Frances: Part 2

Sunday 17 July 2011
4. You have one of the most unique and spectacular costume jewellery collection I've ever seen. How did this all started?

Goodness, thank you! There is little doubt in my mind that Turkish costume jewellery is spectacular, even if it is not to everyone's taste. It tends to be large in scale, bright and asymmetrical. There is also an established bead culture there. Turkish women and men of all classes make jewellery. My own collection grew as I kept copies of all the designs I have created which I continue to wear.

Pot: Afghan. Made by Frances. Birds are from Benares. a city in India. Lapis Lazuli purchased in Turkey. Blue birds carved lapis Afghan.

Armenian designed ring, purchased in Istanbul, in lapis lazuli box carved in Afghanistan


Bought in Turkey. Perhaps of Indian origin. Dyed agate or low grade rubies on tribal turq

5. You also make your own jewellery and had a business selling your own designs when you were living in Turkey. Can you tell me more about this?

There is a specific bead market in Ankara and you can buy wonderful beads in the Kapali Carsi and elsewhere. The beads in Turkey come from all over the world and I purchased most that you see in the photos in Turkey. India also has a wonderful bead culture. Fabulous beads from Kashmir with tiny mirrored work on them, clay animal shapes from Benares and glass beads galore. The beading started whilst I was recovering from an operation. I had purchased some basic materials and knew how to put a clasp on but had not got round to starting any necklaces. So soon after surgery with some down time  I literally started at the kitchen table and was hooked! Turkish jewellery was so omnipresent, so inspiring. I immediately seemed to veer towards Afghan beads and worked a great deal asymmetrically.

F-jewelry box1
Afghan beads waxed with gold leaf

One day not too long after I started I decided to finish a piece at a coffee morning as 'multi tasker' is my middle name. I had this piece in an empty old yoghurt pot with other pieces I had recently finished and by the end of the morning I think about all of it the necklaces had been sold! I did not mean to sell them there, it was not in my mind before I went and I had to think of prices on the hoof a bit. I was simply making and experimenting and not even focusing on what to do with them all at that point.  I will never forget that morning seeing people's reactions, I was so surprised!

Then the awful happened. Like all works in progress I discovered the crimps I was using were not strong enough. I remember what I refer to now in badly chewed language as a 'receptionis horriblis' with five or maybe six ladies asking me to re-string their broken pieces and then one crashing apart at the event - all of them purchased from the yoghurt pot! What a nightmare! Further research revealed the ultimate crimp and the re-stringing began in earnest. From then on I was proud to see women with such different styles wearing things I had made to all sorts of events -  and no re-stringing!


Nepalese carved dragon bead. Underneath it, Indian silver tassel, agate (green), and coral beads

F-necklaces on pot
Hand made tiger beads from Benares, India, strung with coral and citrine hung on top of an Indian tiger pot. Purchased in Pakistan in 1996 in Swat valley.

6. You once mentioned that your grandparents spent sometime in Borneo. How fascinating! I'd love to hear more about this.

I was not close to them as a child, unmoved by my grandmother's remote personal style and almost physically afraid of her grisly string bean and lamb dinner. However, years later I found out about their extraordinary past in Borneo and so a brand new appreciation for both grandparents formed. If only they had sat with me as a child and talked about it!

My Scottish grandfather went off to manage a rubber plantation in Borneo some time in the mid to late 1920's I guess. He did that and then subsequently decided he needed a wife. He found one back in Scotland: not in the least bit decorative but very brave and I suspect quite resourceful. I think of them both journeying to Sabah through increasingly dense and isolated terrain. What can this red headed, short and short sighted woman from lowland Scotland have thought? At the time there were men with poisoned blow pipes around! Maybe they are still there!

My grandmother was persuaded to talk about her time there years later so I found out that my grandfather helped construct a local building, I believe a mosque and my grandmother had a real affection for orangutans, allowing at least one to sleep in her chest of draws! They were both prisoners of war, both survived and both went back for a subsequent tour. Given they had two children at that point, both born in what was then Jesselton (or known as Kota Kinabalu now), it was very questionable whether they should have returned. But they did, drawn by another world. I understand this draw now utterly. They belonged to a club which rooted them in a world they had come from but it is pretty clear from her memoirs that they both immersed themselves in native fauna and flora. I have no idea of their relationship with the locals.

Our time spent in Turkey is a very, very distant echo of these Empire like wanderings. In my heart I am a total nomad. I was not born in the UK and am not overly attached to it. I also like to think that I am not overly attached to material items but that could be self delusion! One day the wandering will start again, the bead collection will grow and hopefully the creativity go off in another direction inspired by a new country!


  1. Your jewelry is indeed *stunning*. The ruby choker is beyond beautiful. It's fun to hear your history in making jewelry--I've been doing it very, very briefly--just to restring things I got in India--and I have the worst time finding good clasps, crimp beads, or the linking elements. But I'm not cowed--I plan on hitting a couple of new-to-me bead shops soon.

    Fabulous interview, CCC

  2. Just gorgeous! I'm especially in love with the pieces with bird motifs - I'm a sucker for those!

  3. Many thanks, AA. I've been admiring Frances' jewelry for a long time but they're even more beautiful up close. I'm rubbish at making things unless it involves food. Don't forget to post photos of your handiwork on your blog.

    lauraloo, I think so too. They're definitely very eye-catching.

  4. Francis is one of the first people I met when I got to Ankara. She made such an impression on me. She's one of those people that you know you will remain friends with regardless of how frequently you get to see each other. Thank you for your interview with this beautiful woman.

  5. It was a pleasure interviewing Frances. I couldn't agree more with your description of her, alicat.

  6. That Armenian ring and agate/ruby piece are spectacular!

  7. I agree! The ruby/agate necklace is my favorite piece in her collection.

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