Tag Archives: jewelry


Greenland – Sisimiut souvenir workshop

Working my way through the folder of activities at the Hotel Sisimiut, I came across a single A4 page offering the opportunity to “create your own memories” by making your own Greenlandic souvenir. 

Awesome idea! 

Image of the A4 flyer advertising the workshop - Hotel Sisimiut - West Greenland
I’m in!

I was super excited, because I love to make things for myself (e.g. jewelry in Nicaragua and El Salvador, a bookmark in Guatemala) but it can be quite challenging to find small workshops like this.    

The information sheet said to contact the wait-staff in the Nasaasaaq Restaurant and Brasserie, which is how I found myself following the restaurant manager through to the Conference Centre wing of the hotel a few days later.  There, he unlocked the cupboard of goodies

Image of the full cupboard of materials you can choose to work with in the Hotel Sisimiut create your own memories workshop - West Greenland
Cupboard of goodies

and explained that each of the materials was labeled with a price.  I simply had to note down how many of what materials I used on the form and then pay at the restaurant after I was finished. 

And with that, he left me to my imagination and creativity 😊

Images of some of the materials available to use in the Hotel Sisimiut Greenlandic Souvenir workshop - West Greenland
The labels are all in Danish but that doesn’t really matter. They also include the prices.

I’m not very good starting with a blank slate, so I studied the samples on the ideas board for inspiration.

Inspiration board for the Hotel Sisimiut create your own memories workshop - West Greenland

I knew I wanted to make a piece of jewelry.  I knew that I wanted to use reindeer antler and seal skin (the most Greenlandic of the items available).  What I didn’t know was how to tie knots or any other spacing/fastening techniques to allow me to create my masterpiece.  Hmmm… 

Images of the materials I chose to work with in the Sisimiut Hotel Greenlandic Souvenir workshop - West Greenland
The materials I decided to go with – reindeer antler, seal skin and beads

I put on Ataasiusutut Misigissuseq (the latest album from my favourite band, Nanook, who are also from Greenland) for further inspiration, and after deliberating and pondering and studying one of the pieces from the ideas board to see how knots had been used – I had my plan.  It also helped that I found a glue gun!

Image of the workspace with my materials on the table at the Hotel Sisimiut - West Greenland
The workspace is really beautiful! You can see the keyring I used to teach myself about knots over near the jars

It took another hour to actually create my Greenlandic souvenir, during which time several of the kitchen staff popped by to have a chat and check out what I was doing.  And in the end, I was ridiculously happy with the result 😊

Image of the necklace I created in the Hotel Sisimiut Greenlandic Souvenir workshop - West Greenland
My masterpiece

So much so, in fact, that I went around the hotel showing it off to all the staff I’d gotten to know so well over the previous week.  I also showed it to several guests I’d been chatting with who asked “where did you make that?”   It pays to read the folder of activities at the hotel thoroughly!


If you like to make things, this cool workshop offered by the Hotel Sisimiut is an awesome way to spend a few hours.  The materials available are an interesting mix that challenges your creativity, and the workspace is really beautiful.

Cost:  You pay for the materials you use so it all depends on what you create 😊  No individual item is very expensive and you can use as much or as little as you wish.  To give you an idea, my masterpiece cost a grand total of 13DKK or USD$2.

Time: As long as you want.  For me, they just unlocked the cupboard and left me with it. 

Artesanía – souvenir making in La Palma

One of the first things I did in La Palma was ask about the availability of workshops where you could learn/experience a little more about the artesanía and artwork the town is famous for.  Turns out, there is only one – at Taller Paty – so I went and had a chat with Estela about what it entailed.

Artesania workshops at Taller Paty - La Palma - El Salvador

She explained that I had two options – I could either paint a wooden box (typical of a lot of the artesanía that is made from pine wood) or paint a Copinol seed – also very typical and one of the big inspirations for Fernando Llort in his artwork.  According to his website:

Walking through the streets of La Palma, Fernando found a kid rubbing a little seed against the ground, and discovered that it had a white surface with a brown frame, “a framed painting” he thought, and he painted it with very small and colourful drawings.

I agree with Fernando – the Copinol seeds are very cool, and I actually used one as the accent seed in my bracelet I made with the Mujeres del Plomo near Matagalpa (in Nicaragua it is called Guapinol).   So I opted to work with the seed – other advantages being that it was small and could be turned into a necklace 🙂

André arrived the next morning and ended up coming with me to do the artesanía workshop.  Estela already had the Copinol seeds cut and drawn with patterns, but she showed us where she works with wood and the seeds out the back of her store.  Inside the large light-brown casing are several of the smaller darker-brown seeds which are cut into thirds to produce the surfaces for the paintings.

