The Jewellers JourneyPosted by on Wednesday 6th December, 2017
Rob has teamed up with the jewellery designer Alex Monroe to create a Christmas tale; written by Alex with illustrations by Rob, The Jewellers Journey is the story of an elderly jeweller who sets off on a magical journey to meet his newborn granddaughter. His travelling companions are a mouse, a squirrel, a rabbit, and a fox, but they make many more friends on the way. As they head towards the great forest in bleak mid winter they wonder if they’ll arrive at their destination in time…
A new chapter will be released daily at www.alexmonroe.com as well as exclusive products and competitions. We’ll be updating this blog with each chapter as it unfolds.
There was an old jeweller who had once been very famous. His jewellery had been coveted by the rich and the famous and his company essential at society events. But now he was old and long forgotten. The flame of celebrity flickers so briefly and once extinguished he found obscurity a great comfort. He still had enough work to keep himself occupied but this was mostly little repairs and favours for old friends. He’d never lost the magic of his craft.
The jeweller lived alone except for a house rabbit as a pet. A kindly neighbour would pop in every now and then for a cup of tea. He had also befriended a raggle taggle bunch of animals who would stop by from time to time; an elderly but dignified fox who’d learned to use the creaky cat-flap in the workshop door, a couple of squirrels and an inquisitive house mouse. There were a few regular visitors in his garden too; a rather truculent robin and a whole family of exceptionally fluffy long tailed tits. He put bread crumbs out whenever he could and would chat to them as they fed.
Accompanying the start of the story, Rob has created this limited edition screenprint.
‘The voice of someone I could never have known because they died a hundred
years ago talks to me inside my head. And is now a friend..and as my fingers
walk along the lines of words on every page, I listen, I Iisten, I listen’.
Available in an edition of 17 here.
The jeweller’s workshop was at the back of his little house in London. Crammed with a lifetime of making things, cobbled floors and dusty workbenches piled high with stuff and a small window milked over with cobwebs, which peered out onto a somewhat overgrown garden. There was an ancient bolted door which opened onto a side-street. In the summer he could open just the top half to let the breeze in, and perhaps chat with passers by.
Each morning the jeweller would make a hot cup of tea and step out into his workshop with immense pleasure and anticipation. In cold weather he would light the stove and potter until he settled on the most pressing job of the day.
Today was a cold day. It was December. A bright blue sky gave the illusion of warmth. Steam spiralled from his teacup. The jeweller was just settling at his workbench when he heard the cat-flap swing and felt a waft of cold air brush his ankle. He looked down to see fox, with fire opal eyes and silver-grey whiskers. In his mouth was a letter addressed to the jeweller in a familiar hand. It was from his daughter. She had left home some time ago, as is only right and proper, but he was often surprised by how much he still missed her. Her beautiful singing voice would fill the house with life and she would sometimes sit with him in his workshop just for the company, perhaps sewing or reading. She now lived in a big forest in the countryside and was expecting a child of her own.
He thanked fox and read the letter carefully. His face lit up with a broad smile and he leaped up from his stool ,letter in hand. She’s had the baby! A little girl! He proclaimed to the empty room, then remembering he was not alone he tousled fox’s hair and danced a little jig. Fox jumped up and joined him, hand in paw. The two old fellows must have looked quite a sight. Only rabbit, who heard the commotion from the kitchen, hopped in to witness it.
The jeweller sat with a sigh by the fire and looked into the flames. If only her mother were here, how proud she would be. Rabbit jumped onto his lap and the jeweller gently stroked her soft ears as he recalled the time when he first met his wife and everything had been in front of him.
As a young man he had been apprenticed to a jeweller in Paris. He earned little money but he was happy learning the skills of his craft. One night he visited a small theatre and bought the cheapest ticket in the house. He lost his heart to the young singer who’s name was Allouette, which was French for skylark. Too shy to approach her, the jeweller made a little songbird necklace in silver and sent it to her dressing room.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Rabbit seemed to sense that she was losing her master to reverie, so she hopped down and tugged at his trouser leg. Fox settled into a curl by the fire.
So now he knew what he would do in his workshop today. He would start work on the special gift for his daughter. Two feathers entwined in a heart. He used to call her Skylark, on account of her mother and her beautiful singing voice. Now she would sing to her new-born daughter. He thought feathers would be just the thing. Nothing else was quite as light or as delicate.
