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Special Commission for Claire

One of the best feelings when you are a jewelry designer is to make something special and meaningful for a client. Recently I was fortunate enough to have that experience again when one of my instagram followers reached out about creating a special piece for her daughter.

Claire had just been in a terrible car accident right before heading off to college (a drunk driver’s fault ) She was making a speedy recovery from broken ribs and bad fractures and was missing her horses. Her awesome mom Amy wanted to surprise her with a special piece of jewelry to remind her just how strong she is.

I was honored to be asked to design something for her and after peppering Amy with questions about Claire, I started sketching out ideas. Although designing a new piece is one of my favorite things to do, I spent quite a long time on this concept. I really wanted to do it justice and create something that Claire would be proud to wear every day.

I kept tossing ideas around but I didn’t want it to be all about the terrible experience – yes she is fierce and unbreakable but I didn’t want her to be “defined” by the accident and having to recount the story and potentially relive it every time she wore the piece.

Instead I decided to focus on her ability to overcome any obstacle in her path. Horses are a symbol of strength inherently, as is the circle, as it is always unbroken. Aptly, her birthstone is diamond – which is so appropriate – since the only thing that cuts through a diamond is another diamond. Claire is clearly “tough as diamonds!” I had some beautiful raw diamond beads that were waiting for the right reason to use them and I think this fit the bill perfectly. Raw and unpolished straight from the earth seemed appropriate for a young woman just starting out in life.

I came up with a layered design of a string of diamond beads on the collar bone with a silver horse leaping over a golden river surrounded by a circle. After sending my lengthy reasoning and rough sketches to Amy for approval, I waited with bated breath to see if I had hit the mark. Happily she loved it so I got to work

I like to carve my horses out of precious metal clay and fire them in my kiln. I feel like I have greater control over the end result that way and I like the more organic, handcrafted look. I hand sawed the golden river out of a piece of 18 ct sheet metal , the circle was made from 16 gauge sterling silver wire which I soldered it all together. Then sanding and polishing till shiny and beautiful. I was so happy with the finished piece and sent many progress shots to Amy along the way.

Even better Amy had me send it straight to Claire at school and face timed with her as she opened it 🙂 I had put a letter in there for Claire too and she sent me a beautiful selfie of her 1000 watt smile wearing the necklace I had made for her.

What an amazing and resilient young woman who clearly gets all that good taste and strength from her awesome mom 🙂

The end result and their reactions made my day. The concept I came up with for her is now one of my favorite designs. Making women feel strong and empowered – This is what it is all about! – This is why I make!

I hope you love it as much as I do

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Behind the Scenes at the Red Mare Look Book Photoshoot

Taking pics of my jewelry on me as I sit at the bench covered in sanding dust was really just not cutting it – LOL. I really wanted some beautiful styled photos that reflected my brand story but as a small biz owner marketing budgets are mostly non existent…So what’s a girl to do?

Time to get creative, right? I asked one of my friends to be my “hot jewelry model” and she said yes! Of course then I had to plan it and find a time that she we both were free – as a small business owner and mom herself, that was no easy task but we finally settled on a date that worked for both of us.

In the meantime I planned out a bunch of shots I wanted to capture and picked some spots and props around the farm that I thought were photogenic. I cleaned a bunch of my in stock pieces and laid them out in the studio the night before. The big day was last Sunday!

Lucky for me, Jackie is absolutely stunning and would make a brown paper bag look good and thankfully the weather smiled on us and we had no rain during our four hour shoot. She was willing to put up with my clumsy direction and lots of costume changes and accessorizing.

On the trail behind the barn

Of course, my beautiful mare Pegasus was part of the shoot and she warmed up to Jackie in no time. A couple of judiciously supplied treats helped that process along nicely.

Even Boone got in on the action – never one to miss the opportunity to get a treat or some attention LOL

Boone getting in on the action

It was a low budget affair since I “paid” my model in jewelry and, of course my everlasting gratitude. She supplied her own outfits and did her own hair and makeup .

I was the photographer and creative director with my trusty Nikon. Jackie made the jewelry shine with her beauty, poise and killer smile so I had tons of great pics to choose from at the end of the day

I designed the layout in Adobe InDesign, so I can print it in the future if I need to. That is honestly what took the most time – paring down the hundreds of shots into just a few was really tough. Then a little post production touch up and fine tuning before dropping them into the document.

