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Rings that remind me of things: Part 16

Part 16 of an occasional series about rings in my Etsy shop that remind me of things.

Ring:

1977 tiger’s eye ring with a shield shaped head, Birmingham hallmark. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Thing:

Miniature Iron Age copper alloy shield (65 mm by 35 mm), part of the Salisbury Hoard found at Netherhampton, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, and now in the British Museum.

So far I have had rings that remind me of an Iron Age hillfortan alien spaceshipa cream horna radio telescopeNoah’s Arkan octopus tentaclespider eyesPluto and its moon Charonthe rings of SaturnThe Starry Night by Vincent Van Goghsome lichenthe stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara in Egypt, the Quality Street ladya herb knife and a sea anemone.

Liisa Vitali

Liisa Vitali (born in Helsinki, Finland on 9 November 1918, died on her 69th birthday, 9 November 1987) was a Finnish jewellery designer and maker known for her modernist designs that were often drawn from nature. Her jewellery series include the ‘Ladybird’, ‘Lace’, ‘Gardenia’ and ‘Cat’s paw’ designs.

Liisa Vitali.

1971 Liisa Vitali ‘Ladybird’ sterling silver ring with trapped carnelian orb. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Liisa’s family moved to a farm at Viluksela, a small village in the municipality of Somero in southern Finland, in 1920. After the death of her parents, Liisa and her brother Väinö continued to look after the farm. Liisa had long been interested in jewellery design, winning a school competition with a jewellery set that she had made.

Liisa Vitali. Love how her blouse matches her jewellery!

Some of Liisa Vitali’s designs, including Pitsi (‘Lace’) in the main panel, Leppäkerttu ja iso kivi (‘Ladybird and big stone’) top right, Nuppu (‘Bud’) middle right, and Muurahaisenpolku (‘Ant’s path’ or ‘Ant trail’) bottom right.

Liisa Vitali Pitsi (‘Lace’) bracelet, 1973, in sterling silver. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

As I don’t read Finnish I have found it hard to piece together much more about Liisa’s life: there appear to be conflicting reports of her training, or lack thereof, and which jewellers she may or may not have worked with.

I have read that she started making jewellery to sell in the 1950s, self-taught and working from a home workshop on a small scale in between her farming duties; that she started her career in jewellery-making working for jeweller Kaija Aarikka; that she trained for a short time alongside the great designer Tapio Wirkkala at the Nestor Westerback workshop; that at first her designs were only available from her workshop on the farm, and from Kaija Aarikka’s shop.

Vitali’s designs were manufactured by various companies, including Aatos Hauli, Mauri Sarparanta, Nestor Westerback Ky, and Kultakeskus.

1960s advert for Liisa Vitali’s jewellery.

Some of Liisa Vitali’s designs, including examples of  Pitsi (‘Lace’), Leppäkerttu ja iso kivi (‘Ladybird and big stone’), Nuppu (‘Bud’), and Muurahaisenpolku (‘Ant trail’).

Perhaps her most famous designs are the Leppäkerttu ja iso kivi (‘Ladybird and big stone’, ‘Ladybird’ or ‘Ladybug’) and Pitsi (‘Lace’) series. These are visually very similar, with circular cut-outs in sheet silver or less commonly gold, forming a lacy, holey effect. She also used the lacy cut-outs in her Nuppu (‘Bud’) and Muurahaisenpolku (‘Ant trail’) series. Her love of the natural world is clear in her jewellery, and the inspiration it provided her with can be seen in the names she chose for her various series.

Liisa Vitali.

During her life, Vitali’s work was highly thought-of, and was exported around the world. Apparently Princess Margaret was a fan. Following her death and changing fashions, it fell out of vogue for a while. In 2009 Kultakeskus Oy began to remanufacture Vitali’s designs, bringing them to a whole new audience.

Some named designs by Liisa Vitali:

Ampiaisenpesä (‘Beehive’)

Gardenia (‘Gardenia’)

Kesäheinä (‘Summer hay’)

Kevät (‘Spring’)

Kissantassujen (‘Cat’s paws’)

Leinikki (‘Buttercup’)

Lemmenkukka

Leppäkerttu, Leppäkerttu ja iso kivi (‘Ladybird’, ‘Ladybird and big stone’, ‘Ladybug’)

Muurahaisenpolku (‘Ant trail’)

Nuppu (‘Bud’ or ‘flowerbud’)

Nyöri (‘Cordon’)

Pitsi (‘Lace’)

Ruusu (‘Rose’)

Tuulenpesä (‘The wind’s nest’)

Villiviini (‘Wild wine’)

Further reading:

Leeni Tiirakari 2012, Design Liisa Vitali, Amanita. Available from a Finnish online bookseller.

