Wednesday, 20 November 2013


The Danish design team Sebastian Holmbäck and Ulrik Nordentoft have created a wide range of designs ranging from furniture, lighting, kitchen tools and interior design and Georg Jensen have commissioned them to design their Artist Heart for 2014. Delivering cutting edge designs across such a range of genres is a testament to their genius. Rather than specialising in one type of product, they are adept at all of them, applying their flair for great design to any manner of products. Each year Georg Jensen chooses an artist to create and share his or her vision of the symbolic motif, now running in its 20th consecutive year, the Georg Jensen Artist Heart demonstrates that love is open to endless interpretation.

HolmbäckNordentoft’s philosophy is to let the design in their products and solutions evoke emotions; using the aesthetic elements to generate excitement, and a tangible meaningfulness and purpose which engages the receiver, and gives the design a lasting value. They believe in sustainable design that: "you will keep, use and care for until used to bits and pieces. Designs that age beautifully with wear and tear." They represent a holistic approach where consideration for the environment, the consumer and economy matters equally. I can see why this philosophy is aptly chosen to represent the Artist Heart at this time.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Art around every corner - the Ilkley Art Trail

This year I'm very proud to be sponsoring the Ilkley Art Trail. From Wednesday the 9th until Sunday the 13th of October over 40 artists will be exhibiting their work at 28 venues across Ilkley, you can get a chance to Meet the artists in their own homes and studios and pop-up gallery spaces around the town. Now in its third year, the Trail compliments the events of the Ilkley Literature Festival which will also be starting next week.

There will be a variety of work exhibited , painting and sculpture, print making, ceramics, wood turning and glass works and jewellery to name some. I do like the look of Anita Bowerman's exceedingly finely detailed paper cutting pictures, especially the one of Betty's Tearooms.

Gillian Gilroy's rendering of a dog in a swirling pen is very poignant, and Sarah Clough's vibrant textural paintings inspired by African body painting are at the same time bold and richly detailed.

As well as homes and studios being opened as galleries, artists will also show their work in shops, hotels and pubs as well as U Dentistry in Ben Rhydding and The Wells Practice osteopath’s therapy room. There will also be workshops, I'm intrigued by the Spongetree workshop at the Bandstand on the 12th between 10 and 4, as it invites you to make something from a recycled book, I might pop over form the shop to take a look if I get time. I shall certainly be looking forward to taking in the trail next week, I might see you there.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Jet Set

I am very proud to announce that we now stock a specially selected range of Whitby Jet from W. Hamond, the original Whitby Jet shop and winners of the Gem-A award 2012 for most innovative use of Gemstones. This is now available in store and will be appearing on the website over the next few days.

Jet, or Lignite, is a minor gem stone derived from the decomposition of wood, over millions of years. The wood is from the family Araucariaceae which is related to the Monkey Puzzle or Araucaria Tree. Whitby jet is from the early Jurassic age, over 160 million years ago. The colour of Jet can vary from a deep black to dark brown, and sometimes the addition of iron pyrite will give a metallic lustre to the stone.

Jet has been used since prehistoric times, amulets and beads dating back 10,000 years have been found in various archeological digs through France, Switzerland and Germany. Jet was also used with shell and turquoise by the Pueblo Indians in North America. It is also found in China and Siberia. However the finest quality jet has always come the north-east coast of Yorkshire.
Whitby Jet is a very intense black which has made it popular over the centuries. Queen Victoria wore Whitby Jet as part of her mourning dress, and Victorian tourists would take the newly constructed railway to the Yorkshire coast and would take pieces of jet away as souvenirs.

As jewellery got bigger and more ornate in the late 1800s the ease of carving jet plus its lightweight characteristics made it perfect for large pieces, it was also used for models and other ornamentation. A Jet chessboard designed and carved by John Sherwood that was made for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1896 (although it was 1899 before it was completed) was described as 'the crowning triumph of the jet age - the most beautiful object of its kind ever made'. It was in the 1860's that James Storr started his very own Jet Jewellery boutique and this shop, W. Hamond has been dedicated to producing stunning hand crafted Jet jewellery ever since.