Preparing Copinol Seeds - Taller Paty - La Palma

First step in the workshop was to choose the designs we wanted to paint.

Copinol Seeds ready to paint - Taller Paty - La Palma

Then we headed out into Estela’s wonderful courtyard, where she has painted artwork onto the besser-brick shelter and even the trees.   Although we started out at the bench in the garden, we had to quickly retreat into the shelter as the afternoon downpour started.

Taller Paty workshops - La Palma

Turns out that coloured textas are used to “paint” the Copinol seeds, though actual paint is used for the larger designs on the pinewood boxes.  The only “rule” was to avoid the black ink of the design as we coloured in so that it wouldn’t smudge into the colour, but Estela also said that it was traditional to paint the roofs of the houses red.

Finished Copinol seeds painted in the style of Fernando Llort - Taller Paty - La Palma

Finished Copinol seeds for inspiration and textas to “paint”

I ended up making 4 pendants and André 2.  We are both analytically inclined so it took us forever to finish our artwork.  Estela kept coming out and checking on us — I think she was wondering what was taking us so long!  I’m sure she could have knocked out 6 of these things in about 1/10th the amount of time it took us.

Artesanía in La Palma in the style of Francisco Llort - Taller Paty

André is a picture of concentration, I’m checking out what he’s up to.

The final stage was to dip the pendants in varnish to protect the artwork and make sure the seeds don’t start sprouting when worn!  The trick was to ensure that the varnish was evenly distributed over the pendant and there were no drops hanging off the bottom – hence the little squares of newspaper.

Final stage is to varnish the painted seed - Taller Paty - La Palma

Hung around Taller Paty for about 1/2 hour after we’d finished to let the pendants dry a bit and also wait out the storm.  Here are my final products – front and back – before the final varnish.

Finished products - Taller Paty - La Palma


Recommendation:  The workshop is lots of fun and Estela is really lovely.  Its a great way to make your own very typical and authentic artesanía from El Salvador.

Booking:  Ask at the Amigos de las Turistas office and they can point you in the direction of Taller Paty.  Its just down the road past the Casa de Cultura.

Time Required:  Depends on what you decide to do and how slow you are about your artwork.  We were probably there for about 2 hours all up.

Cost:  Each of the Copinol seeds were US$2 or 3 for US$5.   Absolute bargain, and you have something very typical from El Salvador!


Many thanks to André and Estela for some of the images used in this post (I was too busy colouring in!)

Silversmithing my own ring in León

As I’ve mentioned before, I love jewelry and have taken to buying jewelry as my souvenir from each country I visit.   Even better if I can meet the actual artisan and work with them to make it myself.   So in addition to the cooking workshop I did with NicAsí, I also signed up for the NicAsí silversmithing workshop.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

There was only myself and the guide, Hector, and we spent a great morning at the Joyería Camilla with Juan Carlos Narvaez and his wife Mayra Quiroz creating a piece of jewelry for me.  In reality, I didn’t actually need Hector since I can speak spanish – he just sat around chatting with the rest of us while we worked.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

Juan Carlos (waving from inside) and Mayna in their silversmithing and jewelry shop near the market in León.

The first step was to come up with the design.  I’m absolutely terrible at this sort of thing so stole inspiration from one of the catalogues Juan Carlos had in his store.  I chose to make 01.0981, but in silver and with a burgundy “stone” (for less than $1, it is more likely glass 🙂 )

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

The first step was to melt the silver with a foot-powered blowtorch until it formed a relatively narrow oblong block.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

This was then slowly flattened by passing it multiple times (I wasn’t actually counting but it must have been more than 50 times) through a hand-cranked machine.  With each pass, the silver would either be moved along into a different shaped groove, or the distance between the rollers would be adjusted to flatten it even more.  In this way, we shaped the width and depth of the band of the ring.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

It was then time to start shaping the ring.  The flat strip of silver was reheated, bent around a shaper and sized according to what we measured my finger to be.  This was a little tricky given how hot it was in the workshop (and León in general really) and we had to try to figure out how much smaller to make the ring to ensure it wouldn’t fall off my finger when the weather was cooler.  Given the design, Juan Carlos had to solder (yes, that’s what’s in the shell) the ring parts to stop them from coming apart.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

Next step was to shape the stone holder out of some of the remaining silver, so it was back to the hand-cranked machine to re-shape the base silver into something more appropriate to set a stone, and then make the holder.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

At this point, the ring had its form but it still looked pretty dull and crappy. Apparently this was due to the water and acid we were using to quench the hot silver each time we had to heat it. This was alleviated by the final step in the process – the polishing.

