Sunday, June 8, 2014

Changes - large and small

I have spent the last several months taking stock of where my business is now and how I want it to grow. To this end, I will be making some major changes to the way my business is viewed by the outside world. One way in which this will be changing is that I will be moving this blog over to WordPress. With Wordpress, I will be able to create a more 'branded' blog and one that will fit nicely with my business image and the way in which I communicate my business.

I will put the link up in a blog here when the blog is ready to migrate over. In the meantime, please forgive my lack of blogs. I have been very busy with my business and with life in general. But the changes that are coming are amazing and I can't wait to share them with you.

Golden Spirals
For now, I would like to share some images from new pieces I created for an exhibition at the Dornoch Gallery. I love these pieces and when I have them back in my possession, I look forward to offering them on the website. (Of course, I hope many of the designs sell while at the gallery.)

This first piece is called Golden Spiral. I've combined beautiful sterling silver 'ribbon' with luscious petro tourmaline. I love these earrings and I'm sure they will find an equally lovely pair of earlobes to decorate. Like all my jewellery, these earrings are a one-of-a-kind, or, in this case, a two-of-a-kind. And they are real beauties.

Riding the Sky
I made five pairs of earrings for the gallery, and the second pair to share with you is this lovely pair featuring beautiful AAA-grade Sky topaz faceted teardrops. These stones are something special. The sparkle and charming blue colour are just stunning. I was so pleased with how this design turned out. Somewhere between stirrups and a Grecian vase. The 'riding' part came into the name because of the way they do, I admit it, resemble stirrups. I am always amazed with what happen when I sit down to design and make jewellery. I am often so surprised with the outcome. This particular design had been putting itself together in my head for a couple of weeks until I decided to see if it would work. And it did! Again, I would hope these would sell at the gallery, but, if not, they will be available around August 1.

Morning's Garden
I also made bracelets for the gallery. This one features beautiful AAA-grade prehnite, in both twisted ovals and faceted rondelles. The large sterling silver links are handmade and give the piece some major sparkle. I call this bracelet 'Morning's Garden' because the soft green of the prehnite reminds me of the early morning grass in the spring. Again, if this piece does not sell at the gallery, it will be available on the website around the first of August.

Midnight's Tide
The second bracelet I'm going to share with you here is called 'Midnight's Tide' and features dyed Baroque pearls. These pearls are high quality pearls and, in this instance, dying has simply increased their aesthetic value. They are dyed an iridescent 'bronze' colour. I have created swirls of silver on the surface of the pearls and added beautiful fluted sterling silver beads. I love this bracelet and I love these pearls. Look for more designs featuring these dramatic pearls.

Staying with the Baroque pearl, here is a necklace I created using a beautiful Baroque silver grey teardrop pearl. I've paired the stunning pearl with an equally stunning round of faceted AAA-grade amethyst. The wire exhibits the most wonderful twists and turns and I love how the light bounces softly off all of the parts of this beautiful piece. If this piece does not sell at the gallery, I plan on making some earrings to go with the necklace. The name of this piece is 'Magaidh' which means pearl in Scottish Gaelic. It is a lovely piece and I am so pleased with the way this piece came out. As with the beautiful bronze Baroque pearls, look for more pieces featuring these silver teardrops.

Just a Drop
My final piece to share with you is another necklace. This one is called 'Just a Drop', referring to the single AAA-grade rhodalite garnet that hangs to the right of the integral clasp that is part of the necklace's design. With this necklace, you simple hook part of the design at the front into another part of the design and, voila, the necklace has been securely fastened. I am looking forward to creating more pieces that incorporate the clasp into the design. As with the other pieces from the gallery, if this remains unsold, it will be available on the website around August 1.

So that's it for now. I think I can be fairly sure when I say that the next blog will be when I give the URL for the new blog. Until then, thanks for your interest in Ailleas Designs by Martha Mawson. You can check out all my current offerings on the website at

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I can't believe it has been four months since I last shared any of my news with you. The months have been spent very busily preparing pieces - not only for my own websites and events, but for my stockists as well. It has been such a busy but very rewarding time. I am thrilled to announce that my jewellery can now be found at Inverewe Garden & Estate in Poolewe - a National Trust for Scotland property. You can also find my jewellery at Lochside Crafts in Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye and at Stewart's of Drymen outside Glasgow. I am continuing my relationship with Duncan House, also on Skye, and The Perfume Studio and Aroma Cafe, although they are stocking only my bronze and copper jewellery from my other jewellery brand, The Selkie's Haunt. All in all, it's been busy. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

If you check my calendar on the website, you will see that it is going to be a very busy summer season. I am taking part in the exciting new market in Ullapool and look forward to setting up shop there every Thursday starting June 12. But, prior to that, I am really excited about exhibiting at the Dornoch Gallery from May 31 - June 14. It promises to be a very exciting time. 