Jet has always been used to make an impact, it was also popular during the 1920's in beads for fringed dresses and the fashionable long strands that wound around the necks of vivacious Flappers as well as decorating their beaded feathered headbands, and also used alongside chrome in Bauhaus and Art Deco jewellery. They knew then as we do now that shiny black Jet is a gem that is instantly stylish and enigmatic.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A day out to remember - The Coronation Festival

I wanted to tell you a bit about my visit to the Coronation Festival in July as a guest of Halcyon Days.
The Festival, running from the 11th to the 14th of July 2013 took place in the Gardens of Buckingham Palace.

The event was to promote and celebrate the work of the companies who hold Royal Warrants of Appointment, as it said in the booklet :" Promoting the very best of UK plc, the Festival celebrated innovation, excellence and industry through trade and craft."

The Thursday was for the Royal family, VIPs, government, ambassadors, they looked at the stands and watched the Gala evening events and Friday Saturday and Sunday was for the Royal Warrant Holders' guests.

We went on the Saturday, it was sunny and very hot and it was such a beautiful experience to walk in the gardens of the Palace, the rich greens of the foliage contrasting with the bright colours of flowers and marquees, and I now regret not having taken enough pictures. I have to add that until the evening Gala event, I didn't see anybody famous apart from Camilla, who was admiring the Halcyon Days new Tiger print scarf.

It was a great chance too to see the beautiful range of antique Halcyon Days boxes which celebrated various events in Royal history as well as their new collection comprising the latest Royal birth boxes and their most famous designs printed onto silk scarves. I also had a good look at the Bentley and Range Rover stands, and it was quite incredible to see all these examples of British manufacturing history gathered in one place.

The Gala concert was the icing on the cake though, it was  a celebration of music and dance over the past 60 years and I enjoyed every minute of it. There was Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa , there were songs from Les Miserables and other musicals, dancing and amongst a range of specially commissioned pieces, Mike Batt (the Wombles man! OK, I know he does so much more) created a song for Katie Melua, it was truly a great concert and such an amazing setting.

When we came out we walked across the courtyard across the front of the Palace, exiting out of the small entrance near the Main Gate, I looked back at the Palace, which was now ablaze with lights and I thought this is probably the closest I'll ever get to the Palace - it really had been a special day.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Daisy - An Icon

 In youth from rock to rock I went,
From hill to hill in discontent
Of pleasure high and turbulent,
Most pleased when most uneasy;
But now my own delights I make, -
My thirst at every rill can slake,
And gladly Nature's love partake
Of Thee, sweet Daisy!

                                   from To the Daisy by William Wordsworth

Last year Queen Margrethe of Denmark celebrated the 40th anniversary of her ascension to the Danish throne, and it's worth mentioning here that she is also very much an admirer of our own Queen. Margrethe is affectionately known as "Queen Daisy", a name which is derived from the Marguerite Daisy (Argyranthemum frutescens), which are large daisies, measuring about 2 ½ inches across and come in shades of white, pink or yellow.

The George Jensen DAISY Jewellery Collection was launched to celebrate the birth of the Margrethe in 1940. This modest and cheerful piece of jewellery became a symbol of the hope that the birth of the Princess inspired in Denmark during the war, and has remained a firm favourite for many Scandinavian women throughout the years.

As always George Jensen takes its classics and re-interprets them with a modern twist.  In 2008 the Danish flower was successfully launched globally with new colours, new designs and new styling. In 2010 the reversible DAISY Collection featured new designs which emphasised the subtlety and lightness of the daisy in black and white with gold or silver. The collection now constitutes earrings, ear hooks, rings, bracelets, brooches and necklaces.

