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, Etsy 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
There seems to be angels and dragons everywhere in Somerset!
In this blog post, I will share some of the places I visited on my recent Glastonbury Experience journey and what I discovered about the angels and dragons there.
When you start to look around, you see that there are lots of angels and dragons everywhere, especially in our art, sculpture and churches.
I’ve always just accepted angels and dragons being here and part of our lives, but I never really knew why so writing this blog post has been an interesting journey of discovery.
It has definitely been information overload, angels and dragons are fascinating and vast topics and it’s not been easy to just write a short blog post… but I’m going to try to keep this Glastonbury Experience blog post to just a bit of the info I’ve discovered about Archangel Michael and the angels/dragons that decorate a few of the places in and around Glastonbury.
Some info about angels:
In the ‘Secrets of the Universe in Symbols’ by Sarah Bartlett, “Regarded as messengers of God by Jews, Christians and Muslims, they embody heavenly purity and benevolence…”
a winged bull – angel
musical angel on the organ
Some photos of angels and winged creatures that decorate the ancient 12th Century St Cuthbert’s Church in Wells, near Glastonbury in Somerset. It has a beautiful painted wooden roof decorated with angels, interesting history and carvings/stonework. For more of its history visit St Cuthbert’s website.
And this leads me on to St Michael/Archangel Michael, who he is and what he does, depends really on your faith and beliefs.
In the Sacred Sites blog on Glastonbury: “St.Michael, or more properly the Archangel Michael, is traditionally regarded as an angel of light, the revealer of mysteries and the guide to the other world. Each of these qualities are in fact attributes of other earlier divinities that Michael supplanted. Frequently shown spearing dragons, St.Michael is widely recognized by scholars of mythology to be the Christian successor to pagan gods such as the Egyptian Thoth, the Greek Hermes, the Roman Mercury and the Celtic Bel. Mercury and Hermes were considered guardians of the elemental powers of the earth spirit, whose mysterious forces were sometimes represented by serpents and linear currents of dragon energy.”
According to Wikipedia: “In the Roman Catholic teachings, Saint Michael has four main roles or offices. His first role is the leader of the Army of God and the leader of heaven’s forces in their triumph over the powers of hell. He is viewed as the angelic model for the virtues of the spiritual warrior, with the conflict against evil at times viewed as the battle within. The second and third roles of Michael in Catholic teachings deal with death. In his second role, Michael is the angel of death, carrying the souls of all the deceased to heaven. In this role Michael descends at the hour of death, and gives each soul the chance to redeem itself before passing; thus consternating the devil and his minions. Catholic prayers often refer to this role of Michael. In his third role, he weighs souls in his perfectly balanced scales. For this reason, Michael is often depicted holding scales. In his fourth role, St Michael, the special patron of the Chosen People in the Old Testament, is also the guardian of the Church. This role also extends to his being the patron saint of a number of cities and countries”
In Somerset, there are many churches and chapels dedicated/named after him, including the picturesque 13th Century (or possibly earlier) church of St Michael and All Angels in Somerton, near Glastonbury. It’s famous for its oak roof with its elaborate carvings, featuring 4 pairs of dragons, believed to have been carved by the carpenters from nearby Muchelnay Abbey around 1500.
Today Somerton is a small sleepy rural medieval hamlet, but once it was the main town of Somerset and even for a short while in the 7th Century, the capital of the ancient county of Wessex. In Medieval times it was an important crossroads on the road between London and the South-west, which has resulted in many lovely ancient medieval buildings and it’s a pretty place to wander around. For more of its history visit the Somerton Web Museum website.
“I don’t usually look up at ceilings, but it’s got me looking upwards to see what’s hidden there!”
Some info about dragons:
Wikipedia states that: “A dragon is a legendary creature, typically scaled or fire-spewing and with serpentine, reptilian or avian traits, that features in the myths of many cultures around the world.”
St Michael is often shown in images with his lance, battling a dragon. In Christianity and many other religions, it signifies good conquering evil.
But, there’s more to dragons than this… In China and many Asian countries, dragons are a symbol of good luck, power and strength.
There are many different types of dragons; ‘Wyvern’ dragons are two-legged winged dragons with barbed tails and these are usually the type shown with St Michael, whereas Chinese dragons are more snake like.
