Hello again Lets start the year as we mean to go on! Last year I did a few blogs but life got in the way. New year new plans and I have to say I'm very excited.
I was delighted to sponsor a race again at Kelso Racecourse this season for two reasons. Firstly it allows mine to give a little back to the course who allow me to have my stand there, I firmly believe you reap what you sow in life. But secondly I got to hand over the bag of Carrots from the lovely Colin McGrath, for those of you not familiar with this tradition its a Kelso thing. Every winning horse gets a bag of carrots from Colin and I think its wonderful.
This year I plan to spend more time racing, and more smaller BE Events, Life has to be a balance last year I spent so much time away I felt I had neglected Scottish Eventing. So more in the north adding Wetherby, Ripon, Redcar, Catterick,Stratford to our regular spots of Kelso and Cartmel. I Will also be at Middleham Open Day for Racing welfare this year.
The new "Gin it to Win it" competition in Scottish Eventing has drawn me back to Forgandenny, Floors, Glamis, Hopeton and possibly Dalkeith. It is lovely to do the big events but equally its is such fun to be among old friends and to be there to cheer them on!
On Monday Colin bought a framed collage of photographs from that day to show me, it had been the first day where he had connections to someone on that podium in all seven races.
Those connections go way beyond the racing world but it is a common denominator.
I first met Colin when he signed my employment contract in 1987, he then was Operations Director of Stakis Hotels I was a Personnel Manager and spent life on my feet managing a 400 bed Hotel. Not my first choice of job, I was offered a job by Tommy Cuthbert at Carlisle but my parents soon put stop to my dream of working in racing. what followed was Hotels industry, retail, then finally jewellery opening my first shop in 2006. I think maybe I now having the last laugh as my life is defiantly spent being among the racing family. I love it! see you at Catterick and Wetherby this weekend
Wow what a summer it has been so far! I will confess I have been very bad at the blogging thingy but I have been a little hectic. With the lovely Vanda ( for those who have just joined us my trusty transit van) off the road from February until mid June it has been a bit of a challenge this year. Sleeping in a car at 55 it a tall order even with the dog, however we have had the time of our lives. Belton, Burnham Market, Bicton, Belsay all passed in a blur, then there was Chatsworth, Rockingham, Aske, Forgandenny and a few visits to Perth and Cartmel races too.
What has been outstanding for me is the people I have met on my journey this summer some old friend a lot of new friends and an increasing band of loyal brand followers. I hope you will see that the offer has increased this year too, now with six collections Tarrag Naegel offers so much more choice. Without I hope loosing its roots, the significance of the nail holding things together is so true in every walk of life. I have to thank many people for their kindness and support when Vanda was ailing. I really am exceptionally grateful for those who bailed me out - often. Should I worry the next door neighbor has now christen me "Calamity Jane" Not only have we extended the collections but with in each range we have expanded the number of size on offer many now coming in three options. The will all be on the website in time but at the moment it is a little hectic.
This year we have also expanded the Team, my daughter Hannah has always been around to help at busy events, last year I was able to have my sister Deirdre along at Gatcombe. This year there will be three of us, Dee and I will be joined by my lovely niece Sophie so It must be busy on the stand.
We have also been Joined by some super new Brand Ambassadors but more about them next week.
Well what a start to the eventing season! Belton was Belting !
Hot weather, dare I say at times too hot. Fantastic eventing and wonderful customers! Got to catch up with the lovely William Fox-Pitt.
Our first time at Belton was a great experience, thank you to Bede Events. It was a little odd, I was very out of my comfort zone in the craft tent. I like my own tent and I have to admit I hated not having the dog with me. However the welcome and response to Tarrag Naegel was fabulous.
I think it is easy to forget the little things which make my brand different. People love the idea of the the farriers nail and identify with "For the want of a Nail" theme.
However they love the classic lines and simplicity of the range. People say repeatedly" its so simple but it works"
Being able to wear it every day is a huge plus for a country girl. But it still looks great at the Hunt Ball.
People also like the fact that when they deal with Tarrag Naegel, really they are talking to me. Even on the website. They also know that's not my strong suit, so they know to call or email me directly.
"Spur of the moment" has been very well received and the 10% off show special was too! Follow the button to have a look at the new collection.
If you were at Belton and did not buy, but are coming to Burnham Market I will still have the offer there too.
Well the car is packed ready for this weekend at Dalkeith (so are the thermals, snow today !)
Then on to Kelso Races on Monday so looking forwards to seeing some more familiar faces.
Vanda still in dry dock but there is hope! For those that missed the dog at Belton she will be on stand from now on.
Coming down after a spectacularly busy weekend at Kelso Racecourse, ITV racing bought the sunshine with them and some fantastic racing. A joy to be a part of and a busy, busy day. Light at the end of the tunnel then the man from the garage rang...
