Category Archives: news

high ups and low downs of 2020 – a Wintery start

My 2020 began with a manic few months, there were some amazing ups, but also downs too!
A new year always begins with hope, dreams, and aspirations for the future and what can be achieved during the year. 

One of my goals was to sell my work in some new venues in 2020, in 2019 I got the ball rolling by booking an exhibition – a year ahead – for Autumn 2020 and also applied to be part of a new local venture on my doorstep. In January, I got some super news, happily, I’d been accepted to join ‘Barrica in the Park’ in Chorley, and would be displaying my work there from when it opened to the public on the 1st of February.

Barrica in the Park in a 17th century farmhouse
Barrica in the Park is in this  gorgeous 17th Century farmhouse

Also, more fantastic news, I learned that my Anglo-Saxon theme jewellery making Masterclasses at the British Library would be going ahead. So lots of last-minute work ordering/organising materials, booking a hotel and train tickets, and doing extra research and designs for it.  

On a downside, I came down with pretty bad food poisoning and a cold, thankfully I was well enough in time for my teaching down in London.

But more was to come, during February England was hit with some devastating storms, bringing many floods in their wake. Trains were cancelled and I got stuck in London for an extra night. I also learned that my studio-workshop had been badly flooded… once I was home and the storm and the floodwaters had subsided, I headed over there to find it was a complete mess. Argh! 

The next few weeks were quite a slog, trying to salvage what I could from the damp, cold, and foul-smelling studio. I could only cope with a being there for a few hours each day, impaired by the numbness that affects my hands – it only allows me to do short bursts of work – trying to wash and clean the smelly grime of the floodwater off the stuff in my studio. The mouldy damp conditions and breathing in the stank air of my flooded studio were making me ill, I decided it would be better to sort through my stuff at a slower pace, from the warmth and comfort of my home and that I needed to move out.   

It was then March and I was kept busy with sorting and kitting out a new cabinet and display of my work in Barrica in the Park, then our lock-down began…

I will be sharing more about these highs and lows in my next blog posts, come with me on my adventures…wishing you sparkles of light!

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x

high ups and low downs of 2020 – lockdown

What a year it has been so far, with ups and downs aplenty, it’s definitely going to be a year to remember!
Hopefully, when our lives resume and go back to normal after the pandemic has gone for good, we will see the positives that have come out of this experience we are going through now.

“Our months of lockdown have given most of us the chance to reconnect with who we are and what is really important to us; our health, family, friends, a roof over our heads, and enough food on the table. Plus an opportunity to reflect on our lives, dreams and aspirations.”

Slowing down has given us time to really appreciate the simple pleasures of life, the beautiful colours and sounds all around us in nature during the changing seasons – the smell of the earth after the rain, flowers blossoming, birds singing – all continuing around us quite unaware of what is going on in our world.

a lovely rose in my garden 2020
a beautiful rose blossoming in my garden

The beauty of each day dawning afresh with new hope!
Such blissful peace and quiet we have not known before with places empty of people and their noise. All but a few essential shops closed for months, with many cafes, restaurants, museums, galleries, and other businesses still yet to open their doors again to visitors as we get used to our ‘new normal’ way of life…

But I know that not everyone’s experiences these past few months have been the same. A few of my friends have been busier than ever as essential workers or they’re juggling working from home with home-schooling their children and food shopping for parents self-isolating. There are many that will be going through suffering too, being ill with the virus or losing loved ones, and friends to it.

I am sure, we are all thankful to everyone helping to care for the sick and those who continue working for us in our essential services; hospitals, care homes, food shops, post offices, police, public transport, often putting themselves at risk.

“After going through treatment for cancer 19 years ago, I’ve learnt that we just have to take one day at a time, and appreciate that we are still here and all we are blessed with.
Worrying about things won’t help us, especially when we are going through something outside of our control, we need to try to keep a positive and thankful mindset.”

More about my highs and lows so far this year in my next blog posts, come with me on my adventures…wishing you sparkles of light!

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x

Inspired by the magic of spirals – part2

The spiral design has fascinated me for many years and I seem to come across it all the time… from the artwork of our ancient civilizations to the modern-day artists, such as Klimt and it can be found all around us in nature and the cosmos too.  It feels quite special!

Whatever its real meaning when I make my spiral shapes using copper wire it’s very relaxing and therapeutic, whether it’s from working with copper which has many magical and healing properties or it comes from creating the spiral shape, or its a combination of both. I can feel lovely energy from it and when I first started working at my studio, I occasionally saw a white light emanating from my hands whilst making spirals and other shapes. I still see this white or colourful aura of vibrating energy, now it’s mostly when I’m outside in the sunlight doing my mini eye meditations, rather than when I’m working indoors. Whenever I see them though it always feels pretty magical…

My new spiral designs, well they aren’t really ‘new’ as I began making these spiral glass pieces a few years ago, but just wasn’t quite happy with them, so put the design to one side. An idea of how to fix the design came to me during one of my dreams. Many ideas, designs, or even words and sentences (I struggle with my writing) come to me when I am in the space between awake and sleep. I see the answer to problems or visualise the completed design, often I will wake myself up to write it down or sketch them.

