Friday, 17 June 2016

Change of Pace

Dix's TravelBlog

It being June, I am reminded of a trip we took to England and Scotland a dozen years ago (how does time go by so fast?). The trip began as a "gathering" of people whose roots stem, in part, from the beautiful island of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides <> In my case, a GG grandfather was born and raised there. As an adult, seeking work, he moved off to Glasgow where he died young of pneumonia. Not surprising, as living conditions for the poor were far from healthful there in the late 1800s.

We flew to Glasgow, rented a car, stayed a night, then crossed the River Clyde and made our way up Loch Lomond, then south west toward the ferry dock at Kennacraig. 

 Boats in Port

We were a couple of hours early for our sailing, so we followed a canal that crosses the Kintyre peninsula and explored the small port of Crinan. Fishing boats and private cabin cruisers lined the dock in the small harbor. I would have taken more photos but the skies suddenly opened (okay, it is Scotland) so we took refuge in the coffee shop. In only a few minutes, the deluge stopped (that is also very Scottish) and we left.

At Kennacraig, we boarded the ferry for the two-hour journey down Loch Tarbert and across to Islay. By the time we sailed, the skies had cleared and we enjoyed the views. We also enjoyed lunch, with a glass of wine, <> Very civilized way to travel. 

On Islay, we stayed at the Bridgend Hotel, walking distance to the ancient cemetery where I visited the graves of my GGG grandparents. An interesting note: we were on Islay several years earlier and, although we walked the whole cemetery, I could not find their graves. In 2004, I pretty much walked straight to them. I guess I was meant to return. While my beloved explored the single track roads that cross-cross the island, I spent a couple of days in sessions with other Islay descendants. We compared research notes and learned more about the island our ancestors came from. One evening the group, with spouses, attended a traditional céilidh with music and dancing. The final evening, we attended a formal dinner where many of the men were wearing full Highland dress. It was the only time in my life I was at a party where the men far outshone the ladies.

The Famed Kildalton Cross

There was ample free time, too, and on one afternoon, my husband and I drove a wandering road along the southeast coast to the Kildalton Cross at the ruined church near Ardmore. It is an exceptionally beautiful coastal drive, and, for whisky lovers, takes one past the distilleries of Laphroig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg (just three of the 11 on the island).

As you can see, it was a perfect June afternoon and I like to think my photograph of this historic landmark is every bit as good as many of those on postcards sold on Islay. You can learn more about this 8th Century work of art and reverence here:

More Travels

Due to the complications of travel involving airline points, we had to make our way from Islay to London for our flight home so, having retraced our route as far as Glasgow, we then headed south and made one stop at the city of Chester. Founded as a Roman fortress, the city still has its Roman walls. Our lovely room was across from the magnificent medieval cathedral. 

Dawn Walk and Photographs

I am addicted to morning walks and, in June, the long days often mean I have the world to myself. In Chester, I found this clock, said to be the second most photographed in the world (Big Ben being the first). Obviously, I had to add my own to the countless photos documenting this famed timepiece which marks the site of the original entrance to the Roman fort.

No Matter Where You Roam

Later the same day, my husband joined me in another walk around Chester. As you can see, we came upon a very familiar sign on one of the town's half-timbered buildings. 

It is a small world after all!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Blue Duet

A Pair of Larimar and Kyanite Studs

I have a brand new love — larimar. The tropical ocean blues of these stones from the Dominican Republic have begun to lure me. Since I'm not likely to get to where they are, I will have to settle for bringing them to me— and making jewelry with them.

Finding the Design

I pondered several ideas for a pair of earrings before deciding I would like to use two shades of blue for these: the sea blue of larimar and the denim blue of kyanite. I have been experimenting with oval shapes lately, so that worked for the two stone concept. This photo shows the plan laid out in my shop notebook. As the work progresses, I use these pages to add notes about stone sizes, what they cost me, and the amount of sterling silver needed to create the item. Not only does that help me set the price, but it also means I can — more or less — duplicate a piece if a client requests it after the original has sold.

Gathering the Parts

Some time ago, a very dear client (you know who you are) was kind enough to send me several of these tiny, screw top plastic pots. I hope she knows how super useful they are to me for projects like this. Just look at all the pieces: two larimar cabs, two kyanite cabs, two silver ovals, two 10 mm bezels, two 3 mm bezels and (not in the photo) two pairs of ear posts and butterfly clasps. I am using two wee pots so I can keep the earrings separate. Minor variations in stones mean each must get set into its own handcrafted bezel. Organization may not seem to be part of creativity, but it most certainly is!

Testing the Fit

Here, I am using pieces of dental floss under the stones while I check that they fit perfectly into the bezels. If the fit is super snug, those bits of floss help extract the stones as I still have to solder on the earring post and do a lot of polishing before I set them for good.

The Photo Session

A bright and sunny afternoon plus a skylight makes for perfect lighting. Time to get the photos done and edited so these can take their place in my shop <>

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

First Friday Art Walk

Celebrate and Save

To celebrate June's First Friday Art Walk this weekend, I'm running a one-time sale in my etsy shop <>

Sterling Jewelry at 40% off.

Perfect Pendants? You bet.

Beautiful Brooches? Absolutely.

Elegant Earrings? Lots and Lots.

Also bracelets and rings plus a pair of cuff links just right for Dad.

It's easy. From today until midnight on June 7, find what you are shopping for and enter coupon code: JUN16FFAW at etsy checkout.