Wow! Life is definitely pretty strange, you just never know where things will lead… this time last year I didn’t have an inkling that I’d be teaching jewellery making masterclasses at the British Library in London as part of their iconic Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition.
“I still can’t believe it, its like something that happens in dreams, not in real life!”
Here is my story of how it began
Back in 2010, I had no idea where it would lead me when out of the blue I was contacted and asked if I was interested in teaching some jewellery making workshops as part of the Forest of Bowland AONB Landscapes Project. The brief I was given was to link the workshops to the local landscape and its history.
I think it had been expected that I’d probably choose the Romans, as we’ve got a lot of Roman history in Lancashire, including a Roman museum on the site of the Roman fort of Bremetenacum Veteranorum in Ribchester in the Ribble Valley. But whilst doing some research on the Forest of Bowland’s history, I came across the Anglo-Saxons. To be honest I didn’t really know much about them and delving further, they really intrigued me. Anyway, something seemed to be pushing me to choose them instead of the Romans?!
What an great opportunity for me learn about the Anglo-Saxons. Although they are part of our history, I wasn’t taught anything about them at school and since then, I hadn’t heard a lot about them.
This kindled the fire of my knowledge and creativity!
Once I began, I really enjoyed discovering the Anglo-Saxons and spent hours online researching and reading about them; where they came from, why they came, how they lived and most importantly for me was seeing examples of their artwork.
Alongside coming across their wonderfully strange interlaced designs with animals and birds (zoomorphic design), I noticed that they also used lots of spirals in their decoration of manuscripts, stone work, weaponry and especially in their early jewellery design. At the time, the most exciting of all were the stone crosses I found at a churchyard in the Forest of Bowland and no less they were decorated with spirals. This was great, it was the direct link I needed for the spiral jewellery designs I would teach on the workshop.
“I have been fascinated by spirals for many years, especially how they have found their way into the artwork of many ancient civilizations across the world.”
In my own jewellery making I love working with wire, especially copper wire with all its magical healing properties and by 2010 I was already teaching a range of different wirework skills including spirals on some of my further wire skills jewellery making classes in adult education at Lancashire College and on my own bebeady classes that I ran at Cedar Farm and other venues across Lancashire.
I adapted my spiral designs for these Anglo-Saxon jewellery making workshops, so that they would be suitable for both beginners and for families, adults and children. All of this took up quite a lot of time and if you were looking at it from a purely business point of view it wasn’t something worth doing, but it became more about my own development and doing something I really enjoyed.
After teaching these jewellery making workshops for the Forest of Bowland AONB Landscapes Project, I was busy and didn’t think any more about them, I had no idea where it would take me in the future… to be continued in my next blog posts, come with me on my creative journey and read my story about teaching Anglo-Saxon jewellery making workshops…
I didn’t expected to be teaching much this year, I really thought that might be it, when I stopped organising and teaching my bebeady jewellery making classes last Spring.
So I’m pretty amazed by it all!
Firstly I was quite surprised to be teaching quite a few bespoke 1-1 and small group workshops at my studio this Spring / Autumn.
Secondly and the icing on the cake, was being contacted early this Summer and asked to teach a jewellery making masterclass for the British Library in London, linked to their Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition. What an honour, although I did feel quite daunted by it, having mainly taught smaller groups the past few years, plus all the extra organisation involved with it. Will share some more about it in my next blog post….
“I have really enjoyed my teaching this year, I love to share my creativity with others and help nurture their jewellery making.”
It has meant though, that I’ve not been able to devote quite as much time to developing my ‘ash fused glass’ and other new glass and wirework designs as I’d have liked. I’ve just had to be satisfied with making slower progress. More news about them coming up in some of my next blog posts….
Bespoke jewellery making 1-1 and small group workshops
There’s more info about them on my bebeady website. I teach them from mid-February to mid-April and mid-September to mid-November at my rural studio-workshop in Lancashire. You can see some photos of what was made in my 2018 workshops on my Jewellery artist Instagram.