Those who have been following our blog over the last week or two, will already know the sad tale of Vandas broken engine. Well its gone from bad to worse and now I am going to have to travel in a car and two a small trailer for at least a month. not ideal with so many places to be.
While things have been rather tough, I have been taking great comfort from knowing I am not alone. I joined the Equestrian Business Network and have found many new like minded equestrian business folk. The catalyst for this fantastic community is the lovely Jenni Bush who is very open very honest and just so passionate about what she does. I wanted to thank her for keeping me going so I sent her a little pair of my earrings .Then next was she posted this on Facebook:-
Her lovely video reduced me to tears. She hit the nail on the head!
What am I doing?
I work long hours. I drive all over the country. I get up before dawn and go home in the dark. I spend days cleaning stock. I clean and Iron the cloths on the stand. I do all the paperwork, advertising media and website. I design and create the stock. I turn your ideas in to reality. I build the stand and layout the stock. I am nice to people all day long... even when they ask for discount.
Why am I doing it?
To earn a living yes I need to eat. But it is so much more than that ...I help people make memories and gifts that mean something. That is what makes me go out and do what I do.
Tarrag Naegel is about you!
Come and meet me in the Craft Tent at Belton International Horse Trails this weekend!
Last week was some what of a challenge. The lovely Vanda is still on the engine transplant list, do we buy a recon engine? Do we buy another van and transplant? Do I give up the dream go to work in Tesco and make my life easier? Life is never simple and all options were considered believe me. The cost of a recon engine is enough to turn a soul grey, well grayer if that's even a word. Then someone said "Have faith it will all look very different next week."
such wise words.
Faith is something which is very personal and to be honest not something which crosses my mind often, I myself am of the humanist persuasion. However when I was asked to make the first Tarrag Naegel Cross for a very lovely lady owner's big birthday, the penny dropped. Nails and crosses what a great connection, part of me always admires those with a faith regardless of which denomination they choose to follow.
The very first cross was in 9 ct yellow gold and Peridot, a stunning piece and I love that it is worn often. Made for a significant birthday, that first purchase has turned that particular lady into a customer but also a friend. Later an old school friend asked if I could make something similar in Silver with Black Jet. Similar to the one now in our range but this one is Black Onyx. He may have regretted showing his lovely wife. Very quickly we had to make another one for his good lady. At which point it became part of our classic range.
At last years Festival of Eventing I was joined on he stand by my sister which was great fun and gave us a chance to catch up. Living at either end of the country makes it tricky to keep in touch. Imagine our surprise when our brother turned up, with his wife and daughter! They has come to see us, but also the stand. My sister in Law has great faith and asked if I could make her a cross to celebrate their anniversary. The challenge was to get a sapphire to match her robes. I like a good challenge, but realised a sapphire was just not going to work. The perfect colour match was a Tanzanite. I knew the cross was of great importance to them both, however when the cross was ready I was not aware that the timing was perfect. Making the job all the more special for all their family. I was not aware my sister in laws much loved aunt had passed away. Asked to lead the service a great honor but also a huge of a responsibility. I was very touched that, my sister in law felt the cross was a real token of love
for her on that very emotional day.
Well off to pack for Belton Horse Trails, hopefully Vanda will be back on the road soon
Life on the road as a mobile company does not always run smoothly!
A couple of weeks ago on route to Corbridge point to point "Vanda" decided to throw her toys out of her cot, on a very steep hill not far from Otterburn. It was also cold foggy and not the best place to be. Stuck a blind summit directing horseboxes and trailers into on coming traffic for some two hours!
For those wondering who the heck Vanda is? She is my cross gender transit van (she started life as a workman's mess van) A good joiner, some sticky back plastic and a few fairy lights later.. "Vanda"was born. As I wait for her engine transplant, I have had time to do a bit of catching up on the social media and website stuff. Which does not come naturally to a woman of my advancing years.
I have also started to follow the Equine Business Assistant, the lovely Jenni Bush. Also the lovely Laura Mc Douall from the copy writing project. these lovely ladies have made me realise that it is ok, to be your self on your website and on your social media. They may have created a monster!
With this in mind I been working non stop to improve my offer on line. Please visit my website pages and give me some feed back. I would be very grateful.
I have also realised we need more stock photographs. An area which has always terrified me but its amazing what you can do with your phone and a few props. See above our new spur of the moment pendant! Not to shabby for an old lady.
I think what I am trying to say is when you see me at events, you see a mere fraction of the work that goes into what we make sell. There is only me and my colleague who casts and polishes my designs the rest is all down to me. So if the tent is squint or I look windswept and interesting. I have usually been up since 5am and will probably been there until at least three hours after you have all gone home. The night before I might have been playing with sticky back plastic till all hours, to make the van live able too!
