Happy Holidays!

The busy Holiday season is upon us!

That also means we have been busy around here, trying to get as many new designs as possible finished and put into our two online shops (eBay and Etsy) and out to shops and galleries.

There are still a few more things to be added in the course of the next week or so, but please keep in mind that every Alchemy Stone is unique, so if you see one that really appeals to you, the time to get it is "when you see it," because there will not be another "just like it" listed at a later time.

By way of announcement, we also like to welcome our newest member of the Alchemy Stones "family!" If you'd like to see the stones "in person," a large selection is now available from the gift shop at the Center of Holistic Wellness in Sedro-Woolley, WA. We're excited to be able share Alchemy Stones with folks in the Sedro-Woolley, Skagit Valley and Bellingham area!

With the season of gift giving here, we hope you'll consider Alchemy Stones as a unique and different type of item for people on your gift list, and especially those with an interest in the spiritual and metaphysical. Orders placed at either of our web stores on or before December 18th should still arrive safely before December 25th!

We appreciate your support during this past year, and wish you the happiest of holidays!


Outdoor Fun!

Recently, Alchemy Stones took the "show" outside, as we took part in the "Crafts by the Dock" event put on by the Port Townsend Arts Guild, as part of the annual Wood Boat Festival, here in our hometown of Port Townsend, WA.

We were fortunate to share a booth with our good friends from Raison Ethique, and blessed with the sunniest and warmest weekend in Port Townsend in 2014! At times, it was almost too warm, and we were grateful for the booth location near the waterfront where at least an occasional sea breeze would cool us slightly.

Participating in a show represented a bit of a departure from our normal way of doing things only through the Internet, so we went without a expectations ahead of time... and ended up pleasantly surprised.

It was lovely to meet quite a few of our supporters, as well a numerous new fans who got to see Alchemy Stones for the first time. The event was quite well attended, and we were quite happy with the final results.

We'd like to thank everyone who showed up, and we hope to see you again at future events!


Showtime! 2014 Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival

This weekend-- Saturday and Sunday, September 6th & 7th-- Alchemy Stones will be "on the road."

But we are not going very far. We will be sharing a booth with our friends from Raison Éthique at the "Crafts by the Dock" arts & crafts vendor's market that takes place during Port Townsend's annual Wooden Boat Festival.

The arts & crafts area is open from 10:00-6:00 on Saturday, and from 10:00-5:00 on Sunday. Booths are set up on Madison Street by City Hall... Madison is a side street off Water Street, which is Port Townsend's main waterfront avenue.

If you don't feel like fighting the traffic and doing battle for one of the hard-to-find Port Townsend parking spaces, there's a transit bus shuttle service (and free parking) from the Park-and-ride lot behind the Safeway grocery store.

If you live in the area, do stop by and see us! And if you're within driving distance, the Wooden Boat Festival is an interesting and colorful event that draws upwards of 30,000 visitors from the region and around the world... and it not "just about boats." There's food, arts & crafts, music and more!

The weather forecast calls for a bright and sunny weekend, so it's a great opportunity to visit historic Port Townsend.

We have lots of new pieces ready for the show-- many colorful designs; over 300 different to choose from!


Why Do We Call them "Alchemy Stones?"

Periodically, the question has come up, as to why we call them "Alchemy Stones," as opposed to something else... like "Beach Art" or "Painted Pebbles."

In a historical sense, "Alchemy"-- technically speaking-- was a precursor to chemistry and involved the process allegedly changing (or trying to change) common base metals into gold.

In a more loosely defined sense, Alchemy was a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination of different things that would take something of lesser meaning/value and turn it into something with greater meaning/value.

In a very real sense, that's what the process of finding, cleaning, painting on and finishing stones feels like.

I start with a beach, filled with an utterly random assemblage of stones, deposited there by tide, surf and time. Out of these millions of stones, just a few of the most appealing ones are selected. They have to look right, they have to feel right in the hand, they have to have the "right" type of smooth surface, they have to have pleasant shapes... already, there is a sort of "quality added" process at work.