Come with me on my creative journey…
wishing you sparkles of light, Sam Rowena x
Its trial and error when you are creating something new, as your work doesn’t progress in a straight line, it seems more like watching a ‘ping-pong ball in action’…
Over the past year, I’ve been doing lots of experimenting and exploring many new ideas. It all takes time and it’s often hard to give it all the development time it needs.
Now I feel my patience is slowly being rewarded, as my new glass and wire designs are beginning to come together.
Am really grateful, especially after my recent ups and downs, which I’ve written about in some of my blog posts, if you’ve read my last blog – a downside of working with glass – you’ll understand why I’m appreciating it all the more.
When you have ideas and designs in your head, then sketch them and explore how to create them, it becomes like a journey you travel along before you’re able to make the finished design. Its frustrating at times, but also really satisfying.
It’s like watching a flower grow and blossom!
A year ago, I created my first pieces of ‘ash fused glass’ to help me with my grieving. This year I’ve worked further on it, my Ash Fused Glass, in the hope of being able to help others keep a little bit of their loved ones with them too. For more info visit my new website – www.ashfusedglass.co.uk
I’m also well underway with creating my new range of ultra sparkly glass pendants, see an example in the main header photo and more photos of these jewel-like beauties on Instagram – www.instagram.com/jewelleryartist
Some of my designs evolve further over time, as I adapt and change them with fresh ideas or create them in different colourways, with different beads or other variations. I’ve been doing this with many of my glass and wirework designs over the past year and will be posting about these ‘new’ updated designs and more about my Ash Fused Glass in my coming posts. Come with me on my creative journey…
For the moment I’m just feeling happy with all the progress over the past year!
Relieved that August is behind me… so many things breaking down, more accidents than usual, followed by getting an infected finger. Argh!
I don’t even know how I did it?
4 weeks ago I’d got a cut on my index finger, so the following day I was using my middle finger instead when doing some glass work at my studio. It’s not as hardy (as used to working) and I think I must have got a tiny glass splinter inside my fingernail.
Who would have thought that something like that would cause me all this trouble!
Not good. It’s hard to keep positive when you are feeling ill, as it seemed to aggravate all my weak spots, so it wasn’t just a sore fingertip that was stopping me sleeping. I had a bad back, aching arthritis, a cold and toothache as well.
At first, I tried applying an antiseptic cream, then some essential oils (lavender, tea tree and vitamin E) and bathing my hand in warm water with Himalayan salt as recommended after googling it. But after a few days – my symptoms were getting worse and my fingernail started turning black – I decided I needed to go to A and E to get it checked out by a doctor. Thankfully after a week on penicillin, I and my fingertip slowly began to recover…
As a designer-maker my hands are so precious – they’re my main tools – and working for the first 2 weeks was out I could hardly bend my finger it was so swollen. I’m so happy that this past 2 weeks my finger has gradually been getting better and I’ve been able to use it again to do short bursts of wirework, glueing and other work, although it looks like its going to take a bit longer before its fully back to normal.
I’m also glad to be back to ‘me’ and my upbeat self again!
Perhaps this and my ongoing eye problem are helping me take stock of all the positives; the progress I’m making with my new designs this year and all that I’ve learnt along my creative and spiritual journey. It’s helping me enjoy the ‘now’, be grateful and kind to myself, rather than beat myself up for not managing to do all that’s on my long to-do list. Instead, I will give myself the time it needs to get it done…
Wishing you sparkles of light along your journey too, Sam Rowena x
Its been nearly 3 months since the floaters and flashes in my right eye began and thankfully my brain is getting used to them and most of the time isn’t taking as much notice of them!