Until I began looking into why there are so many dragons here in Somerset, I hadn’t realised that it’s their main symbol. The Somerset county flag is a ‘Wyvern’ dragon in red and gold and for the past Century it’s been on the coat of arms for Somerset County Council and it used to be the symbol for the ancient county of Wessex, but it has an even older history going back to Celtic symbols and the Romans. Many of the counties logos, for schools, clubs and businesses feature ‘Wyvern’ dragons, and it’s on many other flags too, the most well-known one being the Welsh flag! For further info on the history of flags visit the: British County Flags blog
An alternative view of dragons can also be found on the interesting and inspiring ‘Glastonbury Tor: Maker of Myths’ website, written by Frances Howard-Gordon: “The Goddess took many forms and was represented in a variety of different aspects, but believers would see her essential nature in the harmony and balance of the natural order, the ebb and flow growth and decay of life itself. She was evoked and celebrated on hills and mountains, these being her seats or thrones on earth. It is interesting to note that many early images of the Goddess have spirals on their breasts, resembling the spiral on the Tor. Spirals also symbolised the coiled serpent or dragon, both regarded as sacred in the old religion. The dragon or serpent represented the natural energies of the earth and the sky – energies which were cooperated with and revered. In the Shakti cults of south-east Asia and China, dragons and serpents were associated with clouds and rain, and the Sumerian goddess Tiamat was a sea-serpent and Great Waters goddess. The Greek Mother of all things was the serpent Eurynome, who laid the world-egg. The dragon was also regarded as a manifestation of the psyche in which the real and the imaginary are blurred and are, as in nature, only different aspects of life.
…The first church on the Tor was probably of the late twelfth or early thirteenth century and was dedicated to St Michael – a dedication which was characteristic of such a hill-top site. St Michael, apart from being the ruler of archangels according to Christian tradition, was also the dragon-slayer and the personal adversary of Satan. Early Christianity believed the gods of the old religion to be fallen angels or demons. The Christian church seems to have had a definite policy of building churches dedicated to St Michael on the old religious sites and sacred mounds. Since the Tor and its spiral maze represented the dragon, a symbol of the Primal Mother or Earth Spirit in pagan times, the building of a church dedicated to the dragon-slayer was obviously meant to act as a powerful deterrent to any kind of pagan celebration.”
My research into angels and dragons has been quite a revelation and given me a whole new outlook on them. I still view them with awe and wonder, but it’s combined with greater knowledge and a desire to know more…
My next blog post – Glastonbury Experience July 2017, St Michael pilgrimage path – follows soon, come and join me on my journey, Sam Rowena x
One of the Anglo Saxon pieces in the Warrior Treasures exhibition of the Staffordshire Hoard particularly stood out from the rest, as it seemed to have a different design.
The detailing and workmanship on this sword pommel wasn’t quite as intricate, it had different colouring – not being gold (although some little bits of gold can still be seen) – and I think its the only one decorated with a strange face, alongside its zoomorphic animal designs.
I was intrigued by it and wanted to discover more about it… Does this bearded face have some significance? and what does it mean?
I had come across other similar faces in Anglo-Saxon artwork and in churches, symbols for the Celtic Green Man, ancient gods and other deities.
My first internet search yielded a thesis paper by Rachel D. Brewer about the Staffordshire Hoard, which had a paragraph about the piece (it was written just after the Hoard had been discovered, so there may be newer evidence that’s come to light since then). It stated that the bearded man pommel is believed to be one of the oldest items in the Hoard and from the late 6th Century, possibly of Scandinavian origin. Its made from a copper-alloy and has a ‘ski-slope’ style shape.
On my next internet search, I came across a blog post written by Rosie Weetch, curator and Craig Williams, illustrator at the British Museum. ‘Decoding Anglo-Saxon art‘ helped explain it further for me, that these animal patterns have multi-layered symbolic meanings and stories behind them. The following passage from the blog is really interesting:
“…is a bearded face with a helmet underneath two birds that may represent the Germanic god Woden/Odin with his two companion ravens. The image of a god alongside other powerful animals may have offered symbolic protection to the wearer like a talisman or amulet.”
Although, in the blog post other examples of Anglo-Saxon bearded faces were featured, it does seem to fit this pommel design, as I can clearly see 2 birds/ravens on the pommel, one at either side of bearded face.
I did some Wikipedia research on it: “In Old Norse texts, Odin is depicted as one-eyed and long-bearded, frequently wielding a spear named Gungnir, and wearing a cloak and a broad hat. He is often accompanied by his animal companions—the wolves Geri and Freki and the ravens Huginn and Muninn…”
There’s further info on Wikipedia about the Norse god Odin, and his companions, the wolves and ravens.
