Stuff for people who are still a bit untamed, young at heart and full of dreams.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Dabbling with Copper

There are so many different techniques when it comes to making jewellery. Sometimes it feels like being in a big play room with loads of toys!

I always wanted to experiment with precious metals: I was wondering how to bend and hammer them and how to set a stone and solder. I just never had enough courage to tackle it. But as always, all of a sudden the time felt right. Although, sterling silver or even gold have become far to expensive to make the first steps.  Therefore, I had my playtime with copper. And I liked working with it very much.

A friend asked me recently whether I could make something that could be based on spiral jewellery of the Norse or Bronze Age people. I did not immediately agree to make the necklace but I thought, it was a good start to fiddle with my copper wire. I formed the spirals, hammered them, crafted  jump rings and a clasp and finally added some coloured jade. The result is a little necklace that I really liked. So did my friend, and I'm now working on the next version of it.

Little necklace with an ancient touch

At the same time, I was trying to learn the art of cutting copper, soldering and setting a stone. I ruined about five saw blades until I had the hang of doing it right. But finally, I managed to cut out the shape of a dove. It had cost me a few sore muscles in my right hand, and I definitely enjoyed  the time I had to spend on filing the edges smooth. I found it almost a meditative act. Next thing was making a bezel. Getting the size right was one thing, but soldering the metal strip onto the bird was a series of try and error. But in the end, I got it right, and putting the stone into its little 'nest' was the next step. And, tada!, here is the little dove with its green malachite eye. It's not yet perfect (I'm still waiting for a setting tool, I have ordered to smooth the edges around the stone), but I like it. And then, my hubby gave me a letter punching set. Since my dove reminded me of Picasso's peace dove, I decided to punch the word 'peace' onto it. At the same time I just had to try out my tiny doming block. So the bird got a bit of structure around its tail.

First attempt at copper smithing

Meanwhile, the top of the hills are covered in a light dusting of snow and the temperatures have plummeted. Storms are are raging over the island and we're back to roaring fire places and hot chocolates!  And for the next few weeks I will curl up in front of the fire place and knit 1,5 kg of beautiful Irish tweed wool into a sweater for Fred. A race against time! But I still find some time to have look on etsy. Found some magical stuff there:

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Three Weeks to Go...

Christmas is approaching quickly. The weekends are filled with Christmas markets. It's really amazing how many markets a place as small as Arran can produce! I'm particularly looking forward to the one in Brodick Castle. Every year two weeks before Christmas, they organise a Victorian day in the castle. The rooms will be inhabited by people in Victorian costumes. The 'duchess' will lie in her four poster bed with a maid serving her drinks. The 'Duke' will welcome the visitors. There are all kind of activities going on: Baking in the kitchen, playing with original toys, face painting, games, music in the drawing room and, of course, a Christmas Market. There's the scent of mulled wine in the air and everything is nicely decorated. Just the right thing to get into the festive mood...

Up to then, I will be still producing bracelets, pendants and necklaces. And of course, trying to find and make presents for the family. Nosing around on etsy, I found a lot of lovely gifts for children:

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Finally - Sunshine!

After weeks of rain, the sun has been shining for two days in a row! Crisp blue skies, no clouds and finally, a touch of golden autumn! Arran is just so breathtaking when the weather is clear and bright. Yesterday was bonfire night which we somehow missed completely. Obviously we overheard anybody who told us to 'Remember the 5th of November'. We had a leisurely mother-son evening painting our future in bright colours and watching old films. It's enjoyable when the black-cloud-periods in a teenager's life become less frequent and the wonderful person he is gets more space. Yeah, and today the sun is shining again and I'm decided to enjoy it with a long walk up the hill behind our house.

Even our big cat seems to enjoy the warmth, letting the sun warming her tummy:

And I finally get a chance to have a look at the result of my last rainy day project in natural light. I made those two heads from clay which I finally glazed and fired. They were meant to be heads for my next art doll project. They are a bit big and heavy. I'm pondering at the moment whether I still should try to use them for a doll project or just list them on etsy as ornaments. Or - very tempting thought - just keeping them for myself...

I'm going to think about this while I'm up the hill. And that is.... now.