Regarding press appearances, I am continuing my relationship with Tatler and Harper's Bazaar and in the autumn and the run up to Christmas, I will be dipping my toes in the water of the City of London when I appear in Square Mile Magazine. It's all good. Exposure is so important when running and growing a business. 

In addition to all this, I was honoured to be asked to create the bridal jewellery for a young lady in Aberdeen. It was a joy to make her dreams become reality and, because of the commission, I found an experienced and well-respected supplier of pearls from here in the UK. So, in addition to my 'pedigree' stones from my wonderful supplier, I now have a supplier for superior quality cultured pearls along with my source for Australian opals. 

'Three Moons' Moonstone Necklace
My website has seen some additions in the last couple of days. I am thrilled to unveil my 'Three Moons' necklace. This necklace features a focal 'dangle' that is comprised of a trio of AAA-grade moonstone in grey, cream and peach. The necklace features a trio of small rondelle beads in the same three colours. This necklace is sure to make the transition from spring to summer, to autumn to winter. The colours are perfect for every time of the year. I have created earrings to complement the necklace. These can be found on the website now.

'Fit for a Queen' lapis lazuli
and vesuvianite earrings
In addition to this beautiful necklace, I am thrilled with the final design that I created to complement two of the most beautiful, deeply blue lapis lazuli beads I've ever seen. These two lapis lazuli smooth heart briolettes are of a good size and such a deep blue. I have paired them with small rondelles of vesuvianite and lapis. The heart briolettes are AAA, but I would classify them as AAAAA. They are just that beautiful. I call these earrings 'Fit for a Queen.' The name alludes to story that lapis lazuli was the favoured gemstone of Cleopatra. We have historical evidence that lapis lazuli was very popular during the time of the Egyptian Empire. It was not only used as a gemstone, but it was also used a source for dye and for cosmetics. It was often ground and used as eye shadow. When burying their dead, the Egyptians often included a scarab made of lapis, believing that it would protect the individual in the next life. No doubt, old Cleo would love these earrings. The blue of lapis lazuli makes the silver sparkle even more.  These earrings are available on the website right now.

'The Faerie Queene' morganite and cultured pearl bracelet
There are several more pairs of earrings to found and the two other new necklaces. In addition, I've recently added a new bracelet, called 'The Faerie Queene'. This bracelet is made up of three strands featuring cultured pearls and pale pink morganite. Morganite is a beautiful stone and one that I was not at all familiar with before I started making jewellery. It is a member of the beryl family (along with emerald and aquamarine) and highly graded examples are quite sought after. I love the pale pink faceted rondelles that make up the bracelet. The bracelet is seriously feminine and the tiny cultured pearls (2.5-3mm) have a beautiful lustre. These are amongst the pearls I have sourced from my new pearl specialist. It is a joy to create with them.

Look for three new designs to debut on the pages of Tatler, Harper's Bazaar and The World of Interiors when the June issues of those magazines hit the newstands on May 1st.  But be warned, pieces that appear in the magazines sell very quickly so they won't last long. (Of course, if you'd like to see them on your very own screen, subscribe to my newsletter, where all will be revealed on May 1st.)

As always, thank you for your interest in Ailleas Designs. It is very much appreciated.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year

After what can be described as the most hectic six weeks of my life, I am finally ready to sit down and start making some beautiful jewellery again. The death of my mother on November 14th, followed by the death of my father-in-law four days later (and yes, I am absolutely serious) meant a trip to the States and an immediate trip to Sussex upon our return. It was incredibly busy and I was unable to participate in most of the pre-Christmas events. And I was exhausted throughout most of November and December. But with the new year comes new resolve and renewed energy. I am looking forward to 2014. It is going to be a very good year.