The actual painting of the stones is both somewhat "magical" and involves a process of "creation." In some strange sense, I literally "interact" with a stone to come up with the design. I get some stones home only to discover-- for a variety of reasons-- that they are not "good" for decorating. I can't get a design to "come together" well, or the surface of the stone has a texture that causes the paint to "feather" so the end result is useless.

There's also something "magical" about how the designs just seem to "appear" inside my head. I don't have a "plan" for colors or shapes. The designs just sort of... happen.

So, a "transformation" definitely takes place. A select few stones are combined with a design idea and "transformed" from "just a stone on a beach" to something greater; something more interesting; something more attractive and appealing. And it happens with a "combination" of factors... my love of rocks, my love of Sacred Geometry, my love of drawing patterns... and then a "secret ingredient" I can't quite describe.

"Metaphysical properties" are very difficult to describe... and the process by which they come into being is even harder to describe. What does it mean that a stone has "power?" How do we experience that? As humans, we have kept talismans for millennia because we assign values and properties to them. They become symbols of meaning. Can a priest practice without a crucifix, or a habit, or other "tools of the trade?" Absolutely! But somehow the tools-- the "symbols"-- add more weight to the words; to the lessons. They make us feel like we are "doing it properly."

Thus, Alchemy Stones are not only a process of transformation from "something" to "something greater" in their own right, they are created to help others as symbols or talismans for transformation.

But then again, you may just like a pretty painted object!

And that's really OK...


Treasure Bags and Gift Bags

The fundamental "stages" of Alchemy Stone creation typically involve finding, washing, designing, painting and sealing a stone.

Once the stone passes a final inspection, it is-- technically speaking-- "finished." However, some stones get to move onto a next "stage." This is the stage at which Sarah chooses certain stones to get their own custom made Treasure Bag, which she creates from scratch, from her extensive collection of vintage fabrics.

Sarah's Treasure Bags are works of art in their own right... and each one is created specifically for the stone it contains. The bags (sorry!) are not available as a separate "accessory," as she can barely keep up with the "regular" flow of new stones.

After some experimentation, we have recently finalized our presentation for Alchemy Stones that do not come with their own individually made Treasure Bag.

Previously, these stones did not have any kind of formal packaging, and we were not entirely happy with that... mainly because they didn't really "present" well, as gift items.

As of this summer, all "regular" Alchemy Stones now comes in an ivory colored organza gift bag, along with an Alchemy Stone "History Booklet," and a signed certificate of authenticity.

A "petite" Alchemy Stone comes in a smaller purple organza gift bag, and includes one of our "brief" Alchemy Stone History Booklets.

We're pretty happy with how the new "packaging" has turned out. It was an important part of Alchemy Stones to get right.

I kept a Fine Crafts gallery and gift shop for many years, and one of the unusual "issues" I often faced was the many talented artists who'd bring in their beautifully made items... in a used old doughnut box with wadded up newspaper.

Whereas the "discerning eye" learns to look past poor presentation, we prefer that Alchemy Stones are an "attractive experience" from A-to-Z, so we spent some time working on presentation. Maybe it's silly-- after all, we live in a world where landfills are overflowing wit discarded packaging-- but we believe it's important. And... we deliberately chose a pretty minimalistic form of "packaging."


Alchemy Stones and Metaphysics: "Chakra Stones"

A dear friend of the family is a big fan of Alchemy Stones, and recently suggested that we explore some different metaphysical angles with the stone designs.

Specifically, he thought it would be interesting and cool if I could create sets of stones based around the seven chakra colors.

I'm always up for a challenge. Although I am fairly familiar with chakras already, I needed to do some more research on the colors... and then figure out how to incorporate the colors while maintaining the "integrity" of Alchemy Stone designs. Truth be known, I wasn't too excited about the idea of just "drawing triangles on a rock," simply to meet a specific color scheme.

Then the next challenge arose: Coming up with reasonably "matching" stones in groups of seven.

NOT as easy as it sounds! In fact, in going through the hundreds of beach combed stones at our house, I was only able to come up with two groups of stones that seemed like a "good set." Maybe I was being more particular than I needed to be, but it was important that the stones "feel right" together.