I found a free app called Yumpu that allowed me to turn any PDF into a digital flip book and it was surprisingly easy to install on my website. I originally thought that was going to be the hard part LOL

Check out the final product – I am sure you will agree that Jackie looks amazing.

I would love to hear what you all think

Shelley
XoXo

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Danish Crown Jewels

On this last cruise we had to fly to Denmark so the cruise was bookended by a day of sightseeing before and after the cruise in Copenhagen, such a beautiful city…

Little Mermaid Gazing out to Sea

Our first day we were incredibly jet lagged and at this time of year it barely gets dark in Scandinavia so we went out sight seeing at 5am! On the plus side I got to see the little mermaid without any crowds LOL

As is our way, we hit palaces, churches and roamed around enjoying the history and the architecture. Our first day was lovely and sunny and it was a pleasure to see the city. Lots of funky street art to enjoy and very friendly people. It is a very walkable city and the metro makes getting around a breeze.

Nyhaven is one of the must see spots for tourists, a colorful, pretty street along the canal with lots of restaurants and bars. A good spot to grab a canal tour or a beer 🙂

On our last day we saw the Danish Crown Jewels at the beautiful Rosenborg Castle complete with moat and beautiful gardens. The castle was built in the early 1600’s so it has a more medieval feel compared to the other palaces in Copenhagen which are much more 18th century architecture. IN this one the spiral staircase is housed in a separate tower with walkways across to the different levels. I had not seen that style before.

The crown jewels were in the vault in the basement and well worth fighting through the horde of Chineses tourists to see them LOL I clearly need to get out more and find fancy places to go that require such gorgeous jewelry

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Baltic Inspiration

I just recently returned from a trip to the Baltic’s, this included stops in Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland and Sweden. I am still poring though photos but as always when I travel I look for horse souvenirs as mementos of my trip

Sweden did not disappoint 🙂 I found Dala horses everywhere…

Tote bag, Dish Towel & Christmas Ornaments 🙂

Of course I had to look up the history. The original Dala Horse (Dalahäst) has been around for many centuries, and probably was created by Swedish woodcutters. During the long winters, these lonely men would spend their evenings away from their families, and passed their time by carving little toys for their children.

The carving of the stocky little tailless horses had become a well-established tradition, but up until the 1700’s. they had been unpainted and had just the natural grain of the wood for ornamentation.

In the winter of 1716, while King Charles XII of Sweden waged war throughout most of Europe, many soldiers were quartered in private homes in Sweden. Because of the severe winter and the war, all suffered from lack of food and warmth. Tradition has it that one such soldier, in his spare time, carved a Dala Horse from some scrap wood in the home where he was staying. Before presenting it to the child of the home as a gift, he painted it a bright red and decorated the horse.

In return, the woman of the house gave the soldier a bowl of soup. He made another horse and received another bowl of soup. When word of his success in bartering for food reached the other soldiers, they too began carving and painting horses in exchange for food. Thus the Dala Horse is credited in part with the army’s surviving the cruel winter.

We visited the palace and many beautiful old churches. This amazing carving of St George slaying the dragon is all wood and from 1489

St George 1489

The palace was beautiful but sadly I was not allowed to take pictures of the crown jewels

With only one day there was not enough time to see everything but we managed to pack a lot in, including a trip to the ABBA museum where singing was involved LOL.

I loved Stockholm and would gladly return for a longer trip someday

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July Birthstones

Ruby

Ruby
Symbolic of the passion and energy associated with the color red, the vibrant ruby is said to bring love and success. Due to its deep red color, ruby has long been associated with the life force and vitality of blood. It is believed to amplify energy, heighten awareness, promote courage and bring success in wealth, love and battle.

Symbolic of passion, protection and prosperity, the ruby has been revered since ancient times. Chinese noblemen adorned their armor with rubies because they believed the gem would grant protection. They also buried rubies beneath building foundations to secure good fortune.

Many cultures also admired ruby as a symbol of love and passion. Rubies have long been considered the perfect wedding gem.

Rhodalite

Wedding Anniveraries

Ruby is also the stone that marks the 15th, 40th and 80th wedding anniversaries Although some say Rhodalite should be for the 15th

The name Rhodolite is derived from the Greek word rhodon, which means â€śrose-colored”, and this refers to Rhodolite’s pinkish hues. Rhodolite will balance the flow of energies in your body. It’s a stone that will also enhance your creativity and your abilities. A warm, sincere, loving, and trusting stone. It’s a powerful energizer that can increase your energy levels wherever you place it.