Despite the difficulties that get thrown at me because of the nature of what I do. I would not change it, for love nor money. I love meeting every one of you, Tarrag Naegel is not about how much it costs, it about the people who wear it and what it means to them. In the last three years we have made individual pieces for brides, new mum's, old mum's, birthdays, anniversaries, memorials and " just because". That's why I do, what I do. Every piece and every person has a story and that's how the range has developed. To the people who wear it its a gift bought by a loved one, a memory, a life event, something to hang on to when things go wrong. What you see is what you get I tend to be fairly direct,if i don't think you have made the right choice. I will offer honest advice.
So if the website is not perfect and the photos are a bit fuzzy, please bare with me. Your jewellery will be! It will be what you have asked for, at a fair price. If the person who wears it loves it then I have achieved my goal:-
To make a range of British jewellery at a fair price, hand finished, as individual as you are.
It makes life on the road a wonderful place to be. My fellow traders people I meet at events and race meetings become customers and friends. I am the keeper of secrets, as we plan surprises and special gifts. I'm one of many familiar friendly faces for the regular race goers but most of all I am myself.
This week we will be at Frairs Haugh Kelso for the Point to Point
Ps a reminder the Sale on our bronzes finishes on the 15th!!!
Tarrag Naegel had originally been designed to be a brand with my existing business
however launched in July 2015 by Christmas, it was a making up a third of the shops sales.
I though maybe I should promote the brand and decided to take it racing at Perth Racecourse and to do a few local shows. By May it was obvious with the current climate on the high street and the pressure of trying to do two things the time had come to take a huge leap of faith and form a new company. On the first of June 2016 Tarrag Naegel Limited was born.
Having grown up in Perthshire, I met people I had known in my youth ex school or ex pony club people and word began to spread. At this time we had Classic Tarrag Naegel and a large quantity of Cold Cast Bronze Horse and Dogs. Our very first Blue and white gazebo and it was all a very steep learning curve. Putting up at gazebo single handed is a skill that takes a while to master I will always be grateful to my fellow traders who were kind enough to point out the easy way to do things and had so many handy tips learned through experience. I clearly remember arriving at Forgandenny Horse trails in a frock straight from the shop. As I stepped deftly into my wellies to put up the stand I heard the familiar tones of Mr Jamie Innes a well know face from the Borders shouting "where the **** have you been" clearly after five years away from the borders I realised I might have been missed. Winter 2016 I came back to the borders to bring Tarrag Naegel to Kelso Races.
The October meeting at Kelso has always been very special for me as it always falls the week of my birthday. For many years the children would bring me to Kelso Racecourse as my birthday treat. One of the down sides of being self employed is that you have to make sacrifices. For me the biggest one of all was my much loved thoroughbred Shannon. Although he was getting on in 2007 he needed to work everyday and I had a shop and a family. With my brave pants on I gave him to Dickie Jeffries at Kimmerston, on condition he gave him the life he needed. Come October 2016 I knew I was to be at Kelso, for the Border principles race for which Kimmerston supplied the horses. Little did I expect to have the pure joy of watching my lovely, brave, bold slightly bonkers old man lead the young horses up the straight. Well he lead until the last thirty yards, when the younger bigger horses over took him for him to finish fifth of fourteen. Not bad for 29 and he had been cubbing the day before. I make no excuses for the fact I watched with tears streaming down my face. I had often wondered if I had done the right thing giving him up. Now I had my answer, yes! Thank you to Kelso Racecourse who made sure I had a copy of the race on film.
On the back of being at Kelso and Perth I started being invited to other events, Ingliston Country Club, Floors Castle, Ian Stark's. The list began to grow and life began to transform
from a few days out to a new way of doing business. It is important to say at this stage although I no longer have a shop, I have kept the policy of value for money, service and honesty, trading with integrity is a large part of the companies success.
Better still come and see for yourself this weekend we will be at College Valley Point to Point at Alnwick.
Why Farriers Nails? Very good question.
The horseshoe has long been a symbol of good fortune across the world, so much so that the Germans have a saying in their folk law which roughly translated says :-
No Nail, No shoe, No Hoof, No Horse, No Knight, No Castle,No Kingdom
I think that says it all, our evolution as been entwined with the horse for generations and surprisingly even the Romans shod their horses. That makes horse shoes and farriers nails a pretty important part of our heritage.
With that in mind, I also thought about my own heritage
My mother was Irish of Scots decent and loved horse racing with a passion, my earliest memories were being taken to Sandown and Lingfield to watch racing.. I was about 4,when I started to ride, however the love affair with the horse had started well before then. No great surprise as a love of horses is a common theme throughout the family, recently my great niece added "horsey" to her vocal repertoire as soon as she could speak.
