying all my lovingly hand made, beautiful things in a fluorescent-lit gymnasium which stank of stale sweat and childhood trauma, trading next to people who were flogging 5 pound lingerie and Vivienne Westwood knock-offs.  Whatever I was doing was drowned out by cheap tat displayed as if we were at a car boot or swap meet.

One thing I learned this weekend– the context of a market defines you.  I had a difficult time explaining that I was a local Yorkshire artist, and that everything was handmade and carefully sourced.  My prices didn’t make sense to people, who were seeing bins of things for a pound, all imported sweat-shop type goods.

There was no security and though traders were encouraged to leave their stalls up overnight, the doors were not locked at 5 and people came and went, rummaging through the stalls of traders who were no longer there.  I ended up taking all my stock home every night because of this.

As the weekend wore on and sales in general seemed low, other traders became territorial.  The woman selling cheap imported jewelry behind me blocked the aisle leading to my stall from the entrance insuring everyone would have to walk the entire perimeter of stalls just to reach mine.  Yet, there was no one to deal with this besides a single volunteer who was a stall holder herself.  One evening she broke down in tears because she had so much work to do and so many demands put on her.

Yet, traders pay a premium to sell at this event–where is the money going?  I split the cost with my stall neighbor, the wonderful Paula from Deadly Desires. We are both new businesswomen and booking Whitby was a big experiment and risk for both of us.

What surprised me was the complete lack of any feeling of community amongst the traders or shoppers, many of whom were not goths at all but people who had come to photograph “freaks” or people in fancy dress– WGW has a lot of people who have no relation to the gothic sub-culture but like to dress up in Victorian costumes and promenade.

I learned that as a trader I need to find markets where the other sellers are also artists and makers, and where we are supported as such. Unless there are major changes to the way things are run at Whitby Gothic Weekend, I will not be selling there again.

What did you dream last night?

The Ghost of Eastry Church, Kent.

Last night was Saint Mark’s Eve.  There is an old tradition in the North of England which required parishioners of certain churches to hold a vigil through the night, watching for apparitions of themselves. Those who saw themselves enter– as rotting corpses or marching coffins– were sure to die in the coming year. Fair warning; time to prepare.

Though I now live in a city that makes a good deal of its living off the undead, and the myriad ghosts of this little walled town outnumber us, I am not jaded.  It is easy to see how death walks with us, here, despite the garish morbidity of all the ghost tours on offer, with their own inoculation to this mystery.  With that said, I have never seen on heard a ghost in York.  (What will usually send a shiver are recordings I find, actively look for trolling about on the internet– either supposedly photographic or EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomenon. Perhaps what is more disturbing is the medium, and the necessity of contact rather than the contact itself.  But that is a topic for another post.)

Perhaps the vigil of Saint Mark’s Eve is a version of an older custom on Walpurgisnacht, or the Eve of the Feast of the English Saint Walpurgis, who is a Christian manifestation of an older harvest Goddess. Walpurgisnacht was held on the night of the witch’s sabbath, May 30th, when the doors between worlds were open for spirits to pass between.  Probably the best time to hold such a vigil!

Older still at this time, were rituals involving cakes and dreams of love in the night. Bake a bannock in silence. Put it under your pillow. In the night you will see his face.  Come morning, eat the bannock; sweep the crumbs from the bed.

Blessed Terminalia, Dear Reader

The drystone walls of the Yorkshire Dales

When I think of Yorkshire, the first image in my mind is of wide open space marked by the patchwork of drystone walls.  And there are invisible boundaries, tracks: public foot paths often are the very same Death Roads, or ancient rights-of-way through private land, which allowed people their funerary rites. And there are fragments of Roman roads, as well as dream-paths or ley lines.

This island is a sacred palimpsest, scored and re-scored, and yet all the marks remain as either archeological evidence or fairy paths.

Today is the Roman Festival of Terminus, the god of borders and endings. Ovid, in his usual warm, vivid and simple verse, describes the ritual:

Terminus, whether a stone or a stump buried in the earth,

You have been a god since ancient times.

You are crowned from either side by two landowners,

Who bring two garlands and two cakes in offering.

An altar’s made: here the farmer’s wife herself

Brings coals from the warm hearth on a broken pot.

The old man cuts wood and piles the logs with skill,

And works at setting branches in the solid earth.

Then he nurses the first flames with dry bark,

While a boy stands by and holds the wide basket.

When he’s thrown grain three times into the fire

The little daughter offers the sliced honeycombs.

Others carry wine: part of each is offered to the flames:

The crowd, dressed in white, watch silently.

Terminus, at the boundary, is sprinkled with lamb’s blood,

And doesn’t grumble when a sucking pig is granted him.

I love the affectionate irony in the last line, which speaks to an intimacy Ovid (and it might be said Romans in general) had with the gods.  What a hard blessing are boundaries and wise endings, and how necessary.

Glowing coals from a broken pot. Ember Berry Earrings by Feral Strumpet on Etsy