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

Very happy with the finished product – particularly its imperfections that really highlight that it has been hand-made 🙂

NicaAsi Silversmith Ring Workshop

Had a really fun morning learning the processes involved in silversmithing and chatting with Juan Carlos and Mayra and Hector about anything and everything.  And now my finger doesn’t look so bare for having left all my regular jewelry at home!


Recommendation: If you love jewelry and are interested in jewelry making, you should definitely do this workshop.

Booking:  The NicAsí silversmithing workshop runs out of the Vía Vía Hostel in León.  Just call by and ask when the next one is running, they actually did it for me alone so you never know your luck.

Time Required:  To make this ring, it took about 3 hours.  It would change depending on the complexity of the ring I imagine.

Cost:  The cost was dictated by the amount of silver I used.  To make this ring, the entire experience cost me US$40.


Jewelry Making – Finca Esperanza Verde

One of the new activities offered by the Finca Esperanza Verde since I was there last time was the opportunity to do a jewelry making workshop with Las Mujeres del Plomo – a women’s collective in the nearby community of El Plomo.

mujeres del plomo jewelry

Those of you who know me know that I love jewelry, and my souvenir of choice when I travel these days is a piece of hand-crafted jewelry – especially if I can buy it directly from the artisan themselves.    Even better if I can work with the artisan and make it myself, so this was the perfect activity for me!

The jewelry is actually made of seeds gathered from the local area, predominantly by children in the community.  The 4 women in the collective (Maritza, Yorlene, Melba and Gloria) purposefully include children in the endeavour to teach them about the plants in their region, caring for their environment and give them the opportunity to earn a little money.   The kids look for specific seeds but can also bring in other natural things they find that they think are interesting.

seeds for jewelry making

Specific seeds the Mujeres del Plomo ask the children to collect

Martiza worked with me to design (the hardest bit for me) and make a bracelet.

mujeres del plomo

I was limited to the types of seeds that were collected recently (obviously it is a seasonal thing) and really loved the seeds from the Guanacaste tree.  But the trick was to break up the repetitive pattern of Guanacaste seed (dark brown and black with a yellow-ish dividing line) and the Platanillo seeds (small, round, black seeds) with an “accent” seed.  In the end we decided on the deep burgundy seed from the Guapinol tree and set to work.

Given the seeds had already had very fine holes drilled, the first step was to strip the wax from the thread that would hold the whole thing together.  Then it was just a matter of threading the seeds according to the pattern, tying some knots to separate the accent Guapinol seed from the rest, tying some more fancy knots so that I could expand the bracelet to get it on and off, and then finish off with a polish (baby oil) which really bought the bracelet to life.

mujeres del plomo jewelry making workshop

Although it is not the type of jewelry I usually wear, I’m really, really happy with the final product!

jewelry making

And I’m really glad that Vivianne (owner of Finca Esperanza Verde who also joined me for my visit) advised me afterwards to avoid getting it wet — after all, it could sprout!

The full story behind this special group of 4 women is pretty incredible and I encourage you to visit if you are in Nicaragua to learn more, chat with these amazing women and enjoy a fabulous jewelry making experience while you are at it!

mujeres del plomo

Jewelry making in Conversation classes

My conversation teacher for the third week at La Mariposa Escuela de Español (we change conversation teachers each week) was Layda.  In our first class, we started talking about interests and I found out she’d recently done a community course on beaded jewelry making.

Given my love of jewelry I asked her more about it and she suggested that in our second class she could show me how to make a pulsera (bracelet) while we were chatting.   More than happily agreed!

We headed to La Mariposa Reserva (a new project of the school) passing by her home to pick up  a few bits and pieces for us to work with.    Found a shady spot with tables and chairs in La Reserva and sat down to work.

jewelry making during conversation class at La Mariposa Escuela de Espanol

The bracelet pattern she had me work on was a fairly simple one and formed kind of a flower pattern.  This is Layda starting me off.  The majority of the beads we were using were tiny little things, no more than a couple of millimetres across, and Layda made it all look very easy as she started me off.

jewelry making during conversation class La Mariposa Escuela de Espanol

Of course when it came to my turn, it turned out to be not quite so easy…  I wouldn’t get the nylon thread through the hole and the bead would disappear forever, or I would get it threaded but then I would bump the nylon and it would go flying off, never to be seen again.   Felt very clumsy indeed!

jewelry making as part of conversation class at la mariposa escula de espanol

The beads in the yellow lid above were easy, but the microscopic little ones (like the small one between the yellow lid and the green lid in the picture above) were impossible!  Here’s Layda with my almost finished bracelet — all that was left was to put the clasp on.

jewelry making during conversation class at La Mariposa Escuela de Espanol

And the finished product!  The clasp was a fish 🙂

jewelry making during conversation class at La Mariposa