P.S.: For the next cold spell, have a look at my latest treasury on etsy:

Friday, 4 November 2011

My Passion For Glass...

...begins usually at one of our many beaches. I've been collecting beach glass since we moved to Arran. Actually, I collected glass and ceramic shards before that, but living just a few meters off the sea makes beach combing so much easier.

When we had a guesthouse, we had a big fireplace in the lounge. A very useless fireplace which didn't work. For a hundred years, every new owner (including us) would try to get it working without smoking, roasting or suffocating everyone in the building. Of course, we had to try it too, because, what's a Scottish house without a fireplace. We relined the chimney, we placed a granny on top, anything you can do apart from ripping the outer wall open and rebuilding the whole three floor high thing. Nothing worked. In the end I whitewashed the fireplace, stuffed newspaper up the hole to keep the wind out and with masses of sea glass, shells, sea ceramics, driftwood and two lovely sailing boats I created a beach themed display. Already back then, I made wire wrapped beach glass pendants which I sold for years at the local craft markets. People do like them. It's like taking a piece of Scotland, a piece of Arran home.

When we moved I ended up with buckets full of beach glass, and since we had a workshop, friends would even bring the most lovely pieces they found on the beaches. And of course, I never stopped looking for beach glass.

Only this summer, the weather was so abysmal that I didn't really get around to comb the beaches very often. Instead, I was given a Dremel shaft drill. And that was, wenn I discovered, that the world is now open to work with any piece of beach glass, stone or ceramic.

My first drilled bits were what I call Zen Beads. Little stacks of sea glass or pebbles:

Zen Beads

Another of my early drilling results were simple pendants, to which I attach shells, pearls, charms - anything that is related to water..

Sea glass Pendant

I discovered pretty quickly that my Dremel allowed me to connect any beach glass shards I wanted to. So the next one was this bracelet:

Beach glass bracelet with freshwater pearls

And finally, I gathered that there are no limits and I could actually tackle some of my bigger finds. I have always loved this almost Caribbean turquoise blue big piece of sea glass. It had its place on nearly all window sills of the house but it always was to big to wire wrap it as a pendant. A few times I even thought of breaking it into smaller pieces with a hammer and finding someone who could tumble them for me. But somehow that was completely against my understanding of beach glass jewellery. I really want to use the piece as I find it with only adding things to it and at the most, drill a hole. I love proper beach glass, that has a history and had its battles with sand, waves, wind and water. For me, tumbled new glass is pretty much a fake.

Once I put my Dremel to the big glass shield, I came up with this necklace which incorporates an aged key, an upcycled scrabble tile, pearls, mother of pearl buttons and some clay beads. To keep the natural, almost crude and shabby chic appearance, I hammered big metal links and jump rings from silver plated copper wire and brushed and oxydised it naturally. So far I have not yet put it on etsy. I can't yet separate from it. But I think by end of this week it will find its way into my etsy shop.

Aphrodite's Key Necklace

5 years ago: my very first still a bit clumsy pendants

But I'm sure, I will always come back to the beginnings and wrap some of my beach glass with wire:

Thursday, 3 November 2011


Half a year of silence! Now I feel really bad. It didn't seem so long. With all that was going on. The main experience over the summer was our pop-up shop "Pooch - by Nici Boni" with Arran Gems as partner. A total new experience, having a "real" shop with ever changing displays, face-to-face customers and a spacy workshop on top! With the visitor centre being a former farm, our shop was located in the horse stables, which made for a lot of atmosphere. The rustic touch, a lick of paint (mainly black and white with a few touches of gold), a good mix of old and modern furniture, Nici's handmade stylish bags and my (of course also handmade and stylish) jewellery made for a real boutique-like feeling. Even with the credit crunch and people not as lightheartedly spending money as before, we had a few good weeks over the summer holidays. And we most certainly had a lot of inspiring interaction with our fellow crafters in the centre. It's really amazing how much inspiration thrives when a few creative people come together. And together with a potter, a silk painter, two glass artists, a thrift sculptor and and a very crafty producer of home decor we had a really creative summer full of fun and loads of coffee... - Therefore, it's pretty sad that we have to pack up now. Nici, Carol (one of the glass artists) and I are looking into a more permanent solution. We'd love to continue to work together. So keep fingers crossed...

