It’s almost here. This month’s full moon is dear to my heart, falling as it does near the Heathen celebration of the Blessing of the Plough and the pagan Imbolc, the day sacred to Brigid, goddess of creative fires, among many other things. Tools are blessed this month, and I hope Brigid as well as the many wise dwarves who have forged for the Gods may bless my tools I use for forging. This year I plan to make friends with fire and solder, and may they bless this also.
This month’s moon has many names, but I love the Quickening Moon as this is the time of year we can feel the lunar pull on the seeds and plants that have lain dormant all winter. Sure, the sun might be coaxing them out but while they are laying in darkness, the moon that rules the tides and our own emotions is sure to be doing her own magic to bring out life again!
Herein you will find a whimsical list of my current obsessions, design stand-bys and inspirations, tidily alphabetised.
Amulet-a protective talisman or charm which can take many wearable forms, such as my Kitchen Witch’s Pentagram Ring. Much of what I make is charged with this impulse beyond decoration, a connection to a force larger than ourselves.
Brooch– a pin used to keep clothing closed, the fibula or pennanular style is one of the oldest forms of jewellery. My popular Anglo Saxon brooch is inspired by archeological designs found in Yorkshire. I cold forge this style copper as well as bronze, in various sizes for different weights of hand-knits and hand woven textiles. This has become one of my best-loved designs.
Charivari– Bavarian hunting trophies are my current obsession. Charivari also means “rough music” in French, we’ll leave the connection here to the poets among you. Worn over the trouser section of leiderhosen, they are uncanny relics: bones, teeth and horns encased in silver. I initially saw numerous Charivari when traveling around Bavaria stopping in at antique dealers– but I had no idea what they were. The seemed to be jewels from the Brothers Grimm, the original fairy tales. For more on Charivari I encourage you to read Robert Seitz’s brilliant blog post about them.
Dog Collar— a short wide necklace worn like a choker. Though this is a term used by pearl sellers, I do remember wearing actual dog collars when I was younger, before such things were widely available in High Street shops, back when punk was completely DIY.
Eyeglass Chain–Remember the monocle? Ok, maybe you don’t, but as my eyesight begins to require more elaborate correction, I’m seeing the wisdom in the monacle. You could hold it with your eye muscles and then just tuck it into a pocket, never losing it because it would be connected to a chain. And you’d look positively spiffy, too. I thought to myself, how can I reproduce this spiffiness, but for glasses? I decided to use old skool goth style rosary chains and different accents– a kind of morbid librarian chic which is also much more practical than the monocle.
French or Fishhook Ear Wires— my most popular ear wire. I hand forge my own in my “little cobra” shape, but also use hypoallergenic niobium ear wires for those with extra sensitve ears.
Girandole— a chandelier style earring with three ornaments, from the French word for a elaborate branched candlestick or rotating display of fireworks. If only all words for jewellery were as pretty.
Hoops– The simplest and most iconic earring shape– the earring of choice for gypsies, pirates and William Shakespeare. I love to play with this form in my cold-forged designs. I’m fascinated by the way this simple halo/oroborous framing the face can completely change one’s countenance.
Inclusion-any deposit, mineral or otherwise, inside a stone. I love to work with stones that have inclusions. Though with some stones this is said to mar or devalue them, I am fascniated by tourmalated quartz and moss agate. Stones are little void-worlds that suggest miniature fairy landscapes, unearthly writings and signs.
Jet– also known as lignite or sea-coal, it is a petrified wood created by millennia of sea-water. Though often difficult for me to source, I love working with jet. Popular in Roman Britain, jet from the East coast was sent to workshops in Eboracum, or York, which is where my own workshop is based. For the Romans (as well as the Victorians) jet was a magical substance. Pliny the Elder wrote of jet: “the kindling of jet drives off snakes and relieves suffocation of the uterus. Its fumes detect attempts to stimulate a disabling illness or a state of virginity.” (Your mileage may vary.)