The animals on the reverse side of the pommel have been interpreted as boars, the jagged teeth are quite prominent, but perhaps these could be his wolf companions?
one of the gold pommels in the exhibition
the view from above and the interlace design
the mysterious bearded man pommel
Looking down at the top of the pommel you can see a lovely interlace pattern, but also that it looks quite worn / well used. I found more info about this on another blog post by the ‘Thegns of Mercia’:
“Given most items in the hoard are dated to the 7th to early 8th century, sth711 is something quite special. It may be hundreds of years older than the rest of the hoard; a historical artifact even before it was buried.
“There’s far more that is peculiar about this piece, though. First, it’s apex has seen its 2+ mm deep relief completely rubbed away. It’s fair to say that the top third of the pommel cap has lost all it’s decoration to wear and tear. This contrasts strongly with most other items in the hoard which, though made from softer materials, do not display this kind of damage. They are mangled and bent from detachment, yes, but for the most part, they were not subject to decades or centuries of wear before they were put in the ground…” read more of their blog post
I’m completely amazed by what I discovered about it!
Wow… The mysterious bearded man representing the Pagan god Wodin / Odin would indeed make it a very special sword and pommel. I think the Anglo-Saxons believed it would offer them protection and bring them good luck, especially as it had been used in many battles and had been kept and handed down the generations.
I had only intended to write a short blog post, just one or two paragraphs about this intriguing Anglo Saxon piece in the Staffordshire Hoard, but I kept on discovering more about it. I hope you’ll also find this blog post interesting. You too can visit and see this piece in the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition
x Samantha, jewellery artist
Taking inspiration from the Anglo Saxon spiral designs in the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition and linking it to jewellery making, I taught 2 spiral jewellery making workshops for the Leeds Royal Armouries Museum in July and August 2016 as part of their Warrior Treasures exhibition.
It was a pleasure and an honour to be able to combine teaching jewellery making with my interest in the Anglo Saxons. It also mean’t I’d have another opportunity to visit the Staffordshire Hoard Warrior Treasures exhibition.
Anglo Saxon design is fascinating and its so intricate. I’m especially interested in ancient civilizations in particular their art and design, as I studied design for 3 years at college (this was followed by working as an in-house designer for a number of years, before retraining as a teacher. I also studied silversmithing for 5 years part-time at college and have been making jewellery for over 25 years).
The workshop included many demos, as we covered a number of different spiral designs, from basic spirals to double spirals using different types and thicknesses of copper wire, plus there were a few continuation spiral designs. This was followed by turning these spiral pieces into jewellery.
Everyone that took part in the workshops, seemed to enjoy themselves and became engrossed in making their spirals and finished the day with a number of pieces of spiral jewellery, including earrings, pendants, charms and a spiral charm / pendant beaded cord necklace or bracelet.
Some of the super spiral jewellery created by the students on these workshops:
spiral earrings and pendat
spiral earrings, pendant and charms
spiral earrings and pendat
variation spiral earrings
spiral earrings and beaded necklace with spiral pendants
The pieces on display in the Warrior Treasures Staffordshire Hoard exhibition are completely fascinating and enchanting. So much work and skills has gone into creating them. There are a number of pieces that are decorated with spirals, most of these have double spirals, but a few of them have a mixture of different spiral patterns.
Many ancient civilizations across the world used spirals in their artwork. Neolithic examples that are 4-5,000 years old can be seen at the entrance to the Newgrange passage tomb in Ireland as well as Megalithic Temple decoration in Malta.
Spirals are believed to signify the cycle of life and double spirals the Spring and Autumn equinoxes.
Maybe the use of spirals by these ancient civilizations helped to make them revered mysterious symbols and continue their usage by later civilizations.
Some of the spiral decorated pieces in the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition:
double spiral decoration on a pommel
double spiral decoration on a bird shaped figure
a mixture of spiral and other patterns
a mixture of spirals and other patterns
Taking inspiration from these Anglo Saxon spiral designs in the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition and linking it to jewellery making, I taught 2 spiral jewellery making workshops for the Leeds Royal Armouries Museum in July and August 2016 as part of their Warrior Treasures exhibition.
See some pieces created by my students on these workshops in my next blog post. Samantha, jewellery artist x
The ‘Warrior Treasures, Saxon Gold from the Staffordshire Hoard’ exhibition is on at Leeds Royal Armouries Museum until 2 October 2016. This stunning exhibition is not too be missed!
This treasure was discovered in 2009 in a field in Staffordshire by a metal detectorist.
Since its discovery, the objects have been cleaned and studied by archeologists and the treasure’s story is slowly being revealed. The decorations on these hidden weapons are giving us further insight and knowledge about the world of the Anglo Saxon’s in the 7th Century.