But at the beginning of May when they started I was quite worried, especially after looking up more info about them online and finding that they might be symptoms of a detached or torn retina – I’d also managed to hit myself in the eye the previous week – and I should go to A&E to get them checked out. Argh, not my favourite place, but after a few hours wait, I got an emergency appointment to see an eye specialist the following day. I had some further eye tests at my opticians and felt reassured that it looks like they are caused by something less serious (the gel around the eye) I was able to head off on holiday and continue with my life… although I still have to keep ‘an eye’ on it, should it change.
The ‘tadpole’ and black dots that are swimming around my vision and the flashes of light were initially hard to ignore and caused headaches, so I’ve needed to regularly rest my eyes and am doing mini-meditations/eye exercises too.
The other problem is that I’ve had to limit my screen time. Computer work and watching the tv puts too much strain on my eyes and gives me headaches. Luckily though with working for myself, I’ve been able to spend more time on other tasks that I can do.
Am really glad that I hadn’t booked many events over the Summer so that I’ve been able to take life at a slower pace.
It’s given me a deeper appreciation of my eyesight and there have been other benefits too from all the meditating…
Do you ever feel that barriers are put in your way to help you change what you are doing?
Whether it’s our guides or destiny, saying “no you have to stop going down the path you’re on, as its now time for a different path and a change of direction.”
I definitely am feeling this… it hardly ever snows in Lancashire, but during both my recent jewelart pop-up shops at the Platform Gallery we’ve had both snow and ice. Ok, I did have a premonition that it might snow when I booked it early last year for a week in December, but then for it to snow again during my recent March event, that was just so ‘Deja-Vue’?!
All the work that goes into organising and doing these pop-up events, laid to waste by the weather…
Just to give you an idea of some of the work involved:
Created leaflets and posters and took them to the gallery before Christmas (so that they could display them and help advertise my pop-up event), filled in the booking forms and paid the gallery hire fee
Added the event to my website events list
Displayed and gave out my pop-up shop leaflets at other events
Promoted it in my newsletter
Sent photos/info to the Gallery for them to help publicise the pop-up on their website, newsletter and social media
Another journey to Clitheroe the week before the event to put up posters in a few places around Clitheroe and check out the exact gallery space set-up
Promoted the event on my social media
Brought with me my display board for outside the gallery
The gallery hire didn’t include extra time to set-up and take down, after setting up the pop-up display, I was open to the public from midday on Friday and all day Saturday. I’d hired Monday morning to take it down, so this involved 3 journeys to Clitheroe and paying for parking each day
I know that March isn’t the best time of year to organise a pop-up shop and I wouldn’t normally have done it then, except that during my December pop-up shop I discovered that from April the Mix Gallery hire fee was doubling (tripling on Saturdays). This meant that it really wouldn’t be viable for future pop-up events there and I wanted to do it for one last time!
Alongside my jewelart pop-up shop display, there’s enough room for an extra table so that I can sit making and visitors can watch me creating abstract wire work and chat with me about my designs.
“It’s a shame, as it’s a lovely small gallery space for pop-up events, especially as there are now so few alternative places to do them in Lancashire.”
Clitheroe is such a great place to visit for a day out, as well as the Platform gallery, there are its castle ruins and museum, quirky shops, cafes and galleries, and its beautiful countryside setting.
How it began:
After taking part in some of the Platform Gallery’s pop-up Christmas meet the maker events, I hired the gallery space for a group event with my neighbouring studios, but it didn’t work as there wasn’t enough space for 5 lots of displays and for all of us to be sat with our work.
For the past few years, I’ve usually hired the gallery space twice a year. Its still been hit and miss… sometimes there were only a few people venturing inside for tourist info and they haven’t ventured further down into the gallery, or the weather was too nice for people to want to spend their time indoors and then other times, such as my recent pop-ups the bad weather put people off venturing out to Clitheroe.
“When things just aren’t working anymore, it makes you reflect on why not.”