I was lucky enough to live with the ponies on the Isle of Inch Kenneth (now the Earray herd of Shetlands from Mull) at 12 I was given my own pony. Ceaser was kept on a farm where a young lad called George West Lived. Later when I had moved on to a horse and George had become a young farrier, he practiced his shoeing skills on that horse. George is now a well respected farrier in Perthshire, I still carry a photo of that horse in my purse today. When I decided to make my own range, it was Georges Nails that were used to get the proportions and details right for the very first pieces.
I have shared my life several horses but it was that little TB mare that George learnt to shoe on,who taught me important survival skills. Mostly that the ground hurts when hit at speed, but getting back on is always worth it. I grew up wanting to work in Racing, offered a job at 16 my parents said NO WAY! So I went to catering college instead ( I like Cake almost as much as Fergal O 'Brien does) ! in the late 1980's I became a hotel manager for Stakis Plc. The operations Director who signed my contract was one Collin McGrath, the same Colin Mc Grath who is know as the man who gives the bag of carrots to every winner at Kelso Racecourse. The horse world is very small and I am so glad to be a part of that family.
So the answer to why Farriers Nails ? They represent good fortune, for some they are also a symbol of faith. They are also symbol of the importance of the horse in our history. For those that love horses they are a nice connection to the horse with out being obviously "horsey"
The shape is a great shape for jewellery and lends it self to balanced simple designs., suitable for day and evening wear, in town or country.
For me the farriers nail has bought so many people back into my life for a second time and allowed my childhood dreams of working in the horse world to become a reality.
Today I had a visit from the lovely Ann Gage and her lovely Mum, we met through the Equine Business Assistant Jenni Bush and her group on Facebook. As Ann lives in Canada it just proves the equine world is truly tiny and filled with fabulous people.
Next week I plan to talk about leaving the shops behind and Tarrag Naegel's creation.
Don't miss us this weekend Saturday Kelso Racecourse!
In 2006 I opened my first shop selling one small brand and other non branded jewellery. Following a newspaper headline saying" Berwick was dying on its feet,all the nationals pulling out"., which I was sure was not the case. I made the decision to open a shop and five weeks later we were trading! Gung Ho maybe, but it worked!
Having worked for an independent jeweller and also having worked for a few large well know companies,B.S.Y (Before the Snot and Yogurt jobs that arrived with motherhood) I put all that good training and experience into my new venture .
I was know as "Waitrose Wendy" for years so I thought call the shop Its own name. I thought don't get labelled again,so I chose an usual name. Thinking it was a good idea to have a name that started with an "A" to get top listing in the phone book and hopefully to make it memorable. I chose Alame (a Spanish girls name meaning Elegant Poplar Tree) Fraser for my clan and Irish family. Little did I realise I would have a second persona for eleven years, I was called everything from Allan, to Elaine. I think the joke was on me.
Alame Fraser was very kind to me and allowed me to feed and bring up my children. It also taught me that you can't do anything without good training, knowledge and experience. The very first Christmas, I took time to reflect on those who had helped give me that knowledge. I now understood why I was once referred to as "a bit of a Jack Russell" by my boss he assured me it was a complement (even if I did have to look up the word tenacity) . Realising how lucky I had been to work with some amazing people, I took time out to write an open letter to them all thanking them for giving me those useful tools. Not only create a business but also to employ others and create jobs at a time where things were not always easy. However time moves on eleven staff, one dog, three shops and relocation later, I needed something fresh to put into the shop. The little brand we sold was the lovely Sheila Fleet now Scotland's premier designer available all over the world, so not unusual any longer. I learnt that people buy from you, not your shop and that buying jewellery is all about what it means not what it costs. Which is why I like to be out on the stand not in an office.
A trip to a trade show in early 2015 was life changing, and very unexpected . I had gone with my old friend to buy a new range of Scottish jewellery for the shop. I met a man who tried to Hornswoggle me into buying Mexican silver as Scottish, as I walked away my friend asked why I was uneasy or to be more precise said "You turned into your mother, what is up?" I suspected had been misled and this was no way to do business certainly not when your reputation and client base is built on trust. My whole business had been built on value for money, honesty, and service, it was not about to change! However it was a huge catalyst and bought about the company we are today.
We had always made bespoke pieces and in 2008 made a farriers nail neck wire for as 21st birthday. From that day forward we had talked and talked about doing a wee range but it had never been the right time. ........ Come the Monday morning it was Geronimo time!
For what happens next come back next week - when I will explain why farriers nails are so inspiring. Or better still pop along to the Tynedale Point to Point at Corbridge and ask me in person.
a snapshot of some of my lines.