Today the collection is characterised by the multi-layered daisy chains of the sautoirs and bracelets, although the delicacy of the chains are equally alluring when draped as a loose cluster or worn singly.

Interestingly I've read that the Danish government had declared the Marguerite Daisy as the National Flower of the Country although the Wikipedia entry on Flower Emblems states that "The daisy won a 1980s private competition about choosing a national flower, but has not been officially adopted."

White bold daisies emblazon the signs of the Marguerite Route, a country-wide scenic route that takes you past more than 200 of Denmark's top attractions and through some of the country's most picturesque scenery.

Interestingly a Daisy is also the name of a refreshing cocktail, a long drink consisting of a base spirit (gin, rum, brandy, whiskey, vodka or tequila), fresh lemon juice, chilled soda, sugar and grenadine - is that why they say 'fresh as a daisy'?

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

An Appreciation of SILVERSMITH AND DESIGNER Allan Scharff

Alliance is designed to float around its wearer embracing and enveloping the body. The feeling and fit are so flexible the pieces seem as if they are designed with you in mind.

Allan Scharff is another designer who claims natural forms as an inspiration, he can also can talk very eloquently about his own work, weaving words as beautifully as he shapes metal.
“The form is shaped in dialogue with the precious pure metal by simple basic techniques. It is exactly in this meditative state of the craft that the magic happens”
Allan Scharff began his professional career with Georg Jensen at the age of 18, where he earned an apprentice certificate as a silversmith. Throughout his career he has continued to design for the company and has also been  elected as an Associate member of the prestigious English Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths – one of only 100 foreign members.

This neckring in yellow gold is delicate and sculptural yet maintaining a sense of vitality and fluidity, giving an effect of perpetual movement.

As well as producing innovative and idiosyncratic designs for the GJ Living, Allan Scharff is also responsible for the elegant and flowing designs of the Alliance collection.
He follows the principle 'less is more', removing the superfluous and developing a strong but sinuous line to get to the essence of a piece.
 "Our modern life style is so complicated that I welcome everything which could reduce it.”

During the years Scharff has received many awards and his work has been exhibited worldwide. Today Allan Scharff works out of a studio in Copenhagen designing and executing jewellery and hollowware, many of them commissioned pieces.

This innovative design wraps around the earlobe rather than being worn as a conventional clip or stud.
He talks about his approach to working with materials:
"Correctly handled, silver can be encouraged to stretch contentedly, just as our muscles and tendons stretch and relax under the fingers of a skilled masseur" in order to "entice the soul out of the silver."
What better way to describe the beautiful Alliance collection.

Each piece is woven out of a single, lightweight strand of silver.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Evolution of an Icon

 Image from Georg Jensen Vs Magazine feature Amazing Grapes with models Erin Wasson and Lydia Carron

The Moonlight Grapes collection is ever evolving, and this coming year sees yet another interpretation of this classic design.

The original Georg Jensen design from the early 1900's took it's inspiration from the grape motifs on Roman silver bowls and the paintings of Caravaggio he saw while on his travels in Italy.

His take on the Roman decorated bowl was the centrepiece of the 1920 Georg Jensen exhibition in the Charlottenborg Contemporary Art Hall; in 1923 three bowls were presented to the King and Queen of Denmark as a wedding anniversary present. The classic silver grapes collection has been going ever since, and pieces are collected the world over.

In 2010, the Georg Jensen Design Studio worked in conjunction with the GJ silversmiths to re-interpret the Grapes design,  and the Grape Ring was presented at the Milan Fashion Week that same year. Managing to encompass elements that are both minimal and intricate, it is understandable that this classic has moved effortlessly through the decades, reminding us that true style is ageless.

Georg Jensen’s timeless finesse is expressed in this dazzling cocktail ring, which gracefully compliments every outfit, from the little black dress to casual weekend attire. With its dramatic charm, the Grape ring is the perfect eye catching design for the sophisticated, modern woman.