Open for summer business...
It has a lovely boutique feeling to it, hasn't it?

My still pristine work table

Nici's gorgeous "mothership" bags
A few children's necklaces have already gone

Nici's door stops and a set of shell jewellery

Earrings and  children's bangles
Gemstone jewellery
Another show case

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Congratulations, Lisa!

Spring bracelets by Lisa Parker, Ohio

Aren't these bracelets lovely? I love the colour schemes. They make me think of sunshine, daffodils,Tulips, hyazinths, crocusses and a lot of sunshine. They have such a feeling of spring, easter and new starts about them. And they are so lovingly made. I particularly adore the handmade "clasps".Thank you so much for sharing these with us, Lisa! You most certainly deserve to win! I hope you will enjoy your pendant necklace.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


I had a complete PC crash! Now it looks as if I've lost all emails sent to me between the 12th March and 16th.
I know I had some of people who have answered my February challenge. I know one came from Ohio. I had retrieved it just before the crash happened...  Can you guys resend them to my husbands email ? Otherwise it will take a while until everything on my PC will be recovered. How I hate these technical glitches!!!!!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Sore Feet and Inspiration

My friend Coral and I at the SECC. That's definitely a cracker. "No, we're not going to spend money. We've got more than enough beads (me); and we certainly don't need anymore rubber stamps (Coral)!" And certainly, we don't need anymore fabrics, wool and whatsoever textile looking items!!!

Yes, it took me exactly 13 minutes until I had spent 10 £ on a sample pack of fabrics and sock wool!

And that was before we hit the bead stalls...

Although, I could have easily spent the whole day in the textile bit of the show. Lots of incredible fabrics, tools and techniques to explore. And lots of creative products too.

I loved the knitted Scottish tent. There was everything: knitted hills, glens and lochs with all kind of wildlife (from little pebbles - I know they don't count for wildlife - over birds, shells, flowers, lobsters to puffins and human beings doing their work or sunbathing. Even a little Punch and Judy theatre. Absolutely incredible. It's a pity that I could not take a lot of pictures because, of course, the tent was always surrounded by a big crowd.

But my absolute favourite was a winter quilt. Not a huge one but one that showed a winter scene with an incredibly beautiful atmosphere about it. Almost makes me to wish winter back with long strolls amongst the big trees in the castle park... (Almost, I said!)

As to be expected, I spent much more money on beads than planned. But I also came home inspired. Not because I had seen a lot of jewellery (there wasn't too much of it anyway) but because it feels really good to know that there are a lot of people out there who are creative themselves and appreciate the work of others.

So I came home and set down to work on a few pieces that make some nice mother's day presents. Although, I think they are fine at any occasion...

Walking down Memory Lane

or Celebrating Womanhood

Friday, 18 February 2011

Making Choices

I really don't like making choices. Not when it comes to jewellery. How come? After having spent the last week with an on and off cold I had to realise that our local drama festival is going to happen next week. Since our drama group has entered with two Chekhov plays, it's high time to get my head around my costume.

I pretty quickly had everything apart from the jewellery. I finally decided on lots of lots of long pearls and gilded chains around my neck. Which left me with bare earrings. And then I started producing earrings and couldn't get my head around the colour scheme, the length, the shape - and ended up with about ten pairs!

But I definitely enjoyed myself playing with colours once more. Now I still have the original problem. I have to decide which ones to wear and which ones to simply sell off on etsy or at the craft fair.

I think, I go for these ones. They definitely have the 1900 touch, don't they?

And now I have another choice to make: Making jewellery or going over my lines again? Arrrrrrghhhhh!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Theme Play

It's quite funny how creative ideas come about. There I was, sniffling and coughing, hunting for the elusive spare box of Kleenex, I knew, I had in my craft cupboard (not for being sick, of course but for craft purposes), when I came across a wee bag with remnants of black Venetian lace. I rather unceremoniously dumped them on my working table next to some cabochons. I was still sniffling and feeling rather sorry for myself when I accidentally emptied my box with watch parts on the table. Actually, I wanted to break out into a little rant with strong words when I realised that the combination of things on my table looked actually quite inspiring. So I went off the rant and re-arranged the different materials which were lying around on my table:

Creativity from Chaos
To me the whole arrangement screams Steampunk, Edwardian, Victorian, Gothic Beauty! I suppose, I will spend the rest of the day, curled up  on the couch with a hot water bottle, echinacea and a sketch book...