Star Ruby

The star ruby is referred to as the eternal gemstone. Normally carved with a rounded cabochon cut to accentuate its shining asterism properties. The word asterism comes from the Greek word “aster” meaning star. Needle-shaped microscopic inclusions within the gem naturally align to reflect a six-pointed star. The blazing effects of asterism are strongest on the face of the gem when observed in daytime. Only about three out of every 100 raw rubies exhibit the star-effect. Of those three gems only one will meet the standards to be called top quality.

Married couples have have been celebrating anniversaries since the middle ages. Traditionally, husbands presented their wives with gold or silver wreaths as symbols of harmony to mark the special event. By the twentieth century, a list of specific materials was designated for the major milestone anniversaries.

The American Gem Society took it a step further by compiling a list of gemstone jewelry for each anniversary year. Similar to the list of materials used to symbolize the marriage’s growing bond, the gemstones listed are based on the belief that the couple’s growing commitment to each other reflects their investment in the marriage. 

  • 15 Year Anniversary Gemstone: Rhodolite builds up confidence and love.
  • 40 Year Anniversary Gemstone: Ruby is filled with love and brings friendship and love.
  • 52 Year Anniversary Star Ruby: Star ruby a talisman of passion, protection and prosperity

So for all you July babies or husbands looking for anniversary gifts – now you know what to look for .

Which makes me realize I should maybe make some jewelry using these beautiful stones…

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June’s Birthstone

I cant believe we have passed the summer solstice – first day of summer today! Although in Florida is is pretty much always summer LOL. Summer solstice is also my youngest sons’s birthday which we celebrated yesterday with some ice cream cake to beat the heat. He is not so interested in jewelry but for you other June babies out there you actually have a choice of birthstone between Pearl or Moonstone

Pearls
The ancient Greeks believed pearls were tears of the gods. Japanese folktales told that pearls were created from the tears of mythical creatures like mermaids and nymphs. Early Chinese civilizations believed that dragons carried pearls between their teeth, and the dragon must be slain to claim the pearls—which symbolized wisdom. Other cultures associated pearls with the moon, calling them “teardrops of the moon.”

Pearls symbolize wisdom acquired through experience. They are believed to attract wealth and luck as well as offer protection. Known for their calming effect, pearls can balance one’s karma, strengthen relationships, and keep children safe. The pearl is also said to symbolize the purity, generosity, integrity, and loyalty of its wearer.

Moonstone
As its name implies, moonstone is closely associated with lunar mystery and magic. Its calming, balancing energies can supposedly attune to natural biological rhythms. Moonstone acts as the ultimate fertility crystal by sparking passion in new lovers and reuniting old ones.

Since ancient times, many cultures have held that moonstone can attune its wearer to the natural rhythms of the moon. Known for its calming, soothing aura, moonstone has been used to treat insomnia and sleepwalking, ward off nightmares and promote vivid dreams.

Moonstone has been used as a beautiful adornment and a powerful talisman since ancient civilizations. The Romans admired it, believing it was formed from moonbeams. In India, moonstone is considered a sacred and magical “dream stone” that can bring beautiful dreams at night. Also known as the Traveler’s Stone, it’s believed to protect travelers at night.

Florida adopted moonstone as its official state gem in 1970 to commemorate the Apollo 11 moon landing and other spaceflights that launched from Florida.

Wedding Anniveraries

Believe it or not Pearls and Moonstones also symbolize 3rd wedding anniversary. Although since pearl is also the 30th anniversary stone I usually recommend moonstone for 3rd

Married couples have have been celebrating anniversaries since the middle ages. Traditionally, husbands presented their wives with gold or silver wreaths as symbols of harmony to mark the special event. By the twentieth century, a list of specific materials was designated for the major milestone anniversaries.

The American Gem Society took it a step further by compiling a list of gemstone jewelry for each anniversary year. Similar to the list of materials used to symbolize the marriage’s growing bond, the gemstones listed are based on the belief that the couple’s growing commitment to each other reflects their investment in the marriage.

  • 3 Year Anniversary Gemstone: Moonstone brings good fortune and passion.
  • 30 Year Anniversary Gemstone: Pearl the symbol of purity and elegance.