Knuckle Duster– Brass knuckles, knucks, knucklebusters were incorporated into pistols and knives in the early 20th century, and most recetly have had a resurgence in jewellery design. Known in Canada as “brass monkeys”, in France and Mexico as “American fist”, In Brazil they are called “English punch” and in Russia they are “head-breakers”. I often have fantasies about making a knuckle duster ring like Debra Baxter’s “Devil Horn Crystal Brass Knuckles”.
Leverback Ear Wires- a favourite ear wire for my Victorian-inspired designs, these feature a lever clasp that keeps the earring safely in place. I use high quality brass plated leverbacks for many of my designs, and some feature more modern, simplified versions of the leverback design in sterling silver.
Matinee Necklace– this is the term used for a necklace that is 20-24″ long, and this is my second most popular necklace length. (Pendant length, 18-19″ being most popular). I couldn’t find out why exactly it’s called matinee, but I like to imagine it’s a hold over from an earlier era when time-of-day and types of outings dictated outfits– meaning this “afternoon” length was perhaps more casual than a dramatic choker or opera-length chain worn with evening wear.
Nath– an elaborate nose ring with pearls on the outside, worn by Indian women for ceremonial purposes. I’m inspired by the design and structure of these nose rings, how they hang and their simple wire closures. They have informed my earring designs.
Opera Length– a term used for a long necklace length, 28-34 inches. This is the length of many of my rosary-style necklaces. (Opera attendance while wearing these necklaces is optional but recommended).
Patina– this term is used to denote a change the colour of a metal, often due to age or through different chemical processes. I love to patina my copper pieces quite heavily. I use sulphur and warm water to patina my work and seal in the patina with museum grade Renaissance Wax. The whole process is quite alchemical to me. I have come to enjoy the smell of brimstone. (Insert evil laugh).
Queen of Elphame-My number one creative influence, a favourite driving idea of my design it is imagining adornments of the Fairy Queen, called the Queen of Elphame in Northern England in Scotland. This particular moniker comes from the witch trial transcripts, adding for me a kind of bitter relevance to my Pagan-based, witchy designs. Robert Graves embraced this spelling and the Queen of Elphame appears in many folk ballads where she is the lover and teacher of Thomas the Rhymer.
Rope chain– the longest of chains, measuring 45″ or more, designed to be doubled, trebled. I haven’t made such a chain– yet! Though I do dream of making a fine rope necklace of sterling silver and garnet links. Maybe this year.
S Clasp- this is my favourite clasp style. I forge my own in sterling silver, copper, brass or bronze, depending on the design.
Toggle Clasp– A bar and hoop style clasp. It is my second favourite clasp design as it is easy to use and sturdy and can often be incorporated as a decorative element. My Briar Rose Necklace uses a blackened pewter toggle clasp as a kind of pendant bail.
Unakite— one of my favourite stones to work with, this green and pink semi-precious stone is from the Unakas Mountains. It’s such a warm, happy stone seeming to reverberate perfectly with the heart chakra.
Vulcanite— or Ebonite is an early form of hard rubber which served as substitute for ebony wood and has a carved jet or bog-wood appearance. In my many gleanings I have come across antique rosaries and beads made of a mysterious black substance– not wood, nor glass. Perhaps they are vulcanite.
Wire Wrapping— This is the use of wire, softened by the hand and then work-hardened through hammering, tumbling or other methods, to make infinite jewellery shapes. This method of using wire to make jewellery is ancient and though initially simple, doing it well is most definitely an art. I keep my wire work minimal and sturdy, or, in the case of my Tree of Life designs, elaborate and highly detailed.
Xilion– this is the fancy term used by Swarovski to denote their signature bicone cut providing optimal light refraction. As far as made up words go, it’s a good one, and as far as glass beads go, their shiny pleases the magpie in me to no end. If there are glass crystals in my designs they are almost always Swarovski.
Y-Necklace. This is a rosary style necklace with a chain drop in the centre, attached often by a bead, stone or filigree connector. This graceful and flattering design is a favourite style in my shop and also the style I most love to wear.