The Unthanks: Magpie

Every now and then I hear a song for the first time and it becomes an instant earworm. ‘Magpie’, by the English folk band The Unthanks, is just such a song. I don’t often listen to folk music, so this song would probably have passed me by, had it not featured at the end of the first episode of the third series of the BBC comedy, Detectorists.

The series centres around two metal detectorists and is filmed in the bucolic Suffolk countryside. It is a lovely, gentle series, in which not a lot happens. As an archaeologist I’m no fan of metal dectectorists and the damage they can (and so often do) wreak on archaeological sites, but the ending of this particular episode summed up in a beautiful montage what I often wonder about the finds I dig up: who they belonged to, the lives lived, and how the pieces ended up where they ended up. So many stories.

Dectectorists is written, directed by and stars the talented Mackenzie Crook, and co-stars Toby Jones. It is currently midway through its third series, broadcast on BBC4, and can be viewed on catch-up on the BBC iPlayer.

‘Magpie’ is a track on The Unthanks’ 2015 album Mount the Air, and uses the traditional English nursery rhyme about the magpie to wonderful effect, with additional lyrics emphasising a pagan theme and music by Dave Dodds. Here’s the full version of the song, with a fan-made video:

Here are The Unthanks performing the song live on Later with Jools Holland:

The magpie (Pica pica) is a beautiful black and white corvid, a familiar bird in the English countryside and one with a rich tradition of symbolism and folk history attached to it.

Magpie (Pica pica). Photo by Andreas Eichler.

I invariably automatically count out the number according to the rhyme when I see a group of magpies (or rarely a singleton: they are gregarious birds). Apparently Crook was inspired by The Unthanks’ song, and certainly the magpie theme has carried on into the second episode, with magpies being featured at the start and finish. I wonder if they will prove to be more significant or symbolic as the series progresses.

Rings that remind me of things: Part 15

Part 15 of an occasional series about rings in my Etsy shop that remind me of things.

Ring:

1972 sterling silver modernist ring, London hallmark. For sale.

Thing:

Sea anemone.

So far I have had rings that remind me of an Iron Age hillfortan alien spaceshipa cream horna radio telescopeNoah’s Arkan octopus tentaclespider eyesPluto and its moon Charonthe rings of SaturnThe Starry Night by Vincent Van Goghsome lichenthe stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara in Egypt, the Quality Street lady, and a herb knife.

UPDATE: the ring has now sold.

Rings that remind me of things: Part 14

Part 14 of an occasional series about rings in my Etsy shop that remind me of things.

Ring:

1974 modernist sterling silver wedge ring, hallmarked in Birmingham. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Thing:

 

Herb knife.

So far I have had rings that remind me of an Iron Age hillfortan alien spaceshipa cream horna radio telescopeNoah’s Arkan octopus tentaclespider eyesPluto and its moon Charonthe rings of SaturnThe Starry Night by Vincent Van Goghsome lichenthe stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara in Egypt, and the Quality Street lady.

Magnus Maximus Designs

Magnus Maximus Designs was a short-lived English jewellery company founded by three designers and jewellery makers, Michael Gray Bell, Pauline Diane Bell and Ian Murray Pennell, who worked in Frizington, a village in Cumbria. During its short period of operation, the company produced a range of stylish jewellery, which can be broadly split in to two main types: pieces using flat or rounded cabochons of semi-precious and other hardstones, and those using nuggets of raw crystals and minerals (‘druzy’). The mounts and frames for these pieces were usually plain and unadorned, creating a minimalist, sculptural effect and showcasing the stones perfectly.

Magnus Maximus Designs rings, in sodalite, amethyst, carnelian, jadeite and agate, all for sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery. Click on photo for details.

So far, all the pieces I have seen of theirs are hallmarked between 1971 and 1979. I have seen 1971 and 1972 Birmingham hallmarks, and 1972 to 1979 inclusive Edinburgh hallmarks, so it looks like at some point in 1972 they decided to change from using the Birmingham Assay Office to the Edinburgh one. The Edinburgh maker’s mark was registered at the Assay Office there in May 1973, but as it was used on at least one 1972 Edinburgh piece, obviously they were using it before it was registered.