Some info about the Hoard from the Leeds Royal Armouries museum leaflet:
“The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found. It was probably buried over 1300 years ago, around AD 650-675. The hoard contains beautifully crafted gold and silver objects which were originally used to decorate high status swords and knives. Nothing like this has ever been found before.”
for more info – visit the Leeds Royal Armouries Museum website
At the end of 2012, I was nearby Stoke collecting my kiln stand and got chatting to the lady I’d bought my kiln off and discovered from her that the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition was on in Stoke. I spent an enjoyable afternoon looking at the exhibits, learning about them and being absorbed in another world. I was fascinated by the skill involved in designing and creating such beautiful pieces. A mix of different styles has been used; garnet and gold cloisonné work using step and key patterns in the carpet style, zoomorphic animals, interlace patterns and filigree spiral decoration. They are amazing!
I never imagined at the time, that a few years later I would have the opportunity to be involved with the Staffordshire Hoard touring exhibition at Leeds Royal Armouries Museum and teach some jewellery making workshops using inspiration from the spiral designs in the Staffordshire Hoard.
It follows on from my previous jewellery making workshops a few years ago for the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition in Durham and the Landscapes Project in the Forest of Bowland. These enabled me to bring together my teaching of jewellery making with my interest in the artwork designs of the Anglo-Saxons.
See some examples created at these workshops in my next blog posts, Samantha x
To create some of my jewelart abstract glass pendants, I use glue to attach a bail onto the glass and I have to admit that gluing is one of my least favourite tasks, here are some of my adventures learning how best to use it.
You would think that gluing a bail onto a glass cabochon would be a piece of cake. But there is more to it than you think, for a start, you can’t just use any old glue…
Glass has got a smooth and cold surface and not all types of glue create a good bond, such as the hot glue guns. Superglue would glue a metal bail onto glass no problem, but then if you drop the glass it is more likely to shatter than using epoxy glue.
Epoxy adhesive creates a good bond and if the glass pendant is dropped, it takes the impact of the fall – rather than the glass, when superglue is used – but this weakens the glue’s bond. Another problem with epoxy glues is that in very hot weather the glue can melt.
Before you begin to glue, you first have to roughen/sand the part of the glass and bail to be glued, followed by cleaning them with acetone and then you are ready to glue.
My glass journey using glue
For my first pendants in 2010 I used a glue from B&Q that I’d been recommended, but I had mixed results with it. After spending some time researching glass glues on the internet, I moved over to E6000, which is the standard epoxy glue used by many glass artists as its easy to use, it comes premixed in a tube and isn’t expensive.
I bought my first extra large tube of E6000 from America on ebay and it seemed to work fine, but my next tube that I got from ebay (England) I had problems with, so I went back to using the first tube and began having mixed results with this one too. I wondered as I’d been using it for a few years, whether over time the glue had lost its strength. Next, I purchased a small tube from an English bead company, but again I was getting mixed results and was sometimes having to reglue the pendants to make them secure, a lot of hastle.
I needed to find a better solution for my glass gluing and looked further into the other options available. One of the companies I buy my glass from recommends using the 3M epoxy glue, its quite expensive (costs 10x more than E6000), you have to mix it yourself, plus you need to wear a proper face mask.
I moved over to this glue at the beginning of 2016 and ‘touch wood’ it seems to be working, as I’ve been wearing a pendant I made and glued in February and the bail is secure.
well it should do too, as they say on their website that it will glue a car to the side of the wall!
jewelart glass pendants
I wear my own glass pendants, plus some of my family and friends wear them too and I want everyone that has purchased a glass pendant to enjoy wearing them.
If you’ve purchased a jewelart glass pendant (with a bail design) and the glue has failed / the bail has come off your pendant, please contact me and send me the glass cabochan & bail or give them to me at an event:
purchased in the past 12 months – I am happy to reglue the bail on it for you and post it back to you free of charge
purchased over 12 months – I am happy to reglue it for you free of charge, but there will be a small charge of £2 p&p
if you want me to apply a new bail to your jewelart glass cabochon, I can do this for an extra £3 charge
Glass is entrancing and enticing… The lure of the beauty of glass, with its amazing colours, depth and sparkle.
I’m honoured that when people see my glass jewellery displayed at events, it gets such a great reaction, its admired and complimented.
At these events, I chat about my glasswork to visitors and I’m also often asked if I teach glass fusing.
These are a few of the reasons why I’m not teaching glass fusing:
There are so many people already teaching glass fusing, just in about a 30 mile radius of Preston, I know of more than 10 people teaching glass fusing (see paragraph below).