He lay a flat lifeless sheet of silver on the bench. Silhouettes of previous cut-outs nibbled away round it’s edge, ghosts reminding him of things made long ago. He carefully drew the outline of two curved feathers on the silver and began to cut them out. A jeweller cuts precious metal with a blade thin as a hair, strung in a frame so taut you could play a tune on it. Painstakingly precise he followed his line, curving up the quill, back and forth over a few downy barbs then the softer sweep of the vane. Tiny grounds of silver sprinkled into the leather skin under his bench like falling snow, and the feathers slowly came to life.
Workshops are intriguing places. Things sometimes happen differently in a workshop, so it was no surprise at all that when the jeweller looked up at the end of the day he realised that it was already dark outside and the necklace was finished. As if by magic two soft feathers, entwined in a heart lay on his workbench. They could have fallen from the sky.
The jeweller began to plan his trip to the great forest. He chatted to his animal friends as they tidied up. Mouse sniffed the floor for tiny offcuts of silver, fox brushed the dust with his generous tail and squirrel, who had heard the news, surveyed the scene from the eaves.
Rabbit had family in that part of the world and asked if she could come along. Fox’s mischievous eyes lit up at the mention of more rabbit friends and he thought he might take the trip with them too. Mouse squeaked that she didn’t want to be left alone at Christmas and squirrel agreed. All five planned to leave together the very next day. They sent messages out with the long tailed tits. The plan was set.
The jeweller’s neighbour collected them at seven o’clock the following morning in an ancient jalopy. They were a little late leaving as fox had to fetter his tail in order to pass for a dog. Rabbit travelled in the jeweller’s bag and squirrel in the pocket of his winter coat. Mouse was to stay warm and cosy in the breast pocket of his woollen shirt. At the very last minute robin decided that he would come too but preferred to travel alone and would meet them there.
As they hurtled through the streets of London, the jeweller was surprised by his neighbour’s indifference to other road users. He was also nervous about the journey ahead. He had money enough to buy a train ticket some of the way, but he had no idea how they would complete their journey.
The station was busy and full of the sounds of travel. Steam filled the platforms and the engines idled with a steady chugging that made them all nervous with anticipation. They settled into their carriage and fox was disgruntled to see another passenger was to share with them. He would have to lie on the floor like a dog rather than sitting on a seat, as was his custom.
Their travelling companion looked rather stern. He wore a moustache, a bowler hat (which he placed on the overhead rack with his umbrella) and a stiff collar. A large newspaper discouraged conversation. The man’s spectacles were broken, so at regular intervals he would have to reposition them on his nose. The newspaper would crumple and he would harrumph and shake it back into place.
I’m sorry to bother you said the jeweller, but I can’t help notice that your spectacles are broken.
Oh, its nothing, said the man, I can manage just fine. Without looking up from his paper. The train, and the harrumphing continued until squirrel peeped out from her pocket to see what the fuss was. Rabbit too, and fox were transfixed by the disturbance.
Quick as a flash squirrel sprung out of the jeweller’s pocket, bounced along the luggage rack and onto the man’s head. She grabbed his glasses and leapt over to the jeweller.
I say… started the man, eyes widening and newspaper flying, but the jeweller stopped him. If you would just allow me… he said, holding up one finger.
The man watched in silence as the jeweller worked. With pliers he bent and he riveted and adjusted. The snap of a pair of sharp snips and the glasses were finished. Holding them out in front of him, the jeweller tested each arm, polished the glass, and handed them back to his companion who had changed his expression from hostility to one of beaming admiration.
How can I ever repay you? asked the man. They were a present from my wife and I was rather dreading explaining that I had broken them. And so the jeweller explained his predicament.
Alongside the release of Chapter 7 comes these limited edition sherry glasses.
The glasses were screen printed and decaled by hand in Rob’s East London studio and are sold in sets of 2, in a matching screen printed gift box.
Each glass reads: “Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses and join me in a toast… To romance!! To romance! To romance! To romance! To romance! To romance! To romance! To romance!”
They are numbered, in a limited edition of only 50 pairs.
Outside the station the man looked around for his wife. There was a little toot as a small blue motor car pulled up in front of them. She looked alarmed at seeing the jeweller and his peculiar amber dog, but the man explained how kind the Jeweller had been, without actually saying in what way, and that they were to take him to the ferry at the end of the peninsula.
So the jeweller and fox squashed into the back seat with his big bag on his knee taking great care not to hurt rabbit or mouse or squirrel.
The ferryman wasn’t sure about letting pets onto his little boat but the jeweller assured him of their good behaviour. Once settled they pushed off into the icy waters that melted into the colourless sky. The jeweller told the ferryman about his granddaughter’s birth and how he would see her at Christmas. This seemed to make the ferryman sad and he looked toward the horizon, shielding his eyes from a sun that wasn’t there in order to hide his tears. He told the jeweller about his son who had run away to sea many years ago and who he hadn’t heard from since. He wondered aloud if perhaps he had grandchildren of his own that he too could visit and love.