This season sees an added delicate twist, with the addition of a butterfly motif. Once again, the designers at Georg Jensen are not afraid to inject a playful aspect to their design, and this additional details catches the eye with its element of surprise, also allowing for contrasts in materials as in white gold and pave set black diamond butterfly. The addition of the butterfly rings affirms the collection’s position as an evolving classic.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Charles Green Wedding Rings

I'm now very proud to be stocking Charles Green wedding rings in store, and will be putting some products online soon.

Charles Green has been making quality handmade jewellery since 1824 and the company prides itself on having the finest wedding rings in the world.

Based in Birmingham’s famous jewellery quarter they are respected for the quality of their jewellery as well as their unrivalled service. They have a highly skilled team of craftsmen and designers and customer services personnel and currently supply some of the finest jewellers across the U.K and Ireland.

The first Charles Green established his business in 1824 as a manufacturer of signet rings at Brearley Street West, Birmingham, before moving to Augusta Street, Birmingham, sometime after 1851. Charles Green junior, his son, was admitted to the partnership in 1863 and the firm was restyled to Charles Green & Son, and from then till today the company continues to be held by the Green family today.

They specialise in gold, platinum and palladium. Their gold is available in 9ct, 18ct and 22ct. Their platinum is made with ruthenium to guarantee the highest quality. They also  only use ‘conflict free’ diamonds that are at least SI1 clarity and H colour.

Their craftsmen work employing time honoured methods incorporated with modern technology. They offer a wide range of products, with new designs in the latest trends and styles being added on a regular basis.

Charles Green has a commitment to quality and service, and it is this that has made the company a popular choice for so many years.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Halcyon Days - An Appreciation

If you've visited the shop recently, your eye may have been drawn to the colourful and lively details of my extensive display of Halcyon Days enamel boxes. They reflect a myriad of tastes and styles celebrating the work of artists, historical events, the reigns of monarchs, ranging from the song lyrics of the Beatles to the image of Baroness Thatcher; suiting a wide variety of occasions from birthdays and anniversaries to a simple but heartfelt thank you or a memento of time shared.

Founded by Susan Benjamin Halcyon Days began as a small antique shop in on Avery Row in London which specialised in 18th and 19th century trinkets and antiques in particular small enamel Keepsake boxes. Due the popularity and rarity of these boxes Susan decided to revive the craft of enamelling on copper and inspired by her visits to the vast collection of 18th century enamels at the Victoria and Albert Museum, she started to design her own keepsake boxes.

In 1970 The Queen Mother commissioned a box with an image of Clarence House and thereafter Halcyon Days has been a popular gift choice for the Royal Family. In 1989, Margaret Thatcher gave Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev the gift of a specially commissioned box. According to a Japanese site advertising the rare "Flying Scotsman 80th Anniversary box" John Major also gave a commissioned box as a wedding anniversary present to Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako.

Princess Diana was both an avid collector and giver of Halcyon Days boxes. Both her and Prince Charles commissioned small editions to give on royal tours, and she continued to do on her own official visits. According to a listing from Cheffins Auction House on March 19, 2003, from a collection of royal memorabilia that were part of the estate of a royal servant: "H.R.H. The Princess of Wales. Seven Halcyon Days enamel gift boxes, 6 with printed inscription inside lid “Presented by Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales”, commemorating tours to Nepal, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Tokyo, Hungary, and Lille and Paris, all in original blue box with crowned “D” monogram on upper cover; and one gift box with printed inscription inside lid “A Royal Fashion Gala, The Ritz, Madrid 22nd April 1987”, 3cm, all in original blue boxes decorated with The Prince of Wales's feathers"

Pieces have also been made in collaboration with the British Museum, the Tate and the National Gallery and Smithsonian Institutions. Halcyon Days also holds all three Royal Warrants as Suppliers of Objets d'Art and was a part of the prestigious Buckingham Palace Coronation Festival.