When I began working on these ‘new’ spiral designs again in Spring 2018 I made only slow progress for 6 months due to my eyesight problems and a finger infection. But by trial and error, I learnt how best to make/glue them (they’re pretty fiddly) and gave myself a pair to wear to test them out. I loved that a friend at the studio saw me wearing them and asked me to make her a pair too!

They are quite bewitching beautiful and sparkly!

By November, I had finished a small selection in different colours and shapes ready in time for my Christmas events. It was really rewarding when something that you’ve designed and created goes down well and others also love what you’ve designed and made.

elfin alchemy spiral glass earrings
spiral glass earrings in silver shades

In the Spring I entered 4 of the ‘silver/crystal’ colour spiral glass / Swarovski earring designs Into the Lancashire Open exhibition at the Platform Gallery in Clitheroe, happily, they all got selected and 7 pairs went off to new homes!

Am just so pleased with how all my designs, experiments and work in progress are coming along – my new glass pendant designs and these earrings in a variety of different colourways – a selection of them are on display / for sale on my stall at events and there’ll be a small curated collection on my new elfin alchemy website (launched in the Spring).

“I feel really proud of this design, although they’re still pretty fiddly to make, they are quite magical and worth the work involved.”

My own collection of them is growing too – as a chief tester – I’ve a few pairs in the different styles and love wearing them all!

In one of my future blog posts, I’ll be sharing some more of my journey and how my ‘elfin alchemy’ name found me, come with me on my adventures…

Wishing you sparkles of light!

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x

Inspired by the magic of spirals – part1

Was it just a coincidence that last summer whilst I was busy working on fine-tuning some of my spiral wirework jewellery designs that the British Library contacted me?  If you’ve read my last few posts, yes quite amazingly I got to teach my Anglo-Saxon inspired spiral wirework jewellery making masterclasses as part of their iconic Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition.

The spiral design is a feature of many Anglo-Saxon artworks, in manuscripts, metalwork, stone crosses etc and it’s also a design that has fascinated me for decades.

some info about the spiral symbol

The spiral is believed to symbolise the journey or cycle of life, perhaps in some instances, it represents a serpent, the cosmos or the spiral of life. But, when used to decorate Anglo-Saxon crosses in churchyards (see below), the running spiral design also known as a plant or vine scroll is thought to symbolise Christ as the true vine which gives life and is a visualisation of salvation and paradise.

spiral decoration on a stone cross in Cumbria
Anglo-Saxon spiral decoration on a stone cross in Cumbria

my journey

In my late teens and early 20s, I spent some years travelling, working, backpacking around the world and having adventures (will share a few of these with you another day). This time in my life enabled me to experience many different places, its people and their culture. Art, design and history have always interested me and my travels helped open up my eyes to this new world of mysterious sacred places, our ancient ancestors and their artwork.

I could see many similarities across the continents and time divide, from Australia, South and Central America to our European Neolithic ancestors, the Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. The mystery of why they all created these spiral designs and what this and other symbols signified has intrigued me ever since… and yes, I still find spirals everywhere!

Well, there is a little bit more on this inspired by spirals journey, that involves my own jewellery designs and how my new business name found me, which I will share in some of my next blog posts, come with me on my adventures…

Wishing you sparkles of light!

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x

Anglo-Saxon inspired – my story 3

I really didn’t have an inkling 9 years ago when I chose to learn more about our Anglo-Saxon heritage and teach these Anglo-Saxon theme jewellery making workshops for the Landscapes Project quite where it would lead or the incredible journey I would have…

Is it our destiny that pulls us in these directions, moves us by chance onto these different paths?

Destiny, fate, chance whatever you want to call it, seems to play a major part in my life, as so much of what I do seems to happen by accident. When I retrained as a teacher 16 years ago, I thought I would just teach basic design and photo-editing. I had no idea that two years later I would begin to specialise in teaching jewellery making and teach it at a number of colleges, groups, galleries and organise/run my own bebeady classes for over 10 years.

Learning about the Anglo-Saxons and teaching my jewellery making workshops for the Landscapes Project for the Forest of Bowland AONB really helped enrich my knowledge and broaden my horizons. It was the start of something amazing that linked my teaching with my design skills, jewellery making and my interest in our ancient ancestors.

My Anglo-Saxon adventure continues – 3
So after teaching the workshops at the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition in Durham, it was followed in 2016 by being asked to teach some workshops as part of the Warrior Treasures, Saxon Gold / Staffordshire Hoard exhibition at the Leeds Royal Armouries Museum. They’d also discovered me online via the Landscapes Project (sadly it’s not online anymore).