The first set I made ended up becoming a present for our friend, who got married in our back yard labyrinth, a few days ago. The second set (pictured above) became Sarah's... but now I feel more confident in working with this concept... it's just a matter of finding nice "matching sets" to work with.

At this point, I am only planning to offer Chakra Stones in matched sets of seven, although I may also make them available as individual stones matched to a particular chakra.


Working with LARGE Stones

The vast majority-- probably over 90%-- of all Alchemy Stones are between 1" (25mm) and maybe 3" (75mm) long (or in diameter). I have always used "fits well in the hand" as an important criterion for choosing a stone. On the occasions when I bring a large rock home for the beach it tends to be because it has a cool "natural" design or shape, not because I want to paint on it.

Every now and then, I do find a large stone that's suitable for painting.

Part of the reason larger stones don't often become Alchemy Stones is that they are very difficult to find with completely smooth surfaces. They are also often chipped and scuffed, as a result of impacts with other stones.

The stone pictured here is a little over 6" (15cm) across and weighs several pounds.

Part of what makes it very difficult to paint such a stone is that it has over a thousand individual design elements. And if I make one little mistake somewhere, hours of work goes down the drain. People do occasionally ask for a large stone... often because they want a "serious" piece of art. I am not quite sure what that "means," in a functional sense, but I do my best to meet requests like that.

For those who are curious-- a stone like the one pictured, with one of Sarah's specially made "Treasure Bags"-- goes for about $150.00-$200.00. I am not sure how many hours of work goes into one, because I tend to work a little bit on them, every day, for several weeks. And just because I "finish" painting does not mean the stone has succeeded... the design can also mess up and "feather" or "float" while the finish coat is being applied.

How many do I make? Maybe 3-4 a year.


A Garden Stone

All Alchemy Stones are given a durable clear finish, as part of the decorative process.

Here's a larger stone I made for the garden. It is about 6" long (15cm, for the metric folks) and has the same finish coat as the smaller stones.

As the photo obviously suggests, this is one of our "heart stones." It's named "Path of Hearts" and was made as a Christmas gift for Sarah, this past year.

It has been out in the weather for quite a while (since December 2013), and hasn't really suffered any ill effects, as a result. It's being cradled by the small Buddha statue next to our driveway.

For the time being, outdoor stones are are in the experimental and testing stage. Although I have little doubt that the stones will be fine if left outside, I'm not willing to release them to the world as "suitable to leave outside" until they've been through at least a full year of every conceivable type of weather conditions. It is, however, an idea we're planning to develop further.

Originally, the question of "leaving Alchemy Stones outside" came about because we decided the "petite stones" were perfect as small gifts or "offerings" for people to leave at the centers of labyrinths they were visiting. Of course, most labyrinths are outside, and we wanted to make sure the stones would hold up to the elements.

Maybe the idea of "road testing" items that are basically art or metaphysical altar objects sounds a bit strange. I chalk that up to my Danish heritage... in Danish culture, the idea of "form" and "function" being closely tied is extremely important, and I was raised with the idea of "functional art." Everyday objects were expected to not only be beautiful (or, at least, aesthetically pleasing) but also to have excellent functionality.

Hence the idea of having Alchemy Stones that look pretty but lose their decoration after a few months just rubs me the wrong way. And so, the "road testing" project continues.


The Challenge of THICK Stones

For the most part, I choose fairly flat stones to become Alchemy Stones. Painting on a flat-- or flat-ish, at least-- surface makes the most sense to me. As I am not formally trained in graphic design or architecture, I really don't have much experience with working with three-dimensional art and drawing.

A few of the stones I bring home are quite thick and round-- for various reasons, they were "appealing" enough that I wanted to work with them.

Most of the time, I can examine a stone-- hold it, touch it, turn it-- for a while, after which it will "tell me" how to paint it. On thick stones, there are usually "ridges" and "spines," as well as some relatively "flat" planes that can become natural parts of the design.

As I have pointed out before, it is important to me that the stone and design fit "naturally" together. There's much more to an Alchemy Stone than just "slapping some paint on a rock."