According to Cheryl M McCants Enamels site: "One-third of the collection is retired each season to make room for over 120 new designs introduced annually. Including corporate and other special commissions, Susan Benjamin created over 6,300 unique pieces since 1970."

Halcyon Days was sold in 2001 to Alessandro F. Uzielli the current owner, who paid tribute to Susan's "enthusiasm for this unique craft was infectious as she guided me through its many complex stages" in his introduction to the Halcyon Days 2010 collection. She continued to design special enamels for the company after retiring and she died in August 2010 aged 89, this Telegraph obituary has much more on her very interesting and varied career are here, it's well worth a read.

I love my collection of Halcyon Days boxes because not only are they a reflection and a celebration of the changing times they also serve as a personal memory of the times when I have made a selection for the shop, like a beautifully decorated diary. Collecting a Halcyon Days piece does that to you.

My favourite pieces are the Post Box because it is, like a lot of the collection, quintessentially British. The City landmark boxes, particularly the one with the London eye and the London Skyline box makes me nostalgic for London. The box that features Prince Albert's Dog Eos is so rich in colour and has some lovely stories behind it. I also like many of the boxes with messages on. One of my favourites is 'I only play golf on days that end in Y". Also the recent Kingfisher collection is so detailed and so colourful.

Everyone in the shop has a fondness for Everlasting Love and its organic Deco/Nouveau style and the message boxes are also popular with us all - there's something for everyone in the collection, male and female, young and old, they are a charming token of appreciation.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Hand Painted copper enamels, the revival of an 18th Century craft

As a preamble to another Halcyon Days article I'm currently working on after updating our website with some of the latest Halcyon days products as well as some of our more unusual pieces I thought I'd share some images of the production process.

1: Glass particles are milled into a solution for spraying on to the copper shape.

2: At least four coats of enamel are applied, each fired at 800°C, to build up a smooth enamel finish.

3: A transfer of the design - which may simply be an outline but often contains background colours - is applied by hand and fired. Detailed hand painting then begins and the box is fired again on completion.

4: The lid and base are set into a gilded brass mount.

Friday, 4 January 2013

More Regitze Magic

The news from George Jensen is that Regitze Overgaard is currently at work on her collections for Autumn 2013 and Spring 2014. As you've probably realised, Regitze is one of my favourite designers, and I've already waxed lyrical on her love of simplicity and her reflection of natural forms here and on Facebook. In a recent interview for the company she talked through her design process.

She believes that the power of the pieces should emanate from the metal itself, allowing it to express volume and weight; but this is balanced by the construction techniques that give it a lightness and elegance. This is exemplified in her pieces such as the Grapes Ring, Smithy Cuffs and Flower Ring. I think it's interesting that these pieces also support her recent statement about current trends: "One tendency at the moment is being brave –more people are being brave enough to wear statement pieces". She goes on to comment that she sees more people mixing old and new jewellery which has always been an approach that Georg Jensen typifies very successfully.

"First we discuss the brief for a new collection, materials, combinations etc. I start to sketch whatever I feel – often I will end up with more than a hundred sketches. Then I start to sort through the ideas and test how they work with the entire collection. Based on this, I decide on one idea.

'The sketches are then recreated, with more detail, and if there is time for it, I convert the drawing into metal – to get a three-dimensional feel for the piece. Finally, the prototype takes shape."

When asked to define her own design aesthetic she said the sticks to the defining principles of each collection, some are "classically feminine others are more Rock n' Roll" and works towards creating a synergy between the wearer and their chosen piece, all the while breathing in the history of Georg Jensen and interpreting it in her own personal way.

I actually love everything about my work and my advice will always be: “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

One of her favourite designers is the architect Lene Tranberg whose Lundgaard & Tranberg practise has been responsible for the Tietgenkollegiet student residences in Copenhagen and the Royal Danish Playhouse which are considered to be among the most successful Danish buildings of the last decade.