I wear jewellery for sentimental reasons mostly– I have stones I’ve found or been given, talismans of runes, my Thor’s hammer, my Freya/Seidkona. Many of the things I love to wear were made by someone else whose skill I admire and whose creative energy I would like to connect with– I think I’m a lot like my customers in that way.
I have a long list of dream pieces I would like to make for myself. Pieces so expensive to make, or so labour intensive, that they would not be practical to offer for sale. I think this summer I will make one or two during a slow period. I make very little for myself and maybe I should make more!
I do wear pieces I’ve made. Sometimes for whatever reason an absolutely gorgeous piece doesn’t sell and I feel justified then in keeping it for myself. Luckily my litmus test for selling something is– would I love to wear this? Am I dying to keep it? If the answer is yes, I offer it in my shop.
What am I wearing right now? Well, I’ll tell you.
Boudicca Glasses Chain–This is probably the most practical thing I have ever made, next to my pennanular brooches. I use this every day. I have two– one for my reading glasses and one for my regular glasses, which I need to take off when doing detail work. When it is sunny (that’s rare in Yorkshire) I also have one for my sunglasses.
Kitchen Witch’s Pentagram Ring–I made an initial prototype in the raku glaze which I ended up keeping for myself. Often I will wear a prototype to test out it’s mettle first before making more or offering it as a made to order piece. Many of these become fast friends and others go to the scrap heap, ready to become something else. This was a keeper!
Myriad Lozenge Rings— I love making rings with lozenge shaped beads, the prongs at the side framing and binding the stone. It has become a signature design and I have made countless rings for lovely people all over the world.
In one of my favourite books, A Mirror for Witches by Esther Forbes, Goodie Goochie, the androgynous preparer of the dead, wearings an iron ring on every finger to protect them from malignant spirits. My rings are mostly copper and silver but I can relate. I started making my own rings because I could never find rings small enough for my fingers, at least ones I really liked. My favourites are my amethyst, labradorite and web jasper rings.
Harpy Rosary Necklace–Here was a little orphan. This beautiful necklace never found a home. It is perfection– from its mid century wooden rosary with a slightly reddish tint to the wood, to the little harpy girl that moves up and down on her post like a magical merry-go-round creature. Maybe I loved it so much that I secretly wished to keep it, because now it’s mine and I wear it all the time!
Floating Castle Rosary Necklace–I have made many of these but again, there was one I paired with a gorgeous 1960s jet and AB finish glass bead rosary. I think it was waiting for me. Here you can see one of my early photographs– when I was just starting out and hadn’t learned how to light and edit tiny pieces!
Infinity Chains– These beautifully graceful chains are hella labour-intensive. I have made them in sterling, brass and copper. They look beautiful worn together, mixing the metals. Because it takes so long to make these I no longer offer them just as plain chains. Instead I will combine them with crystals, stones and beads to create one of a kind, luxurious pieces. The plain chains I saved for myself. I like to wear the clasp in front, sometimes attaching a talisman or charm to one lobe of the S clasp.
Sheila-na-Gig Brooch– Another mysterious sleeper. I wear my larger Sheila brooch with my hand knits. My other simple brooches are my most popular design. While these brooches are more delicate, I love their graceful curves and the fact that the curl on the ends of the circle keeps the pin on the clasp. I haven’t given up on this design! I am making more prototypes to offer them again in the future.
Mega Slayer Bib Necklace– I feel like this post has turned into the Feral Island of Lost Toys! I hope it offers some insight into my process. This slayer bib necklace was another orphan. I loved it insanely– but no one but me seemed to want to wear it! My single stake necklaces continued to be best sellers but this OTT version was clearly waiting for me.
Black Hearted Love– This is my signature necklace, the one that started it all. I was making these before I even started my Etsy shop, almost 4 years ago. I had a red cinnabar one paired with a red bakelite chaplet and a black one paired with a 19th century bog-wood rosary. I wore them all the time and one day I was sitting in my local medieval drinking hall whinging that I couldn’t find a job, and my friend Emma said why don’t you sell the necklaces you make? The rest is history.
Baby Bat Necklace– Another of my best sellers– possibly my first best seller, the one that really took off. I love layering mine with other longer pieces. The little fellow is so small, and such good company.
Instagram has been my new social media hive. I know it’s not new, but it’s new to me. I’m excited by the friendly community I have found there. I have become an avid phone photographer, and the same attention to detail I use in photographing my jewellery I use in documenting my life.
In a future post I hope to do a round up of Instagrammers, but for today I thought I’d share with you my most popular images. If you’d like to see more, my instagram feed is here.
The photo at the left is me modeling the volva necklace– a crystal ball rosary inspired by Norse seeresses.
Cherry, my cat, helping with the photography. This is her favourite plant. She likes to pick off the empty, skull-shaped seed pods with her teeth.