So for all you June babies or husbands looking for anniversary gifts – now you know what to look for 🙂

Shop Moonstone Jewelry

Shop Pearl Jewelry

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Product Photography

I have been experimenting a little with product photography. Everyone says you should have your jewelry photos on a plain white background. So earlier this year I spent a long time doing just that but boy are they boring…

I had mostly taken my pics with my phone against the barn wood in my studio or right at my bench – nothing that fancy – but it felt a little more interesting and more of a fit with my brand, which is clearly not glossy celebrity magazine style imagery. I figured I could probably do a little bit better if I put my mind to it so I got out my DSLR and a few props (that’s a fancy photography term for some rocks, twigs an old log and random tiles laying around the barn LOL)

Anyway here are a few of the ones I played around with. What do you think?

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Adventures in Enameling

I have always loved enamel art and jewelry, particularly from the Art Nouveau period. Show me some Tiffany, Lalique or Faberge and I am in heaven LOL

Rough sketches – to final design templates

Enameling is an ancient art form. The earliest known enameled objects were made in Cyprus in around the 13th century BC during the Mycenæan period. However over the centuries it advanced in complexity of technique & gained popularity across the world.

There are several different techniques. My personal favorites are

CloisonnĂ© – The design is created using fine metal wires fixed to a metal plate. The spaces, or cells, are then inlaid with colored enamel that is fused to the background

Champleve – Channels are carved out of metal to make a well which is then filled with enamel.

Plique-a-jour – Enamel is laid between open lattice of thin wires or metal work. Light can then pass through the enamel almost like stained glass.

Once I got my kiln, I decided to try it for myself. I watched a couple tutorials and thought I was ready to give it a whirl. I experimented on some scrap silver I had laying around and just torch fired it. Technically this would be champleve, I believe. I didn’t have the fine cloisonnĂ© wire yet and I was impatient to try my new enamels. It worked pretty well and I thought I was ready to bring one of my designs to life.

First experiment with scrap silver

I took my sketches into Adobe Illustrator and created clean vector images to work from. Of course the enameling tutorial I watched was basically 3 wavy lines in a circle, but I decided to throw myself in at the deep end and do a full on complex design – no pressure, right?

Unsurprisingly – Nothing. Went. As. Planned!

I cut a piece of fine silver to act as my base (actually – that went as planned but I have done that before a time or two – LOL)


I then soldered a wire frame to contain all my enamel and started shaping the fine wire details. Discovering, in the process, that these CloisonnĂ© wires are so fine that I had to turn off my ceiling fan because it was blowing them all around the studio! In the Florida heat that is far from ideal… Perhaps I can blame what happened next on the effect heat has on slowing down your cognitive abilites? – sounds like a good excuse to me so I am sticking with it:)

After a couple hours of painstaking wire work, I laid down my first clear coat of enamel which seemed to work just fine – little did I know that I had applied too thick a coat which would come back to haunt me later.

I then, painstakingly, laid all my tiny wires onto my base, learning to my cost that there is a sticky glue you can use to hold these suckers in place – a sticky glue that I did not have… Had I paid more attention to the tutorial, I would have known that, but I didn’t and it was a massive PITA to get everything in place. Oh well next time will be better.

I carefully placed my piece in the kiln – without breathing or jostling the wires out of place – amazingly I managed that without major mishap and here is where things started to go seriously downhill.

I forgot that the outer wire I used was sterling – not fine silver. Which has a lower melting point….
Soooo when I took my piece out of the kiln, I had melted my perfect frame – and this molten silver had flowed into some of the carefully placed cells between my fine silver cloisonnĂ© wires and the extra base enamel wasn’t helping matters. AAAAARGH!!!!!!!!

Surprisingly enough, my cloisonnĂ© wires had fused to the enamel as planned, so there was one “silver” lining (see what I did there? 🙂

I had put so much time in already that I decided to stubbornly move forward anyway and just see what happened. Due to my cells being filled with molten silver and too much base enamel there wasn’t much room for my colored enamels and since it was my first time using the colors I wasn’t 100% sure how the colors would look. As a result, my moon and base horse color all look the same – although that maybe because there was just too much enamel and it all ran together?

Anyway, the final result is a hot mess – but I learned a ton in the process so I am excited to try again and fix all my rookie mistakes

Onwards and upwards

Love Luck & Horses
Shelley
xoxo

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Back in the Studio!


What gorgeous flashy color

The day job has been beyond busy of late and so very little time to spend doing what I love. But, I finally got some studio time this weekend after a long week in Atlanta.

I have been focusing on my silversmithing skills lately, but when I took a look at this beautiful teardrop labradorite I couldn’t resist pulling out the wire. The color and flash are glorious and not as frequently seen as the normal blues and greens.