The health and safety aspect of it also puts me off in this day and age. I’m scared of me cutting and handling glass, nevermind students who would be in my care.
Most people usually want to do classes at weekends and I already don’t have enough weekends to go round with doing events and teaching my jewellery making classes.
So, here are just a few of the people I know in the local area / Lancashire that teach glass fusing classes:
Collette Halstead – www.colettehalstead.co.uk Once or twice, when I was teaching jewellery making classes at Alston Hall Adult College I popped in to to see Colette’s glass class there and was very impressed. Although Alston Hall college closed Christmas 2015, I think Colette still might be teaching classes at her studio near Preston.
Julie Langan – julie langan facebook page
I met Julie when I used to teach my bebeady jewellery making classes at Cedar Farm (I’ve bought a few of her glass pieces) and know a lot of people that have enjoyed doing her glass fusing workshops and created large scale glass pieces at her studio/gallery at Cedar Farm, Mawdesley.
Lynda Drummond – glass boutique facebook page I’ve met Lynda at local events, she’s lovely. She makes cards and fused glass and teaches glass fusing workshops in Lytham St Annes.
Karen Redmayne – www.redcurrantglass.co.uk
I’ve met Karen over the years doing events and she teaches glass classes at her studio in Barrowford.
There are also many others teaching glass fusing classes in St Annes, Burnley, Blackpool, Wigan etc. Plus some of the adult education colleges might still teach glass fusing classes, such as Lancaster Adult Education college.
If you are interested in learning and having ‘a go’ at glass fusing I would recommend going on a few classes with different teachers, as each teacher will teach it differently. Some teach using float glass and others with coloured and dichroic glass, which will be a good opportunity to learn and have a go using different types of glass and see how your experiments turn out. Plus you’ll learn how to cut glass and get to know about the different materials, tools and machinery.
If you do give it a go, I hope you will enjoy your learning and experimenting with glass.
Glass is entrancing and enticing… The lure of the beauty of glass, with its amazing colours, depth and sparkle.
I’m continually learning / experimenting and developing my skills on my amazing glass fusing journey, but I wouldn’t have got where I am without some help from others… it was my friend Sue I have to thank for getting me started on this path in the first place and I was helped by Christine and other members of the Southport Ceramic Artists group where I began fusing glass. Also some of the other Lancashire glass artists I know, have helped me with kiln advice, plus when I bought my second hand kiln I was given some helpful kiln notes from its previous owner. My second hand kiln was still under its 3 year guarantee and Kiln Care who make these kilns, have been a great help (even sending me a new digital controller, when it developed problems on the cusp of the guarantee ending).
The journey has not been without some glitches though… before I got my kiln I was getting quite dispondent with many of my wirework glass and other experiments not working out and still now many of my experiments can be ‘hit and miss’.
I’m really careful when I’m handling glass, especially cutting glass. To help me to combat my fear of cutting large pieces of glass and also to help develop my skills and knowledge further, I attended the Summer term glass fusing course 2 years ago at Lancaster college.
It really did help me. I had to cut very large pieces of glass and break them with my hands!
The course also gave me the opportunity to have ‘a go’ with other techniques, tools and machinery I’d not used before, such as a circle cutter (I decided this wasn’t for me as I don’t have enough strength in my hands and my circles turned into moons), a grinder and etching paste. We also used a different type of glass, float glass otherwise known as ‘windowpane glass’, which is much cheaper than the type of glass I normally work with.
Typically, I prefer the most expensive type of glass!
As I love anything that sparkles, I use dichroic glass (combined mostly with coloured glass) in my glass work, which is ultra expensive, but very sparkly too.
Glass is entrancing and enticing… The lure of the beauty of glass, with its amazing colours, depth and sparkle.
Since I began my glass fusing journey back in Spring 2010, I’ve been developing my own unique designs by experimenting and seeing what turns out and then if I’m happy with what I’ve created I turn it into glass jewellery.
Part of my design process is to make pieces of glass that I would like to wear, so in essence I’m being my own muse and creating jewellery that is to my own taste. As I’m experimenting and developing my own unique glass designs, I’m also creating something that’s a bit different.
“I love the vibrant colour, luminescence and sparkle that can be achieved working with glass and my aim is to create unique jewellery pieces that are beautiful, individual and comfortable to wear.”
The beauty of it is that as I continue on my glass fusing journey, my skills, knowledge and design range grows and evolves…
come with me on my journey,
Samantha, jewellery artist
jewelart sculptural wirework and fused glass jewellery