My first press appearance of the year is in GQ Magazine. My contacts at Conde Naste invited me to be part of the Valentine’s shopping feature, so I hope that some bemused men will find their way to my website and buy a piece of jewellery that is bound to make Valentine’s Day a magical occasion indeed. Beyond that, I wait for summer to once again be part of Tatler’s presence and then work with Vogue again in Autumn 2014. It will be a busy year in marketing, but I hope it will prove as successful as it did this past year.

I am currently speaking to various potential stockists around the UK. While I am pleased with my presence in Scotland, with the addition of a stockiest in Glasgow and an additional stockiest on Skye, I am anxious to have a presence in southern Scotland and little further afield. I will keep you posted as decisions are made and stockists are confirmed. 

‘My precious’

Despite having been unable to take part in the pre-Christmas events, I did have some remarkable sales from my website and this provided me with the opportunity to invest in some wonderful new gemstones. These are stones that relatively rare and very expensive, but I felt it was time to bring them into my collections. The 2014 collections will showcase stunning blue larimar from the Dominican Republic, the soft peaches and golds of imperial topaz, and the magic of beautiful mauve sapphires. I have also added more Sleeping Beauty turquoise to my stock of gemstones along with more sky blue topaz and, for the first time, dyed keishi pearls. I am looking forward to working with these wonderful freeform pearls in pastel shades. As with all my stones, all of these new additions have been sourced from my wonderful supplier in Edinburgh.

Happy birthday to all the January babies

Beautiful faceted 
teardrops of
spessartine garnet
Used to be, January babies were limited in their choice of birthstone jewellery. And we all remember seeing the muddy red necklaces or rings and feigning admiration. Let’s face it – the garnet, plain and simple, is not a beautiful stone. But, garnets come in more colours than just muddy red. There are rhodalite garnets that remind me of the colour of a glass of merlot. Spessartine garnets are my new favourites – a deep burnt orange colour that sparkles with an inner fire. There is hessionite garnet – golds and yellows. And there is grossular garnet – a pale apple green – and colour change garnet. Colour change garnet changes from bronze to lavender according to the light. So, January babies really have a lovely choice when choosing birthstone jewellery. At this point in time, Ailleas Designs has offerings using spessartine garnet and I will be working on new pieces that feature rhodalite garnet.

And finally, a half-price sale

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to own some Ailleas Designs jewellery with a huge discount applied. Currently, I am offering selected pieces at half price on the website. A couple of pieces have already found new homes. Don’t let the opportunity slip by! Go to now and find your own little treasure for just half the regular price.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tis the season to be busy...

...fa la la la la. Weekend three of seven is now history. Had a wonderful time at Blair Castle. But, as is always the case, part of the joy in taking part is meeting the other artists who take part. So, this blog is going to be about the beautiful people and beautiful things that are part of the events.

Bellwood Bears

I saw Karen and her adorable table of delightful bears on day one, but it wasn't until day three that I had the joy of being totally captivated by her lovely creations. In fact, one in particular gave me such a loving look that I had to bring him home. So, young Kalen now lives with me. Just so you understand how irresistible he was and is, here is a photograph of my new little friend.

What makes Karen's bears so wonderful is that each bear comes with his or her own life story. For instance, Kalen is a very shy bear who doesn't initially trust people, but once loved and adopted he is friend for life. Among his friends are Hector, who is the guardian of Bellwood. Or there's Bracken, who makes sure all the paths in the wood are cleared of broken branches and fallen leaves. The stories are as charming as the bears. So, if one of the people on your Christmas list needs a new little friend, I can highly recommend Bellwood Bears.

Rustic Simplicity

Anita and James sell lovely home decor pieces made from recycled whisky barrels. Their offerings run the gamut from peg holders to side cupboards. The time and effort that goes into making each piece can't be measured just with hours spent, but the passion. The 'rustic simplicity' of what they make and offer could fit into a room of any style. Look at this adorable wall cabinet. Who wouldn't want one of these hanging on their wall?

Anita and James are able to post pieces at reasonable rates, so it doesn't matter where in the UK you live, you can still have some beautiful, handmade and lovingly crafted rustic simplicity to call your own.

Rose Cottage Kitchen

My other 'neighbour' at the event was Katrina Ashford of Rose Cottage Kitchen. Katrina creates the most wonderful jams, jellies, chutneys and perserves. Where can I start? Her green tomato chutney is to die for. We always stock up every year. And for the upcoming feasts, we are enjoying her cranberry with port. We will be enjoying her homemade mincemeat and Christmas cake. Katrina also makes delicious fudge and shortbread (and I haven't begun to scratch the surface).