I feel happy that I’ve had these experiences and pop-ups at the gallery and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed doing them and meeting/chatting with visitors over the years, but taking into account all the work involved with organising them, I do agree that I’m ready for a new path…
Instead of doing what I would normally do, for the past year, I’ve been trying out ‘alternatives’ from alternative therapies and healing to finding different solutions for what I do in my work and experimenting with alternative design ideas. I’m trying to approach everything with an open mind and to just see what happens…
At the end of 2016, I decided I wasn’t enjoying the work involved with organising my classes and after 13 years of teaching jewellery making classes, I thought these Spring 2017 classes would be my last ones. But, I’m still teaching, slightly differently now though, as I’ve begun teaching bespoke 1-1 and small group taster workshops.
Last Summer whilst at an artisan market, I had an interesting conversation about work with my neighbouring stallholder, she and another of the artists I knew were both working part-time as assistants/helpers for older clients through an agency. I needed some extra regular income and thought this could be a potential alternative part-time job. Since then I’ve been working a few hours to one day per week as a personal assistant.
To make it easier for my bad back and problems carrying things with my left hand, I’ve altered my display to make it easier to set up and carry using a trolley. I’m trying to limit my driving by doing events within a 45-minute drive time. Also instead of doing as many events in 2018, as an alternative, I’m devoting more time to my online sales and working on my webshop and other alternatives.
Ash Fused Glass
Out of the ashes of sadness, a new direction is born – an alternative – I’m sure my dad would be proud to be part of it too. My hope is to be able to help others that want to have a beautiful keepsake or piece of jewellery made with some of their loved ones or pets ashes.
Alternative therapies and healing
During 2017 I began going to a range of different sound healing meditations and workshops, these are amazing, but I found that I need to give myself a day or two afterwards to just chill out and relax. Sometimes I’ve felt like I’m in an altered state, my head is buzzing and I see more rainbow sparkles than usual.
I’ve also been going to Eden Energy workshops and other classes to try and help heal myself using an alternative way.
Are you also looking for alternatives to the normal path? I’ve been amazed this past year, how many others I’ve met that are also interested in similar things and alternative ways.
If it’s not working and the path seems blocked by many obstacles, my route is to find a creative way around it, an alternative path… I do believe in silver linings!
Let there be sparkles of light along your journey xx Sam Rowena
Sometimes our path seems to be strewn with all sorts of problems to overcome, 2017 was especially tough going with many things to overcome…
The passing of a loved one and illness, although difficult has helped me put everything else in perspective and made me realise that it will pass and with time I’ll get through it and better times will return.
Grief, when you lose someone close, is something you have to go through, it takes time to heal and you have to keep reminding yourself that they wouldn’t want you to be sad. It’s important to know that they remain with you in your memories and their spirit helps watch over you.
2017 also brought with it health problems. I’ve had back problems on and off for many years, but in January it ‘went’… I couldn’t even walk with the pain and it worsened in February. It gradually improved with careful treatment; regular stretches alongside visits to the osteopath, but remained ‘fragile’ most of the year and had an impact on my work.
Sitting or standing for long stretches of time made my back worse, which is hard not to do, I either sit or stand when making, at my stall, on the computer and driving. I found driving especially bad and it influenced the events I could travel to. I became more careful when carrying anything heavy and rearranged my stall display to make it easier so that I wasn’t leaning over as much. Even teaching, I’d normally lean over to help students and there’s not usually space for a chair to sit down instead.
It wasn’t only back problems plaguing me, after carrying anything with my left hand my knuckles would swell up and become painful. Then towards the end of the year, I came down with the worst cold I’ve experienced (bad enough to visit a dr to check it out) and even now months later my cough keeps on resurfacing… argh!
So glad its now 2018 and the light of Spring brings renewed hope for better times ahead. Hugs Sam Rowena x
At times over the past few years my self-belief in my chosen path – of being an artisan designer-maker – has wavered when health problems, difficult times and adversity seem to litter the way, but hope, belief and a love of being creative helps to keep me strong.