But of course, I first had to have a look at my blog, and reading the blogs I'm following I came across
Kylie Parry's wonderful blog . A look at her latest ceramic beads gave me another little energy boost.
I think I definitely need some of her wonderful ancient looking beads to marry them with some of the things I find when I go beach combing on Arran.

 Kylie Parry's lovely ancient looking ceramic beads. 
Have a look at her beautiful creatures,toadstools,
leaves etc.

 I think they would go wonderfully with some stuff
you find on Arran's beaches.

Speaking of marrying: Congratulations to Kylie and her husband! - So, I guess, I'm going to look for that quilt and sketchbook and a hot lemon tea!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Fighting With a Mantel Clock

I'm still happily working along on my steampunk collection. Actually, at the moment, I'm fighting hard with a beautiful old mantel clock. It doesn't want to give me its bits and pieces without putting up a fight. Didn't know how hard it can be to get all those screws loose! But I will get there, I'm pretty confident.

While I had my coffee break, a friend send me a link to some steampunk pages. On a french site I found an amazing collection of pictures: clothes, objects, jewellery. Just gorgeous. A real well of inspiration. Have a look for yourself!

Visit French Steampunk

At the moment, the wind is howling across the Sea. It's cold, stormy and very, very wet! Wonder where all the beautiful snow went... To keep myself warm and my heart warm, I'm going to make up a few Valentine's pieces.

Which reminds me: A friend gave me a collage sheet with "anti-Valentine's-sayings" under the heading of Single-Awareness-Day. Some are quite sarcastic, but still really funny. Guess, I shall make one for all those who don't want to put up with pink, red and hearts!

Monday, 31 January 2011

Sorting Out Wardrobes

I spent this morning sorting out my wardrobe. You know all these cardigans, dresses, skirts and t-shirts you keep because you got them from X, Y or Z, you want to wear them when hiking, gardening, painting or cooking (yeah, and then I just splatter one of the new ones instead) or those were just that bit to expensive to be chucked out last year.

So I decided that I'm definitely going to bring everything I haven't worn for a year to our local charity shop. I felt, I deserved a good cup of tea to celebrate my courage. I had it, looking through the latest blogs of the Cloth Paper Scissors magazine (one of the best when you like mixed media in any way). And on their website was this little project which made me getting one of my discarded sweaters back out of the charity bag.

With a few cuts, some zig-zag seams and two buttons they were transforming a rather boring and non-descriptive sweater into a pretty fashionable piece of clothing.

Picture Cloth - Paper - Scissors Magazine by Jen Mason, editor
To read up how to do it, go on their blog:

I'm sure this basic idea could be taken further and followed up by many variations. I will spend an hour or so on it next weekend!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Let's Beat the Credit Crunch! - Let's Recycle, Let's Upcycle, Let's Get Creative!

Arran Gem's February Give-Away

Switching on the radio or TV is simply frustrating these days! At least here in Britain. It doesn't take five minutes until you will be reminded of the recession, the government's spending cuts and all the sad and frustrating things which come with it. Not to forget the bleak outlook for little businesses, artists and crafts people! As frustrating as it may be at times, I think we need to preserve ourselves a bit of optimism if we want to get through these times as unscathed as possible!

Considering, that buying crafting materials doesn't get cheaper and that our products shouldn't get over-expensive in these times, I'd like to invite you, my fellow hobby and professional crafters and artists to this month's give-away action:

 Even a broken spoon can still be a jewel.

Produce an item from recycled, upcycled, repurposed or whatever-you-would-like- to-name-them-materials. Anything is welcome: cards, ACEOs, bracelets, bags, whatever! Don't be too serious about it! It doesn't have to be something you want to win an art prize with! It's about having fun and proving that we all can be creative!

Take a picture of your object and send me the jpg (not over 1000 pix) to my e-mail address with "Assja's February Give Away"as subject. Please, add whether you consider yourself a professional or a hobby crafter. There's a give-away for each category. 

