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.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Coming attractions and more great news!

In the musical 'Camelot' with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, Guinevere sings 'Tra la, it's May, the lusty month of May. That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray.' I'm not sure about going blissfully astray, but May has been a very good month so far, despite the less than ideal weather. As is always the case, a good month does mean I may be seen as going blissfully astray with my orders for more A-AAA grade gemstones. My good month usually means (I hope) a good month for my wonderful gemmologist who supplies me with 99 percent of my stones.  (The other one percent is usually an opal or two supplied by my wonderful opal specialist.) I placed my order this morning and will anxiously await delivery. Amongst the stunning gems that will soon be featured in my one-of-kind designs are AA+ pink sapphires, AA+ London blue topaz, some bright orange AAA-grade carnelian and a pale blue AAA-grade chalcedony focal. The opals? My one opal offering found a lovely neck on which to shimmer and shine, but the timing was perfect. My opal specialist is sending me a large opal mined in Utah. It is colourful and I am sure it will be as beautiful in 'real life' as it is in the photograph that was sent to me. I am so lucky to have found such wonderful suppliers for all my gemstones. After all, the better the stones I get, the better the pieces of jewellery I design and offer on the website and at events and through stockists. I love being able to invest in my business with money as well as my time and passion for creating.

May has been a good month in so many ways. In addition to my inclusion in the 'Jewels for June' feature in Tatler magazine, I received a phone call (finally and at last) from Vogue. I had been hoping and praying to hear from that veritable bible of high fashion. They saw my feature in Tatler and loved the design and colour play of my work. They went to my website to see my other designs and felt that I was the perfect designer to feature in their jewellery feature pages. And so, I am thrilled to say that Ailleas Designs will be featured in the October, November and December issues of Vogue. It is so exciting and I don't for one minute feel that this means I can rest on my laurels. If anything, it spurs me to do more and better. I only hope I succeed, not only in my eyes, but in the eyes of my customers around the world.

So, stay tuned. Photo sessions for my new pieces (there are more waiting in the wings as I type this) will take place over the next fortnight and I anticipate a debut of new pieces in the first weeks of June. 

I love what I do. How lucky am I?

'Periwinkle' - new iolite and peridot pendant
currently on offer on the website. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Just within reach...

Again, too much time has passed since I last shared the latest news from Ailleas Designs. The weather has been less than ideal and my husband's health has suffered a bit over the last couple of months. I am still waiting to get over to Skye to deliver my jewellery to Duncan House, but that will be happening within in the next couple of weeks.

What has happened is the best news and greatest boost to the business since I started. About six weeks ago, I received a lovely email from one of the senior sales executives at Tatler Magazine. She had come across my website and wanted to offer me one of the very few spaces available in a feature called Jewels for June. I was thrilled to receive her email and even called her to be sure she meant to write to me. We talked for a while and she sent me more information. I decided to take the gamble that is advertising (although this is advertorial, which means, as it is by invitation, the rates are drastically reduced) and take the plunge. I am currently to be found in the June edition that hit newstands on May 1. I am also in the July and August editions. For both the July and August editions, I have created lovely new pieces to showcase.

The immediate effect has been a good one. I received an order for one of my most expensive pairs of earrings. I displayed a sign showing my affiliation with Tatler at the local market this past Friday and had one of my best markets of the year. Signs are now accompanying my jewellery at The Perfume Studio & Aroma Cafe and The GALE Centre and will go to Skye and Torridon as well. It gives my business a certain pedigree and for the opportunity I am very grateful. I enjoy my correspondence with the woman at Tatler and will have even more news to share about a sister publication to Tatler, so stay tuned.

New pieces are emerging from my hands and I am happy with what I am creating. I've just placed an order for sterling silver I will need to create pins as I add that to my collections. More bracelets are coming as are more necklaces, earrings and pendants. I think I've finally sorted out the photography to get the best images I can, although that is always a work in progress.

Bottom line, the business is moving in the right direction - up and ever up. I couldn't be happier and welcome all that will come in the months and years ahead.