The jeweller sat quietly bobbing up and down in the boat and allowing the ferryman his thoughts. He opened his bag and whispered in to rabbit, who passed him a sheet of card and a sharp cutting knife. While the ferryman watched the horizon and the boat chugged on the jeweller cut the card in minute detail. At last he held up what appeared to be a fantastic compass. He offered it to the Ferryman and explained how the arrow pointed to the word LOVE.
Follow the arrow wherever it takes you and you shall find what you’re looking for.
The ferryman looked puzzled and thought he was being tricked until he moved the compass and the arrow swung back towards the horizon, towards the sea and he knew his son was safe and with the compass he could find him.
They arrived at the jetty that led to the road that led to the forest and the ferryman pointed the jeweller in the direction of a tavern. Take this token from me and they will treat you well. It was a strange coin with the word Kindness engraved on it.
As he let go his moorings he turned up his collar against the cold and set the compass in the boat’s binnacle. Lit by the yellow glow of a storm lantern he set a course away out to sea and lit a pipe. On the jetty the jeweller, fox, rabbit, squirrel and mouse watched in silence as the boat was swallowed up by the immense greying scene where water and sky melt into one.
With Chapter 8 comes an opportunity to win a tour of Rob’s East London Studio!
Click here to enter.
It was getting dark and cold and the friends were feeling hungry. Fox sniffed the air and shook out his bushy tail. Mouse held onto the collar of the jeweller’s jacket and hugged into his neck for warmth while rabbit wriggled out of the bag and hopped forward nose twitching, eager for signs of his family.
Stay back, she hissed at fox. No one will come to meet me if they see you.
Fox looked at rabbit and licked his lips lasciviously with a twinkle in his eye. They were friends but a fox, of course, is still a fox. He turned to the jeweller and with a wink was gone. Rabbit bounced off in the other direction and mouse, squirrel and the jeweller walked on toward the tavern. There was a lantern outside with a welcoming glow and the jeweller pushed open a heavy door into another world. A fire was crackling and walls danced in welcome heat.
Come in my dear and warm yourself! Said the lady behind the counter.
He handed her the token and she smiled at him. You must be a special friend of Old Jumbo to be given this.
He sat at a table and drank ale from a tankard and ate pork chops and cheese and bread and pickles. Mouse and squirrel sat on the table and joined in the feast. In the corner of the room two children were making paper chains to decorate the tavern for Christmas. The jeweller asked them join him and they were delighted to meet mouse and squirrel. He asked for a piece of their paper and folded it upon itself until there was only a small square in his hand. Squirrel passed him his scissors from the bag and he carefully cut pieces from the paper as the children kept their watch.
Snip snip snip as little fragments of paper fluttered in every direction. Finally, with all of the tavern now watching and with a rather theatrical gesture, he opened up the paper to reveal a line of paper children holding hands and dancing. The real live children clapped their hands in delight and spent the rest of the evening making cut out friends of all sorts of shapes and colours to play with.
Rob’s latest lasercut, a christmas decoration, was released alongside Chapter 10.
Dear Santa! Don’t believe the rumours! This year I have been very, very, very, very, very, very good!!! XXX
Each decoration is signed and editioned in a number of 50.
Available to buy here.
After a hearty breakfast in the warmth of the tavern they stepped out into the bracing morning air. A mist was rising from the sleepy river and through it came bouncing a family of rabbits. They bid farewell to their cousin and disappeared just as fox slunk out from the trees.
You timed that well, said the jeweller, almost as if you were watching. Fox stretched and yawned and deigned not to answer.
They followed the track to a lane that led to the forest and there they heard a familiar song. Robin was sat on a gate and singing as if it were springtime already! They were very pleased to see him, not least because they were unsure of the way. Robin assured them of a short cut across the fields so they struck out along a path and walked for some time.
By lunchtime they were confused as to where they were heading. There was no sun and it was hard to get their bearings. Robin insisted they follow him, but fox was disgruntled and wanted to head back to the road. In the end they agreed that lunch would make everyone feel better.
They sat under the bare branches of a mighty oak on a soft bed of browned leaves. Mouse was still tired from the party the night before so she huddled herself under some dry oak leaves on a bed of moss and snoozed. Squirrel sniffed around and happened upon a hoard of acorns which she collected greedily. The rest ate bread and cheese. Robin returned promising that the road was up ahead and that if they hurried they would reach the forest before dark.
And so they set off again. Just as the sky dimmed to its darkest grey they climbed over a stile and saw the great dark forest ahead in the distance.