Alchemy Stones with "Vine" and "Garland" designs

I have been a fan of "long" stones for a really long time, and the beaches around here seems to have quite a few of them.

Perhaps their relative "rarity" is part of what appeals to me.

Everything we find on the beach gets "tumbled" by surf, sand and other rocks. If you have ever stood by a rocky shore during (or after) a storm, you know that waves breaking on the beach-- aside from their majestic beauty-- can be a very violent process. "Long skinny" rocks are relative rarities because they are more likely to break in half in rough surf.

A "long" stone presents a completely different design challenge from a round stone. Whereas it is certainly possible to create some "version" of a round symmetrical "mandala" style design, long rocks lend themselves better to what I call a "garland" or "vine" type design.

What I mean by that is that I like to use the curves and shape of the stone and "wrap" the design around it. Sometimes the stone will have a soft curve, a bit like a banana, and I try to work with these subtle natural shapes. The core idea behind an Alchemy Stone is to always try to make the decoration and stone seem like they "naturally belong" together.


Alchemy Stones with Circular "Mandala" Designs

The "original" patterns I used to draw with pen and paper were all circular or "Mandala-like." To this day, they represent the majority of Alchemy Stone designs, from little to large.

This photo is a scan of one of the few surviving "really old" drawings of mine, dating back some 30+ years. It was done in black ballpoint ink-- sometimes (when I could afford them) I would use "Rapidograph" pens.

These round designs are not necessarily "easier" to compose, but they do lend themselves quite well to maintaining a high degree of symmetry... which tends to be a natural extension of Sacred Geometry and the patterns found in nature. I like the way I can start with 8 elements, which then become 16 elements, becoming 32, then 64, and so on.

Alas, it can be surprisingly difficult to find "round" or "circular" rocks. If you walk onto your average beach, most rocks there are going to be irregular in shape. Most will not have perfectly smooth surfaces-- often they are "pitted" or cracked or have rough textures. If you have ever stood on a beach, looking for a good "skipping stone," you have a sense of what I am talking about. Very few stones "fit the bill."

In general, I look for stones that are flat-ish, and they usually have a "domed" side and a "flat" side. The flat side goes on the table; the domed side gets the decoration. Since some people use Alchemy Stones as paperweights, I don't want them to go rolling away!

Of course, I don't expect to find perfectly round rocks to paint on-- most designs are painted on round-ish stones. Even so, I can spend several hours on the beach-- and our local beaches generally have lots of loose rocks-- and only come home with a handful of really "good" rocks to paint.

The stone pictured here-- "in process" before getting its finish coat-- is about as "round" as they come. And it's one out of a really, really, really large number of not-so-round stones I picked up and didn't choose.

Try it, some day, when you're on the beach. You'll be surprised by just how difficult it is to find a symmetrically round stone.

I describe these Alchemy Stones as having "Mandala type" designs-- it's the closest thing I can think of. They are also the most popular style of design I make... the concentric circle repeating pattern seems to have a very broad appeal.


Alchemy Stones are now on eBay!

Because many people are familiar with-- and like to shop there-- we have recently created a place for Alchemy Stones on eBay.

At this time, we're just maintaining a few basic listings (currently a selection of about 30 stones), but we plan to open a full eBay "store" later this year.

The possibility of conducting periodic auctions for Alchemy Stones also exists, although that is also a project for the future.

Peter is has been selling collectibles on eBay since 1998 and has a fairly thorough understanding of the ins and outs of the giant online marketplace. Part of our hope and ambition in turning to eBay is to bring Alchemy Stones to an audience that might not otherwise get to see them.

We'd like to invite you to visit our eBay profile and have a look at what's currently on offer. If you click the green "follow" button at upper left, just below our name on the landing page, you'll also get to see new listings in your eBay feed, whenever we add new Alchemy Stone listings... and you'll automatically be notified when the formal Alchemy Stone eBay shop opens.


Introducing: "Petite" Alchemy Stones

I'm often trying something new with my stone designs, and in response to recent requests for "little gifts" we're pleased to announce the arrival of "Petite Alchemy Stones."