Katrina is able to provide the most wonderful hampers for Christmas. I can't recommend Katrina and her delicious wares enough. She is able to arrange delivery to addresses within the UK, so get your order in now before all her yummies are all gone!

More events to come...

I shall be enjoying the company of other artists in the weeks to come and will be happily sharing information about them. Stay tuned.  Oh, and don't forget, if you need some beautiful jewellery for your Christmas gift recipients, don't forget about Ailleas Designs!

Monday, September 30, 2013

And so it begins...

Earrings offered through
Facebook competition
This month is the beginning of my busiest and craziest time of year. Starting this Friday, with the Aultbea market, I will be part of no fewer than seven events, taking up 14 days. This includes the local markets, the Exclusively Highlands events  and setting up shop in the GALE Centre for four days in the middle of December. I am currently running a competition on Facebook and I am busy creating new pieces for all the events. New stones have been added to my inventory over the last couple of months and I am using them in new pieces - three more necklace and earrings sets and one pair of earrings and one necklace are what I've created so far. This week, I hope to add to my bracelets collections. I hope to get these new pieces photographed over the next several weeks. Our new house boasts the most amazing light and I feel quite sure the photogrpahs will be even better with the natural light I am able to harness. It's all very busy here at our new home overlooking Loch Ewe.

Unfortunately, as I approach all these events and all this creativity, I am dealing with some serious family issues - my mother, who is 86 years old - is very unwell and in hospital back in the States. I have to keep in mind that I may have to fly home at some point. Needless to say, it is a great cause of concern and I am trying to keep focused on my work until the time comes. 

So, I shall continue to create new pieces to introduce in the months and events to come. Please keep an eye out for new designs as I place them on the site. The newest pair of earrings to appear in Vogue will will be displayed very soon. They feature lovely small rubies. I am sure you will like them.

In addition to the new pieces of jewellery, I am searching for new ways to market my jewellery. I have recently agreed to a contract with Just For Her magazine. The magazine is distributed to women who serve in the military along with the wives and girlfriends of servicemen. I am sure it will be a very good fit. Ailleas Designs will continue to be seen in Vogue until December. The new year will find Ailleas Designs in the Valentine's Shopping Guide that will be part of the February issue of GQ. I have plans to create an online portfolio and the website itself will have a new page that will give you a new way to see Ailleas Designs, so stay tuned.

Until next time, thank you for your interest in Ailleas Designs.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Onwards and upwards...

Ailleas Designs is moving forward and gathering speed. I wrote in one of my previous blogs that I had been approached by Tatler Magazine and Vogue. Indeed, I was asked to be part of the jewellery advertorial features over the summer for Tatler and I was happy to take part. Even more than the publicity, I gained some new customers and the pieces of jewellery that featured in each month's issue have sold (not the August issue's inclusion...yet!). I've been able to capitalise on the inclusion by prominently displaying a sign on my table when I take part in events. Prospective customers have been impressed and sales have taken place a s result. In addition to taking part in the Vogue advertorials in the October, November and December, I am now looking forward to my inclusion in September's issue of Harper's Bazaar. 

All these inclusions are paid advertorials - I don't pretend they are anything else. I pay - albeit a fraction of the normal advertising tariff - for being included. The point is, I have been invited to take part on the strength of my jewellery - its quality and its originality. I am very proud of that. Of course, editorial inches are every business' and every business owner's goal, and I'm thrilled to say that that achievement has now been reached.

'Stars and Squares' - one of the designs that
have been submitted to Highland Life for
inclusion in the jewellery photo shoot.
Last week I was contacted by Highland Life magazine. I was asked to take part in an editorial/photo spread highlighting the designs of just eight designers from the highlands and islands. Amongst the other designers are Shelia Fleet, an international recognised designer from Orkney who was awarded a OBE in the Queen's honours list and Colin Campbell, a long-standing and respected goldsmith from Inverness. To be included is not only a thrill, but an honour. I delivered the jewellery that will used in the photo shoot to the magazine last week. I believe it will be published for distribution the first of August. I will certainly share these images here when they are made available to me.