These aromatherapy lockets are a popular long-standing design– I offer them in different shapes and metals with custom coloured crystals of your choice– great to combine colour therapy with aromatherapy, or if you have multiple lockets, the different colours can help you differentiate if you use scents for different purposes.
Rievaulx Abbey is one of my favourite haunts. Here you see a heavily edited photo of the ruins taken on a grey day, which has been manipulated to look like night. I’ve become fascinated with a painterly approach to photo editing which is available through different editing apps on the iPhone. I wanted it to feel like Ghormengast, or some other oppressive and fantastic place. This particular rendering reminds me of the worlds I was transported to as a child reading fantasy literature.
I have begun to experiment with modelling my own designs as a last resort. It is difficult to be the jack of all trades and this is perhaps the role I like least! I’d much rather be behind the camera. I’m modelling my Briar Rose necklace.
The Crystal Nimbus Earring Selection. These earrings have become a popular design in the shop– with sterling silver ear wires and rustic copper girdles, they are simple yet powerful and are an easy to wear luxury. They are quite photogenic as well! Sometimes crystals, like people, can be very hard to capture truly on camera, but these seem to be friends with the lens.
One of my most popular Instagram photos is this one of my working altar. I had decorated it for Yule with branches scavenged from the ground of my local park– though the white roses were from the store. Instagram has a lovely, supportive Pagan community sharing their altars, tools and visual ideas. It is one of my favourite aspects of the medium.
My photos of Haworth are some of the most-loved on Instagram– I have chosen a couple as to post them all would take up too much space, but you are welcome to visit my feed to see more! Haworth is a fascinating place, especially if you are a Bronte fan, like me. It’s quite photogenic as well– with it’s hilly streets and the moody moors framing the horizon in all directions.
And this last photo is my most visited– it is heavily edited, but I wanted to bring out the intensity of being there. The moors can be a desolate place but also a place of bright freedom. Every colour is represented in the tough ground and the big sky.
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.
Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday and to celebrate I’m offering free domestic UK shipping all day with coupon code SMALLBIZSAT at both feralstrumpet.co.uk and my Etsy shop.
Shopping small can often mean shopping local. That’s why I’m offering free shipping to my neighbours on this island. It’s interesting to note that this holiday season my customer base in the UK is growing exponentially. Was it the Etsy UK ads? Word of mouth taking hold? Or my own work at UK-based SEO? It’s a mystery to me but I’m grateful. Etsy brought many international customers, many Americans as well as others from all over the world, but very few British customers. This has changed, and perhaps it’s because people are coming around to the idea of shopping local. Compared to the US the UK is very small– the size of Florida. When I ship something to a UK customer, I can picture where they live, what it’s like there. Sometimes I wonder if I might know them or if they are a friend of a friend. The shared geography heightens the connection that is already a strong one between maker and the potential wearer of a piece.
As a small business this time of year is particularly challenging; you are competing to be heard over the shouts of the mega businesses, hoping to reach your customers without also having to resort to shouting.
By buying small you get something unique, you support diversity in the marketplace, and best of all, you are investing in the dreams and hopes of the underdog, the little guy, people like me.
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.
I live in a place where history is a constant companion. There is no place where this isn’t true, but York, and Yorkshire in general feels haunted, submerged in the past, and this inspires me. Sometimes I don’t even have to imagine it– it manifests itself, like this summer afternoon at the abbey ruins of Rievaulx when these minstrels created what felt like, in the words of Hakim Bey, a temporary autonomous zone.
Today is the feast day of Saint Peter in Chains, and the glorious York Minster is dedicated to this original Houdini. I’m going to walk to the minster today and think on all the miraculous escapes in my life! A day to not only celebrate shaking off the fetters of whatever holds us back, but it’s also a time to let things come to fruition– help them rise, like yeast in bread. It is Lammas, or as the Anglo Saxons called it hlaf mas or “loaf-mass”– a celebration of the first fruits of the harvest, a baking of the magic bread.
I’m not much of a baker. Sometimes I wish I knew how to fire ceramic beads in a kiln– clay instead of grain– now there’s a magic bread.
I have begun to incorporate small ceramics in some designs, like the Kitchen Witches’ pentagram ring, above. I make these in many colours, but perhaps my favourite colour is the raku pottery– which is an ancient Japanese style of firing which allows for “happy accidents”– the colour takes on hues of a stormy sea or iron rich silt or even blood. I like to imagine that the fire makes up its own mind what the colour will be! In a way, that symbolises the creative process for me.
In the Middle Ages, when people lived by the seasons, the wheat stores were running low, and the new harvest and the first breads baked with it meant that the season of plenty was beginning again.
Ironically, this is true for my own business (and retail businesses in general!) The summer months are slow and I’m busy making for the time when the harvest begins again– late summer and then into the intensely busy winter holidays.
I’ve been making lovely new pieces that I’ll roll out over the next few weeks– this is my magic bread. What’s yours?