Luckily, I do believe that if our journey is too easy, we don’t always appreciate the good times when everything just seems to click into place and works out how we want it to.
Good times are all the sweeter when you’ve had to work hard to achieve your goals and overcome obstacles along the way!
This year has just been a bit of a bummer though and I think its now time for my silver linings…
Come with me on my journey of discovery on the St Michael pilgrimage path to the sacred Glastonbury Tor and Burrowbridge Mump. These are sacred and magical places with their earth energies, spirits and mysteries. I had read about the orbs of light and strange happenings at Glastonbury Tor but never expected to see them for myself, another enchanting experience and I will share it with you in this blog post.
I guess I’m a modern-day pilgrim traveller and feel blessed that Glastonbury Tor and its springs call me to return. Being there, meditating gives me such a sense of peace and wonder, its powerful life force recharges my batteries and my immersion in its waters helps heal me.
This Summer as part of my annual pilgrimage, I spent a few days discovering some of the other ancient and sacred places near to Glastonbury – you can read more about my Glastonbury Experience in my other blog posts: Angels and Dragons and Ancient Trees – and my guidebook ‘The Traveller’s Guide to Sacred England’ by John Mitchell, inspired me to go and visit the magical ‘Mump’ or King Alfred’s Fort at Burrowbridge.
It was a glorious July summer morning and after a short drive, I parked at the free National Trust car park and walked up the ‘Mump’ (just 79ft high) to the ruined St Michael’s church. Whilst I looked around the ruin and sat in its shade having a picnic and reading my guidebook, a few visitors came and went, I even had the Mump to myself for a while. I watched the Swift fly in the breeze around the hill before returning to perching on their ledge, high up in the Tower. There was a glorious view of the surrounding Somerset countryside and in the distance, I could make out a hazy Glastonbury Tor rising up from the Somerset Levels. In ancient times, this whole area was sea and marshland and the Burrow Mump would have been an island.
Burrowbridge Mump with its ruined church dedicated to St. Michael is also significant for being on the St Michael ley line.
A ley-line is an energy / psychic power line, often lying on ancient trackways and spiritual sites of pagan ceremony.
Paul Devereux, editor of the ‘Ley Hunter’ and many books on earth energies identifies these ‘spirit paths’ as stretches of ancient trackway. An excerpt from ‘Encyclopedia of the Unexplained’; “He believes that rather than interpret them as lines of energy created by the ‘biosphere’ of a living planet, they are trails along which sensitive people felt ‘drawn’ towards a spiritual centre, today often demarked by a church. Devereux thinks that there is an inter-relationship between much of the earth mysteries field and the collective consciousness of human beings.”
In my guidebook, John Michell says that: “St Michael on the Tor is one of the stations in an alignment of Michael shrines that extends along the spine of southwest England… In very ancient times the path appears to have provided a pilgrimage route from the west to the great temple at Avebury. Eleven miles southwest of Glastonbury, the road to Taunton skirts another prominent St Michael’s Hill, also topped by a ruined church, known as ‘the Mump’ at Burrowbridge. From the church on the Mump, Glastonbury Tor is visible behind intervening hills. That alignment, from Mump to Tor, extends eastward precisely to the southern entrance of the Avebury ring, touching two of the enormous stones of the main circle.”
John Michell tells us about the St Michael shrines built on sacred high places: “St Michael shrines are commonly set on high places, where beacon fires once blazed on festival days. At such places, the electric forces of the atmosphere make contact with the magnetic powers of the earth, producing strange effects whose causes are unexplained by modern science. Balls of light emanating from the Tor are often seen hovering above it, giving rise to legends which vary with the times, from tales of fairies and demons to modern reports of unidentified flying objects.”
On reading this in my guidebook, little did I think that I too would come to experience this strange phenomenon.