Zombie Gnomes— one of my very first earring designs. Isn’t it the way, to get stuck at Z? Well, these are the Z’s of strumpetry! I don’t think I have the stamina to do a zombie rewrite of the Will Huygen Gnomes coffee table book from the 1970s, but someone should. In the mean time, these earrings will have to do.
The end of the year is exciting. We gather together against the cold, thinking of the possibilities of the new year. The Yule gift I’ve given my business, (because, let’s face it, Feral Strumpet feels like a person to me now) is a new online shop. It’s easier for my customers to use, it’s still independent and best of all, it’s pretty. I can now accept credit cards, as well as the old, tried and true Paypal as well as bank transfers if you are in the UK. Also you can see prices in your country’s currency by using the drop down menu at the top of the store page. The shop is also integrated with this blog.
What a better way to celebrate a new shop than with a new collection. The Crystal Nimbus Collection is based on a hand-forged design which grew out of my incredibly popular Anglo Saxon pennanular brooch. A simple, endless circle inspired by the moon, ouroboros and archeological finds. This penannular brooch is based on an Anglo Saxon design discovered in North Yorkshire. This brooch was featured in the Easy KnitnSweater Jacket Tutorial from Very Pink Knits. Anglo Saxon Penannular Brooch. MADE TO ORDER
These new crystal necklaces were born out of that design, of which I have now made many. I recently read a fascinating article on crystallography. The otherworldly voids and stark, icy structures inspired me. Rather than form a holiday collection I started to think about light and shape. The forging process itself shaped these. The raw crystals capture the winter solstice spirit so well– they are a light in the darkness. The nimbus shape came from the anglo saxon brooch but also my obsession with medieval iconography and the fine gilded halos of saints– a simple mark denoting grace. Highlights of the collection are below. Each is one of a kind and I hope to add more pieces as the season darkens.
It’s the Blackest of Fridays and I’m offering 20% off at both my independent shop as well as my Etsy shop with coupon code BLACKFRIDAY. It’s good for 24 hours, starting at 7am GMT. (offer can’t be used on reserved items, custom orders or retroactivley).
While many resist this, the darkest day of shopping, why not shine a light on your choices as a consumer? Choose to support small, microbusinesses like mine and know that not only are you getting a good deal and a unique handmade gift, you are also helping subvert the dominant business paradigm by helping an one-woman business flourish (might I say against all odds?)
Many places I have been on this island feel forlorn, secret or forgotten. This is not the case with the incongruously named Roseberry Topping, a hill on the Eastern edge of North Yorkshire. It was originally thought to be the highest hill on the North Yorkshire moors until Urra Moor was found to be higher. It is cared for by the National Trust and on the day we were there lovers, families and packs of teenagers climbed its steep height. I got a sense this was a shared place, much loved still, and to climb it was a rite of passage of sorts.
The name shift from Odin’s Rock to Roseberry Topping is a slow linguistic morphing. It’s thought that hill was sacred to Scandinavian dwellers who inhabited this place during the Viking Age, and that its name was Othenesburg. Othenes slowly, weirdly became Roseberry and Topping is an old Yorkshire dialect for hill.
But there is something mysterious about this place– at its summit there was once a sacred spring and its waters were used as a cure for sore eyes. (Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs by Edna Whelan). Odin had one eye– having sacrificed the other in a shamanic bargain at Mimir’s Well of Urd, the waters of transcendent wisdom.
There was also said to be a hermit’s cave at the top, also lost, with a hole beside it called Wilfrid’s Needle, named after the 8th century Bishop.To crawl through such a place was a rite. The pagan past is not so distant– the Viking Age coming after the needle’s namesake’s reign of power came to an end. The Scandinavian settlers left little evidence of who they were while they were here and its perhaps in residual Norse names and words (and their genetic code!) that their presence can really be felt.
All these structures are vanished now, with the top of the hill having caved in a mining collapse, burying these sacred spots. But the people of this place still hold it dear– I like to think the eye of Odin looks up through well buried in the ruins and sees the little girls climbing in their pink sandals, the teenagers, the lovers huddled in the crevices of the paths, and the dogs hurrying past their masters, all the way to the top.