Jadeite ring by Magnus Maximus Designs, hallmarked in Edinburgh in 1972. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Snowflake obsidian heart-shaped pendant by Magnus Maximus Designs, hallmarked in Edinburgh in 1977. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Tiger’s eye luckenbooth pendant by Magnus Maximus Designs, hallmarked in Edinburgh in 1977. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Magnus Maximus Designs iron pyrites ring, 1973-1974 Edinburgh hallmark. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

I have an interesting pewter pendant which is marked on the back by hand with MMD. I am certain this is by Magnus Maximus Designs, but have seen no other pewter pieces by them. Stylistically it would fit well win their oeuvre, with a flat cabochon of an agate-like stone, perhaps serpentine, and a bold sculptural frame.

Pewter and hardstone pendant by MMD: Magnus Maximus Designs. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

As there seem to be no pieces post-dating 1979, I assume that the company ceased trading in 1979 or the very early 1980s.

I would love to know more about this company, and what the three designers went on to do. If you have any information, I’m all ears!

Rings that remind me of things: Part 13

Part 13 of an occasional series about rings in my Etsy shop that remind me of things.

Ring:

Niels Erik From 1960s rose quartz ring. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photo for details.

Thing:

The Quality Street lady. (Bit of a throwback to my childhood Christmases, this one)

So far I have had rings that remind me of an Iron Age hillfortan alien spaceshipa cream horna radio telescopeNoah’s Arkan octopus tentaclespider eyesPluto and its moon Charonthe rings of SaturnThe Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh, some lichen, and the stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara in Egypt.

UPDATE: The ring is now sold. Sorry!

Bobbly rings

I’ve long had a thing for granulation in silver jewellery, and I love orbs, balls, spheres, domes, bobbles and bubbles in all their forms. So it’s no surprise that I have a few bobbly rings in my Etsy shop right now:

NE From Danish sterling silver bypass bobble ring. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Modernist Finnish sterling silver bobble bypass ring. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Swedish modernist ring, imported to London in 1970. This one has a little silver ball inside that tinkles around. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

1970 brutalist Finnish 930 silver ring by Valon Kulta & Hopea of Turku, Finland. Love the granulation on this! For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD.)

Bengt Hallberg (Sweden) sterling silver bypass ring. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Modernist sterling silver ring in a Georg Jensen style. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

1960s sterling silver jester ring by Anna Greta Eker. Eker was Finnish but worked in Norway, and is regarded as one of the greats of Scandinavian/Nordic silver design.

NE From sterling silver ring. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery. Click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

1950s sterling silver ring by John Lauritzen of Copenhagen. For sale in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery: click on photos for details.

Here’s an earlier post with a few more granulated pieces I’ve since sold, plus an interesting video showing how the bobbles are made.

A pair of old watercolours

One of my charity shop finds last year was this pair of watercolours in their basic wooden frames.

I’d love to know a bit more about them. They are crudely done, and are not signed. I wonder if they belonged to some countryman, maybe a farmer: a portrait of him and his fine and faithful hounds. I had thought that the fashion of the man’s clothing and the type of gun might help me date the paintings, which are clearly a pair, but … apparently the fashions of country people back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often lagged quite a few years behind city fashions. This is perhaps partly due to financial constraints, and also largely due to opportunities to buy new clothes being few and far between in the days before easy transport, plus even the dissemination of fashionable new ideas for local seamstresses to copy took much longer. So wearing decades-old clothes was not unheard of, and likewise the expense of buying a new gun might mean that a perfectly serviceable old one was carried on in use for years.

I’m not a fan of bloodsports in any way, shape or form, so like to tell myself that this gentleman was shooting for his pot.

I’m getting a very late eighteenth or early nineteenth century vibe off the paintings … but what do I know? If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear!

Having the blues (in a very good way)

Every now and then in my Etsy shop I notice I seem to have a lot of jewellery in a particular style, or by a particular maker, or in a particular colour. And the other day I realised I seem to have accumulated a lot of blue jewellery.

Blue jewellery in my Etsy shop, Inglenookery.

Sadly none of the stones is a sapphire: blue glass, sodalite, turquoise and chalcedony, plus wonderful blue enamel on the Joid’art ring at bottom left. I haven’t listed everything yet, and two of the brooches are already spoken for, but just today I put the wonderful NE From sodalite ring in my shop. I don’t expect it’ll hang around for long …

NE From sodalite and sterling silver modernist ring. Could it be any bluer? Click on photo for details.