I will then upload the pictures and on the 1st of March I shall let the family chose the two they think are the best. The Give-away are two sweet necklaces. To have a look at them, go to my shop on etsy and have a look at them. They are listed as "Reserved February Give Away for Arran Gems' Blog Readers".

Let us show the world that we are not going to be so easily beaten by the economic downturn. Let us show that we can help ourselves to materials and that we are doing something for our environment too!

And now, happy crafting!

By the way, yesterday morning I realised that the birds were having a field day in the hedges in front of our house. There was so much singing, chirping, tweeting and jubilating going on! The days are definitely getting longer. And the wee beasties are enjoying. I thought, singing is something upbeat and delectable! So I made a little treasury on etsy with the theme of "song"!

Monday, 24 January 2011

New Chicken in the Yard!

Today I discovered some new chicken in my neighbour's yard! One of them has a head like a particularly stubborn punk. A bit like Mimi, my little Appenzell hen who got featured in a lovely treasury!

Thank you to the Dolphin Lady!

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Hunting and Gathering

I enjoyed a trip to the mainland. Quite an experience since the ferry had to sail through dense fog for about an hour. It felt like sitting in a vacuum. Just some white mass outside. All you could see was nothing. Even the machines seemed to make no sound. Only the vessel's foghorn produced its eerie sound with the precision of a metronome.  No way to say how long you had already sailed or how far the coast was, unless you checked your watch.

Glasgow itself seemed much less busy than before Christmas. I made it into a fair amount of second hand shops, always hunting for some interesting pieces of jewellery or ornaments which held the promise of having some parts I could salvage and integrate into my "found object" or "upcycled" jewellery. I didn't find as much as I wanted, but I came home with a few metal flower brooches and some nice chains.

And of course, there was the book shop. That's always my downfall. At least financially. I simply can't resist the lure of books. Among others I found a wonderful book about mixed media jewellery. There are some techniques I'll have to try out within the next few weeks. No doubt, you will see them here.

It's unbelievable but tomorrow I'm going to Glasgow again. Having a look at the Scottish Trade Fair. I'm not sure whether it could be something  to go with my stuff. I'm not yet convinced. But then, I've never been and maybe it's not all about wholesale and large scale production... Have you experience with trade shows? I'd love to hear about! Anyway, I will have a fine day gathering information.

When I came home, I found some of my pieces on etsy in treasuries.

I fell soooo in love with that hairy Highland cow!

And this one, don't you think it's a very glamorous treasury?

Yessss! Jewellery! I love this treasury. There are quite a few pieces I'd like to have!

Saturday, 15 January 2011


Last week I found a couple of old watches in a drawer. I couldn't even remember that I ever had them. While I was debating with myself whether I should bring them to the local charity shop or just chuck them out, it occurred to me that I could actually use them to make jewellery. I always thought that steampunk is an art form which is incredibly interesting. I read H.G. Wells' Time Machine when I was twelve. And after that I was utterly obsessed with Jules Verne. The Nautilus was intriguing, as was The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I was pretty much reminded of those times this year at Christmas time when BBC broad casted the latest episode of Dr. Who which was very much along the steampunk line. So why not fiddle a bit about with a first piece? There is something about the brassy shine of an old watch. A mechanical movement is something incredibly intricate and beautiful.

It's almost not understandable why those little miracles are hidden inside the watch. The idea of showing them to the world is actually almost like showing them the respect they deserve. I spent quite a few hours taking the watches apart, cleaning some bits and then arranging them on filigree parts which I had slightly aged with alcoholic inks and a kitchen blow torch. I'm sure there are more professional ways to go about producing a piece of jewellery with old watch parts, but I enjoyed trying to figure things out. And I quite like the result. I have already quite a few ideas to follow up this line of jewellery making. Beware second hand shops, bric-a-brac places and antique fairs!

And just about half an hour ago when I was checking what's going on in my etsy shops, I came across this lovely treasury by Jay. I love the bright blues and glowing oranges. And the exploration of complementary colours. Thanks Jay!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

No Gobbledegooks

                              Picture taken from the wonderful selection of

In my former life, when I was working in the corporate world, visiting marketing, motivation, coaching and god-knows-what-else trainings was part of the business culture. It used to amuse me how much of what was passed down could simply be described as a deluge of big words, jargon, gobbledegooks. Looking around, I had the strange feeling that many of the participants had zoned out before the trainer got past his personal introduction...