I thought I would give you a look inside my usual process. I typically start with the stone – that inspires the design. In this case, I sketched an idea out quickly in my notebook and got to work.

I wanted to use up some extra weaving wire that I had in a slightly larger gauge so the beginning weave was a little tricky to get started after such a long break, but I soon fell into the right rhythm and tension.

I check the fit as I go to make sure it works out as planned. I love when I can put the stone in and finish up the details and embellishments.

Using a bur cup I smooth the rough ends of the wire to make sure there are no “spikey” parts to scratch the wearer. In this case I hammered some of the spirals to give them more width and harden them up. I also attach the swirls to the frame using even finer wire so they don’t catch and pull out of place.

Finally I wove a simple bail and sat back to admire my work LOL. This particular piece took 3 full hours to complete. All in sterling silver. This one turned out very close to initial sketch which dent always happen. Once I am in the zone things take on a life of their own 🙂

Now to find this beauty a forever home


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Following your own path toward your dreams

“The path from dreams to success does exist. May you have the vision to find it, the courage to get on to it, and the perseverance to follow it.”
– Kalpana Chawla


Ley Lines Square Necklace before polishing

Many people believe that a grid of earth energies circles the globe, connecting important and sacred sites such as Stonehenge, the Egyptian Pyramids, and the Great Wall of China. That we are connected to Mother Earth through the subtle electrical current that runs around the entire planet. These electrical currents are known as “Ley Lines”

In fact, where the Ley Lines intersect are believed to be high points of energy and are said to be able to take information or energy from these higher vibrational points and carry them around the world, spreading knowledge and wisdom to all…

These intersecting points along the Ley Lines are also coincidentally home to some of the most sacred temples and monuments in the world including the Egyptian Pyramids, Machu Picchu, Stonehenge and Angkor Wat.

Although I am not sure I necessarily believe in all that, I am completely fascinated by how the theories of Ley Lines are so similar across so many countries and ancient peoples

In fact, most ancient cultures around the world seem to have some understanding of Ley Lines. In China they are known as Dragon Lines. In South America the Shaman’s referred to them as Spirit Lines, in Australia the ancient Aboriginals called them Song Lines or Dream tracks and in Ireland (my home country) there are Fairy Paths

These lines are the “Earth’s Meridians” – the pathways where life force, spiritual, electric magnetic energies travel. The earth meridians criss-cross the earth, passing over and connecting various ancient sites of religious worship and power.

Within the belief system of Aboriginals, a songline, also called dreaming track, is one of the paths across the land (or sometimes the sky) which mark the route followed by “creator-beings” during the Dreaming. The paths of the songlines are recorded in traditional songs, stories, dance, and painting.

A knowledgeable person is able to navigate across the land by repeating the words of the song, which describe the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena. By singing the songs in the appropriate sequence, indigenous people could navigate vast distances, often travelling through the deserts of Australia’s interior. The continent of Australia contains an extensive system of songlines, some of which are of a few kilometres, whilst others traverse hundreds of kilometres through lands of many different indigenous peoples — peoples who may speak markedly different languages and have different cultural traditions.

Fairy paths are mythical paths fairies take in a nightly procession from one place to another. The paths are always in a straight line. Every night, fairies use the path in their processions to their dances and ceremonies. Woe to the unlucky mortal who blocks the paths of the fairies!

It was believed that a house built on a fairy path would suffer from midnight noises or supernatural manifestations. Some builders used to use a technique to see if the planned construction was going to be on a fairy path; they would map out the floor plan in the earth and place a pile of stones at each corner and leave it overnight, if the stones were undisturbed it was safe to build, otherwise the work would not continue.

Home-owners have knocked corners from houses because the corner blocked the fairy path, and cottages have been built with the front and back doors in line, so that the owners could, in need, leave them both open and let the fairies troop through all night.

The awesome quote at the start of this post is from Kalpana Chawla: the first Indian-born woman in space and once of the astronauts tragically lost in the space shuttle Columbia. Clearly a woman with big dreams who charted her own course – I am sure it would have been fascinating and inspirational to meet her.

I think we all need to dream big dreams and listen to the quiet voice inside that compels us to walk our own path, whether that is in tune with the earth’s meridians or not. When I was working on the design of this piece of jewelry those were the inspirations and thoughts that danced in my head. I hope you like it I think this will develop into a collection over time.
Shop the collection

I will leave you with another quote from Kalpana

“Listen to the sounds of nature. Wishing you the best on your trek towards your dreams.”