These workshops were longer, for a day instead of 2 hours and inspired by some of the Anglo-Saxon designs in the exhibition – that was decorated with double spirals – I  developed some further wirework jewellery designs.

anglo-saxon jewellery making pieces created by students
double spiral design inspired by pieces in the Staffordshire Hoard created at the workshop

I’ve already written a few blog posts about this particular journey, my teaching and Staffordshire Hoard exhibition visits:

What happened next was very wow! I couldn’t believe it when last Summer I was contacted by the British Library, which resulted in me travelling down to London in October 2018 and January 2019 and teaching my Anglo-Saxon jewellery making 1-day masterclasses as part of their iconic Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition.

“If there is ever a good example of the benefits of writing a blog, I think this is it… as I asked how they found me and it was from doing a google search and my blog posts and websites were there!”

It was super exciting, but I also put in a fair bit of time in preparing myself for it; learning more about the Anglo-Saxons, developing further designs for the masterclasses and ordering/organising materials etc. It was also way outside of my comfort zone… once I’m actually teaching I’m ok, as I feel happy when I’m demonstrating or helping students, but talking/presenting I find much more difficult and my brain often turns to jelly with my words coming out jumbled up or not at all.  Thankfully both masterclasses went really well and I was very proud of myself for facing my fears.

What a wonderful opportunity it was and so totally unexpected. Plus I got to visit the fascinating exhibition for a quick look before I went around with the workshop participants pointing out pieces of particular interest and inspiration for the masterclass workshop designs.

Well, there is a little bit more to my Anglo-Saxon journey, that involves my own jewellery designs and my new business name, which I will share in my next blog posts, come with me on my adventures…

Read my other blog posts:

Wishing you sparkles of light!

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x

Anglo-Saxon inspired – my story 2

It was a great experience teaching the Anglo-Saxon jewellery making workshops for the AONB Forest of Bowland Landscapes Project – and although I didn’t know it yet – the wheels had now been set in motion!

At these workshops, the project co-ordinator was there, alongside a photographer Gaye Woolard taking photographs of me teaching, the students making and our finished jewellery makes. Some of these photos, together with student feedback and info on the workshops were then featured on the Landscapes Project website. This really was pivotal and helped open the door for the amazing things to come…

anglo-saxon jewellery making workshop at the Landscapes Project Forest of Bowland AONB
teaching my first Anglo-Saxon jewellery making workshop at the Landscapes Project in 2010

My Anglo-Saxon adventure continues
2 years later and again totally unexpected, the workshop organiser for the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition at Durham Cathedral contacted me and asked if I was interested in teaching some workshops they were running alongside the exhibition. As you can imagine, I was both surprised and ‘over the moon’ about it, and asked them how they found me?

“A google internet search of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ workshops had led them to the Landscapes Project and me!”

It was really exciting and a great opportunity for me to develop my knowledge of the Anglo-Saxons further, I even discovered I had a British Library book about St Cuthbert and the Lindisfarne Gospels amongst my small collection of books, which felt just like ‘kismet’.  It was great that the world of the Lindisfarne Gospels would be brought to life, as I was able to combine my teaching with a visit to see the beautiful Durham Cathedral and the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition in person.

Lindisfarne Gospels book by the British Library
learning about the Lindisfarne Gospels prior to my Anglo-Saxon jewellery making workshops

Similar to the Landscapes Project workshops it was open to everyone. On my jewellery making courses, I’ve mainly taught women – from teens to adults – and it was really rewarding to have these opportunities to teach mixed groups; women, men, and children. I was delighted that the children managed much better than I expected and were often able to pick up the skills quicker than adults. Perhaps because children are learning new things all the time and will just give it a go without worrying about it, whereas some adults have a fear that they aren’t creative or won’t be able to do it.

Afterward, on my journey back to Lancashire, I spent a few days visiting other Anglo-Saxon churches near Newcastle, Hexham Abbey, the Long Meg stone circle, and Mayburgh Henge near Penrith. It’s a beautiful area with so much sacred and ancient historical interest, one day I hope to return and spend more time exploring this fascinating area.

I’m still amazed when I look back on this journey, it continues in my next blog post, come with me on my adventures and read my story about teaching Anglo-Saxon jewellery making workshops.

Read my other blog posts about this journey:

Wishing you sparkles of light!

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x

Anglo-Saxon inspired – my story 1

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!”

Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition at the British Library
Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition

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 a great opportunity for me to 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, stonework, weaponry and especially in their early jewellery design. At the time, the most exciting of all was 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 in the workshop.

Anglo-Saxon stone cross in the Forest of Bowland AONB
Anglo-Saxon stone cross in the Ribble Valley

“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…  

Wishing you sparkles of light!

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x

Teaching 2018

I didn’t expect 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.

bespoke workshop
a personalised day workshop for a mother and daughter

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 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.

Wishing you sparkles of light!

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x

new designs 2018

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. It’s frustrating at times, but also really satisfying.

It’s like watching a flower grow and blossom!

I’m 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 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.

Wishing you sparkles of light!

Thanks for joining me on my creative journey,
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x

a downside of working with glass

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. 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, gluing and other work, although it looks like it’s 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 learned 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!

Thank you for joining me on my creative journey, 
Sam Rowena, jewellery artist x