Silence fell upon them as they headed east once more, a moonlit road leading them towards the forest. It seemed that they had been travelling for a very long time and the jeweller was beginning to worry that he wouldn’t see his grandchild before Christmas Day.
Fox stopped and bristled his ears, Someone is coming! They could all now hear the clip clop of a horse and the trundle of a heavy wagon making its way towards them. The driver halted when he saw them, You look lost. Can I give you a lift?
His daughter moved over and made space for the jeweller to sit beside her and fox jumped onto the cart. Ouch! he yelped as he settled on the branches that were piled there. The man and his daughter had collected holly and ivy for the Christmas party at the big house in the next village. It would be swathed in the festive boughs and the ladies would kiss the gentlemen and all would seem well with the world.
The small girl shivered next to the jeweller so he placed his bag on his knee and reached in for rabbit. The little girl held the furry creature and warmed her hands on her plush fur. Mouse ran down his trouser leg and scurried around on the floor beneath their feet. She returned with an armful of red and green berries. The jeweller took a needle from his bag and began to thread the berries onto silk thread making a necklace that was fit for a princess.
As he worked he told the girl stories of Kings and Queens and how he had visited real palaces and her eyes glistened with delight. He fastened the necklace of precious gemstones around her tiny neck and pronounced her the Queen of Christmas.
A brand new, limited edition lasercut was released on day 12.
The lasercut is a mauve-burgundy colour and measures approximately 24cm by 21cm.
Presented in a sand coloured folder, it reads:
“Lets forget about the past and worrying about what people think, and start living for each other”
These are a numbered, limited edition of 50 lasercuts, available here.
At the edge of the forest the driver wished them well and handed them one of his cart lanterns. You’ll need this if you hope to find your way in the forest at night. It was late and inky dark in the thick forest where the moon couldn’t shine.
They followed the path through the trees quietly, aware of unfamiliar noises around them and unsure what was what. Fox stopped suddenly and twitched his ears. I will find you later, he said, and was gone. A fox can see in the dark but the jeweller suddenly felt very alone and a little scared. Silly him. He gave mouse a little stroke and said in an overly cheerful voice, Oh well, nothing to be scared of, let’s press on… when a rustling to his left startled him. Fox? Is that you?
As he looked around he saw two golden eyes shine back at him. He stood very still and watched as a small deer put it’s delicate foot forward into the pool of light cast by his lantern. Are you lost? It asked. I’m not sure, said the Jeweller. We’re looking for my daughter’s house and the forest is bigger than I remember. The deer replied, There is only one house in the forest and you have taken the wrong path. Follow me and we will be there before dawn. Oh dear! said the jeweller. But we have been travelling all day, surely we will be there before dawn. But they followed the deer, because they were hopelessly lost, and they trudged through the forest for the rest of the night.
Sunrise in a forest is a magical thing. Soft gold sunrays stream through the trees in the early morning mist and all the forest animals busy about getting their chores done.
The first thing they smelt was wood smoke, then through a clearing in the trees they saw the cottage. The jeweller turned to thank the deer but she had already gone back to her family on the other side of the forest. Deer celebrate Christmas too and the day was already upon them.
With the sight of the house, rabbit jumped from the jeweller’s bag, squirrel scurried from his pocket and mouse ran up his sleeve to sit on his shoulder and see where they were going. Even the jeweller’s weary step picked up in the excitement of seeing his daughter again and in meeting his grandchild.
At the house they rang a bell which hung beside the door and heard the tiny wail of a baby inside. The jeweller’s daughter opened the door and the look on her face was worth all of the toil it had taken to get there. He hugged his precious child and said hello to his grandchild and knew that Christmas was here.
Over a meal of nut roast and potatoes and carrots and cranberry the jeweller told his daughter of his adventures to see her. She smiled and nodded and wondered if he had been living alone for too long. As they sat in front of the crackling fire he gave her the present that he had made from silver especially for her. She took the gift with a smile and cried when she saw what he had made.
As she fastened the necklace around her neck the jeweller realised that the magic wasn’t only in the transformation of cold flat silver into two soft feathers. He saw the real magic there in his daughter’s eyes. Held in a single tear and in the words she whispered to him.
Our final instalment, Chapter 14, gives you the chance to win an exclusive papercut by Rob Ryan.
The papercut is a handcut version of the illustration Rob created for Chapter Four of The Jeweller’s Journey original story by Alex Monroe.
Handcut and spray painted in Rob’s East London Studio, the papercut is Midnight Blue and measures 25cm by 25cm. It will be mounted on off-white mount board measuring 35cm by 35cm.
Enter the competition here.