A completely different affair is the piece I read this morning on the etsy blog while I had my first cup of tea. Clear, precise, no hot air balloon at all. But very clearly and simply worded advice. I think this piece is a must to read for anyone who starts out with an on-line shop on etsy (or folksy or anywhere on the worldwide web). And it's a good reminder for all of us who have already started out to have a critical look at what we're doing. There is nothing in it which is not doable. I add the link. Have a read and let me know what you think:

and while your reading, here is another one which I personally think is so brilliant because I can see myself very much in it. If you sometimes suffer from (maybe just perceived) creativity block, then that's what you should read to get inspired:

Do you like seaglass as much as I do? See what Jenevieve from Button, Ribbons and Other Things does with them! You may even win a pendant, if you follow her blog.

So, have all a wonderfully creative and imaginative day!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Phewww! I had a 9 to 8 today!

Just now I feel pretty exhausted but at the same time absolutely thrilled! That I paint is nothing new to all who know me but with the nudge of some friends I finally decided to open a second etsy shop for my art work. I spend the last two days with designing a banner, taking decent pictures of my art work and formatting it properly on Gimp (the open source version of photoshop). Five minutes ago I was finally finished. Have a look at it under

Of course, I didn't have much time to do anything creative. But did some marketing for me with a lovely treasury! It's all about environmentally sound craft items! I love that. Have a look at the treasury and at her shop!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

And Just Another One

I felt like spring this morning. I don't know whether it was the sunshine or simply wishful thinking. But I had the urge to do a treasury with items which are bright and fresh...

Valentine's Day is Coming up!

Are you still hunting around for a Valentine's gift? Or do you want to give your hubby, fiance or boyfriend a little hint? I made an etsy treasury up. And for all those who live local: Every item on the list was made in Scotland!
Let's boost the Scottish economy into a spring high!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Art Of Procrastination

I just realised, today I seem to circle my working table like a predator its prey. Only I find every single excuse not to approach it and sit down on the chair. After all, there is some dusting to do. Oh, and the dog looks as if it needs to go out. And did the child not just say something about hunger? Oh, and there is this pile of ironing to do... Hang on, ironing? Since when do I see that as something urgent?

The truth is, I'm procrastinating. I do this every time when the market season and Christmas are over. I do it when I need to sit down and put all the ideas for the coming season into an organised form of working plan. 

There are all these sketches and notes in my journal that need to be sort of prioritised (big word!). I need to plan what I'm going to put into the local shop, what goes on etsy and what I will sell at the craft markets. And then I need to think about supplies, time and prices. Not to forget all the wee things like business cards, paper stuff etc. Or the exciting bits like buying beads and things without going over board. Which happens when it's not organised. I made the experience in the beginning.

And for some odd reason, these organisational and administrative stuff always shows up when all I really want to do, is being creative with beads and paint and glue! Which, of course, is always the case, when it turns up.
Therefore, I guess, I better start tomorrow (it's already Sunday evening after all) a week in which I will use the morning for all the thoughts and plans I need to have and make, while the afternoons will be dedicated to continuing my steam punk exploration. And maybe, by end of the week, I'm ready to plunge into this year's creative work. After all, St. Valentine, spring and weddings are approaching slowly but surely.

 I'm a member of the McEtsy clan!

The picture belongs to
It shows a Siberian Tiger, a mostly solitary and territorial animal which can reach 13 feet in size and weigh up to 700 lb. Unfortunately, it is estimated, that there are only about 8'000 of them left.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Back to the Work Bench

Amazing, how fast the holidays are over. It was a brilliant time. Lots of fun with the family. Time to read books, meet friends and see people... A few days ago, I started becoming restless. And today, I gave in to the urge, postponed the big house cleaning session, declared dinner a one-pot-affair and hid in my room, having an outbreak in steampunk activity. I really like experimenting with filigree, watch parts, old keys and pictures. Didn't get as far as I wanted, but it's a good start after all....