On that evening, Wednesday 5 July, I shouldn’t have been walking up Glastonbury Tor at all, as it had been my intention to go the talk by Dr. Jacqueline Hobbs in Glastonbury. But, I was struggling with the heatwave we were having in Somerset, so after walking up and down and then around the base of the Burrowbridge Mump, followed by visiting the St Michaels and All Angels church in Somerton (read my previous blog post about it) and returning to my accommodation for a coffee and cold shower, I felt an urge to visit the Tor, where it would be cooler.
I think it was just after 6pm when I was heading up the Tor on this beautiful evening. There were still a few tourists around and as I reached the bench half-way up the Pilgrim Path to the Tor I was quite relieved to find it empty. As soon as I sat down, I noticed something quite unusual, I could see not far off, a group of about 15-20 seagulls that were flying/circling around a small area (I think they were above Chalice Hill), then I saw that about a metre in front of me, there were lots of midges or small flies that seemed to be static there and also in alignment with the seagulls.
Then I noticed something even stranger… I saw a group of 4 or 5 coloured balls/shapes of light just above the trees at the base of the Tor, they seemed to flash by quickly and after a few seconds, they disappeared into the trees.
A few minutes later they returned again and I began to watch and study them. These shimmering coloured balls of light appeared above the trees near to where the path up the Tor begins and then floated around the base of the Tor before disappearing into the trees at the other side of the Tor, I think about where the path from the Tor comes out onto the road. The balls of light repeated this journey sometimes only seconds later and other times after a few minutes. Each time it only lasted for maybe 5 seconds and unfortunately, they were way too fast for me to photograph, plus I had the sun in my eyes and even wearing dark sunglasses I was having to shade my eyes with my hand in order to see them.
How can I describe them?
They weren’t exactly round balls of light, having more of an irregular shape and a kind of cloud-like form as if they weren’t solid. They were colourful, but not as luminescent and bight as a rainbow, sort of muted shades of different colours, pastel shades of aqua/pale green-blue and purple-pink.
After about 40 minutes I sensed a change in the air, I can’t recall if there was more of a breeze or if it had been stillness before and the wind had picked up, both the seagulls and flies disappeared and the lights didn’t return again.
I felt really honoured to have been part of this special experience on Glastonbury Tor.
I was filled with exhilaration, wonder and awe. Although my mind was trying to think of a logical explanation for what I had just seen. I couldn’t think of anything that could explain it.
I often see colours in the clouds, coronas of light and iridescence and these can be reasonably explained, but these balls of light on Glastonbury Tor were different with their speed and closeness to the ground.
Why did no-one else seem to notice them?
Whilst I was sat there on the bench, I didn’t see that many people walk past and they were usually keeping an eye on the path. There were a few people up at the Tor and a paraglider flew past, but maybe with them being higher up and further away, the lights might not have been as clear.
And what created this phenomenon? Was it an energy vortex?
Perhaps for a short while, the bridge between the seen and unseen dimensions was open and I witnessed the spirit energies of departing souls in this our world centre / axis mundi, a transitional place that connects heaven and earth. There are some theories about Glastonbury Tor being an ‘Avalonian Soul Portal’ and I feel I need to read more about it.
I guess it will remain a mystery of the Tor for a while longer…
This series of blog posts about my Glastonbury Experiences in Summer 2017 has grown from the short posts I originally intended to do. The more I delved into the articles, folklore and myths surrounding this enchanted place, the more fascinating information I came across and I wanted to share it with you in the hope that it’ll inspire you to visit these sacred places and feel the same magic there that I do.
Enjoy the journey on the road to your destination, Sam Rowena xx
There’s quite a lot of info – books and websites – out there about Glastonbury, its energy, ley lines and mysterious lights:
Paul Devereux has written many books about ‘Earth Light’ phenomena. One of my favourite books is ‘Secrets of Ancient and Sacred Places’, in it he states than on one visit to the Tor in 1967, he too witnessed balls of light there.