What are these, exactly?

Well, as the name suggests... they are smaller, generally about 1" (25mm) to 1 1/4" (31mm) in diameter. They come in a small purple gift bag, with a smaller version of our "Alchemy Stone History" booklet. They are signed and numbered like all Alchemy Stones... but the designs are generally somewhat simpler than their larger counterparts.

What's "different" about them is that we sell them "assorted," for $8.00 each, or $85.00 for a dozen.

"Why?" you might be thinking...

For one thing, we wanted to make Alchemy Stones available to as many people as possible. We also wanted to accommodate those who might be buying multiples... to use as grooms or bridesmaids' gifts, or perhaps as giveaways for an event.

All in all, we feel it's a pretty outstanding deal, all around. You get an authentic hand made art item with a metaphysical "meaning," in a presentation bag... all for under $10. They are small and colorful and each one unique.

The original idea, however, was inspired by our love of labyrinths. Sarah and I are lifetime members of the Labyrinth Society, and we have both been interested in labyrinths for many years. Sarah even uses labyrinths as teaching tools in her workshops, and we have a labyrinth of our own, in the back yard.

One of the traditions of walking a labyrinth is that you leave a "gift" or an "offering" at the center of the labyrinth... a sort of token or thank you for the walking meditation you just enjoyed.

People leave all manners of things as "labyrinth gifts," and I decided that I would make some smaller stones we could bring with us and leave at any labyrinths we visited while traveling. This was not at all "commercially" inclined. As we talked about it some more, it also sounded like a great idea for other people who wanted to leave a unique and "spiritual" offering.

In some ways, these are also our own gifts or offerings to people... given the time and effort that goes into each stone vs. the price at which we sell them, it's really not a "money making proposition." However, I felt compelled to make these, and to make them part of our selection.

At this time, they are "by request only," and only available "assorted," but we promise to make you up a colorful selection!


I Was Always Into Stones

I really can't remember a time when I wasn't fascinated by stones.

When I was little, I would bring them home all the time; from the nearby beach, found near streams, even found on the field behind our house.

Somewhat to my mother's chagrin, I would insist on taking stones home to Denmark from the various places we visited around the world when I was a child. She tried-- to the best of her ability-- to get me to leave the stones behind and instead choose more "sensible" souvenirs like postcards or tiny stuffed animals. Generally, it was to little avail... although it feels (at least to me) like we left behind hundreds of "perfectly good" stones, around the world.

Experience has taught me that there are "Stone People" in this world of ours. Sure, lots of people "like" stones, but Stone People seem to have a deeper relationship with the rocks they find... almost like they "communicate" with them, on some metaphysical level. I would have to include myself in the Tribe of the Stone People.

The idea of painting or decorating stones is not new to me. Many years ago, I would paint runes on matched sets of stones and given them to people as "divination sets."

I previously considered painting stones-- in the decorative sense-- but chose not to, because I was "stuck" with the idea that I needed to be able to paint realistic "seascapes" or birds... and I don't have "that kind" of artistic aptitude.


A Durable Finish

All Alchemy Stones have a very durable outer clear coat to protect the painted design. It's actually similar to the sort of clear coat you'd put on wooden furniture to leave it out in the weather, year around.

The primary idea is that the design should be protected. Alchemy Stones are meant to be touched and held and possibly even kept in your pocket. While the ceramic paints I use are extremely durable and designed to stand up dishwashing if put on a ceramic plate, I am not taking any chances. Even porcelain paint wears off, if it is not under a clear protective glaze.

There are some secondary benefits to the gloss protective top coat on all Alchemy Stones. For one, know how beautiful and bright wet stones are, when they are on the beach? And how they seem to become "dull" when you bring them home, and they have dried? The finish coat allows that "wet look" brightness of the natural stone to show... in addition to enhancing the pain colors.

In addition it means you can keep your Alchemy Stones as decoration in a place like a flower pot, or Fairy Garden outside, if you wanted to. Although the coat would eventually break down (like varnish on outdoor furniture) it would certainly protect the design for several years.