On the sales front, I am thrilled to announce that the pieces currently available through Duncan House on Skye are selling very, very well. I recently took over more jewellery for them to sell - enough to replenish the cabinet a couple of times. It is needless to say that all of this has been a huge boost to my self-confidence and I find that designs are coming to me even more quickly now. I have added more glorious AAA-grade stones to my inventory and look forward to the creations that will emerge when I combine those stones with the sterling silver. I never know exactly what is going to result, but I feel so pleased with how well my designs are being welcomed.

I have also redesigned the website to showcase that all the jewellery is now part of various collections in each of the categories of Bracelets, Earrings, Necklaces and Pendants. For example, the earrings shown above are in the 'Arts Inspiration Collection.' I have found that this gives me a bit more direction in creating the pieces. Along with 'Arts Inspiration Collection' (including inspiration from literary sources), I have included 'Celtic Lace Collection', 'The Signature Colleciton' and 'The Heavens, Earth and Sea Collection.' With these collections to help guide me, I find the designs are coming into being even easier. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Creative Process

Yesterday, when I sat down to my table to create some jewellery I thought about the process. I tried to consciously trace the way a piece of jewellery goes from my mind to the finished product. In fact, when I sat down, I sat down to gather together recently made pieces with their information slips (carat weights, stones used, grade of stones, etc.) so that I could later catalogue them. What happened after that was neither planned nor anticipated. What happened was the creative process.

The creative process, more times than not, happens when I sit down and randomly pick up a container of stones. I keep my stones in separate stackable containers - each stone and cut separated from others. Yesterday, I happened to look in the container that held two stunning 5+ carat smoky quartz faceted pear cut briolettes. I took them out and held them. I lifted them up to the window so I could see the light coming through. These are some serious smoky quartz, too. Graded AAA, these stones are dark brown, almost a cola brown, but richer, deeper. The cut on the stones is amazing. A faceted face with a peak in the back - the way the light plays with the angles is magical. My mind immediately went to my collection of smaller faceted stones, thinking about what might complement the smoky quartz. I ran through the colours in my mind and settled on blue. Not just any blue; I decided that the perfect stones to complement these beautiful smoky quartz would be sapphires. I reached for the sapphires - natural, undyed sapphires in faceted rondelles that measured from 1mm to 3mm in diameter. I emptied the container of sapphires on my table and placed the smoky quartz next to them. The design appeared in my mind within seconds. And within seconds, the sterling silver wire was in my hands and the process began. I wrapped and twisted and wound the wire around and onto itself until the final design emerged. The smoky quartz were now crowned with a tousled garland of sapphires - a dozen for each briolette. 

I had not sat down with any idea of what would happen by the time I would get up again. It happened as it almost always does. It happened spontaneously; the process driven by colours and shapes and what, to me, seemed the ideal combination of stones and colours, sterling silver and spirals. It is often as if the design makes itself, using my hands to achieve the final, beautiful, sparkling piece of jewellery. It is a process that never ceases to amaze me.

'Moon and Stars' necklace of
moonstone and amethyst
At the market today, I was speaking with one of my friends and she was surprised that I never have drawn out plans for my designs. It's true. I don't draw out designs on paper before I make them, There are, however, times when an image appears in my mind and designs itself over days or weeks. Rudimentary in form at the start, each day, usually when I am lying in bed waiting for sleep, one more part of the puzzle comes together. For example, the Moon and Stars necklace took shape in my mind for weeks before I knew it was the right time to sit down and create what my mind's eye had designed. And like the spontaneous process described above, it took shape as I laid the stones on the table next to each other. The process seemed to continue without thought, more by instinct. And I knew when I had reached the end. I knew by simply looking and knowing that I could stop now. I had no idea when I sat down how many pieces of moonstone would be used or how long the lengths of chain would be that held each amethyst star. But when I finished, it was as I had imagined. Even better, because it was real and palpable. 

When people compliment my work or designs, it is not a false modesty that makes me reply with comments such as, 'I know! It's really gorgeous, isn't it?' Because often the end piece is as much as surprise to me as it may be to anyone seeing it on my table or my website. The excitement I feel, and my customers feel, is a genuine appreciation for the creative process. I used to worry about running out of ideas and designs. I don't think that will ever happen. As long as I have beautiful stones with which to work, the designs will make themselves known to me. 

(I hope to complete a photo session sometime in the next 10 days or so. The newly made smoky quartz and sapphire earrings will be amongst the new pieces to be showcased on the website very soon.)