JULY - Sea Swimming and Learning New Things
Phew, July has been a busy month. It kicked off with the 3 Harbours Arts Festival. This event was established in 2005, and is so called because of the 3 harbours in the each of the East Lothian towns which take part - Cockenzie, Port Seton, and Prestonpans (although there is no longer a harbour in Prestonpans). It’s an exciting and busy week for all 3 towns, welcoming many visitors. However due to the current climate we found ourselves in, it just wasn't possible to run it as a live event this year. So the 3HAF went online, via an Etsy shop. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Would anyone bother to look I questioned? Well, I was pleasantly surprised. Though nothing like the sales I would normally have, I did sell three pieces over the week, and if nothing else its always great publicity. One has to keep trying!!
Cockenzie Harbour, East Lothian
Starfish kisses Pendant
Beads of the Sea Earrings
When the pandemic first hit back in 2020 I had to give up my regular swim at the local pool. Then when things started to tentatively open up again I was unsure I was ready to go back. Several friends by this point had taken up sea swimming, and tried to persuade me to join them. Mmm, I thought, isn’t the water really cold, even in summer, in Scotland!? You get used to it was their reply. Still not convinced, it wasn’t until this summer, a year later, that I bit the bullet, and got myself a wetsuit and swim socks and gloves. All geared up, there’s no stopping me now! I love it. I’m swimming around three times a week. Whether I will continue into the winter is yet to be seen!
Every summer for the past 5 years or so, my mum and I have visited the Isle of Arran, just off the west coast of Scotland. They call it ‘Scotland in miniature’, and it’s easy to see why. It has everything; beaches, mountains, standing stones, history, rugged landscape, quaint little towns, art, wildlife (deer, seals, red squirrels), and even a micro climate. We just love it. If you’ve never been I urge you to visit. One of my favourite jewellers lives on the island, and I always try a pay her a visit. As well as adding to my collection of her work, its great to have a natter and get an insight into how other jewellers work. She is always happy to share information and tips, and I always come away feeling fired up and knowing I’ve chosen the right career path. Its not an easy one, and I do have to juggle it with another part-time job at the moment, but still holding onto that dream!
Always keen to learn new skills, there are a couple of new ideas I’ve been working on. Though art college trained, my subject wasn’t jewellery, it was actually ceramics. All my jewellery training has been through short courses, both in person and online. I think if you have a passion for something you find a way to make it work. My latest course was with an Edinburgh jeweller where the brief was to make a pendant. It was a fairly open-ended brief, and it gave me the opportunity to try something a bit different from my usual style. It involved piece sawing and texturing. Once I had the piece home I decided to add to tiny turquoise stone, which I think just ‘finishes’ it. I’m so pleased with the result and thinking I’d like to add more one off larger decorative pieces to my collection of work.
I’ve also tried my hand at shaping sea glass. The purists amongst us may believe that sea glass should be left in its most natural form and shouldn’t be tampered with. And to some extent I agree. However, it allows me to use pieces of glass where the edges are still too sharp to use as found. And, after all, the glass is still a found piece from the beach and it’s still a form of recycling something previously discarded into something beautiful. Plus, I think my little round pendants are rather cute. I’ve even stamped a little starfish on the back. A lot of my sea glass is set into silver, this is called bezel setting, a technique that always throws up its challenges! Sea glass is especially tricky to set, because unlike a cabochon stone it doesn’t necessarily have a nice flat back and the sides are never the same height all the way round. You can buy ready made bezels that fit the exact sized cabochon stone, and I know a lot of jewellers use them. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it must save a lot of time. I used one on my mermaid pendant. However, all my bezels have to made from scratch when setting sea glass. I process involving much measuring, filing, soldering, and polishing. A labour of love!
So, what does August have in store for Back From the Beach? I’d firstly like to really home in on my style. I’m a bit guilty of flirting from one thing to the next, known as ‘the shiny ball syndrome’! It’s all well and good to try new things, but I admire those jewellers whose work is instantly recognisable. That aside, I will need to get cracking with building up a body of stock for my next event, the Colony of Artists on the weekend of 18th and 19th September. These things tend to have a habit of creeping up on you, and then you realise you only have a couple of weeks left to get organised! What else? I’ve made the decision that I’m going to close my Etsy store and concentrate on my website. It was becoming too much work juggling the two, and Etsy has changed quite a bit since I first set up my shop. Having my own website allows me much more control and freedom. My next job is to get a mailing list up and running, which will enable me to regularly update all you lovely people with what I’m up to and alert you to any new pieces and offers first. Right, folks. I think that’s about it. Enjoy the last month of summer!