Inspired by Northern skies - Sophie Whitehead
MIRRIE DANCERS – “An aurora (plural: auroras or aurorae), sometimes referred to as polar lights, northern lights (aurora borealis), or southern lights (aurora Australis), is a natural light display in the Earth's sky, predominantly seen in the high latitude locations.” -Wikipedia.
The northern lights, referred to in Shetland as ‘Mirrie Dancers’ are a natural phenomenon. To witness them in person is something that is top of many people’s bucket list.
Throughout the dark winter nights in Shetland we are so privileged to be able to view them fairly often. Winter days in Shetland are short, meaning winter is very hard and dark for many people. The excitement of the Northern lights adds a bit of magic to our nights.
I’ve been known to leave the house in my pyjamas and a big jacket, or drop everything I’m doing, and avoid sleep at any cost to be able to view them. I live in Lerwick meaning that I’ve quite often to rush to drive somewhere darker to be able to view the lights in a darker spot so that the light pollution doesn’t dissolve their beauty. They can’t be forecast accurately and a specific time isn’t known. The use of social media means that in Shetland especially if the lights are seen it’s easy to be notified. What this means is it enables many people the option to know when and where to view them, but it often requires spontaneity. I’ll guiltily admit that I’ve seen the lights so often now that there’s times I’ve been blasé about the phenomenon and chosen not to go out, to stay warm inside or to sleep instead, which even as I type that is ridiculous.
The intensity and drama of the dancers varies, and no two nights or viewings are the same, I’ve seen it as a sight haze, or a small green arc to the entire sky, and I mean the ENTIRE sky being filled with colours of orange and green and purple. Dancing like crazy above the dark Shetland landscape. I’ve lost camera lenses and tripods to the darkness of the night while trying to photograph their beauty, but no photograph could ever capture the emotion you feel while witnessing a beautiful show of aurora. To me it makes you realise that everything is much bigger around you as you ever realise. We’re all such a small part of this beautiful planet, and we’re so privileged to be able to spend our time here.
So our Mirrie dancer range; spending time outside on cold nights became such a normal part of our Shetland winter that it had to be translated somehow into our work. Shetland Jewellery always has and always will take inspiration from our beautiful surroundings. It’s a way of recognising and appreciating the place we live while encompassing that beauty into something people can wear forever as a reminder; of their gratitude for the archipelago where they live, are from or have visited. Shetland is a very special place and I’d be surprised if anyone visiting in summer or winter didn’t lose even a small part of your heart to the islands.
Our Mirrie dancer range began as a single design, one pendant that we thought could in some way portray the beauty of the dancers. The piece is cast in silver, gold or even platinum and finished with enamel by hand, the enamel enters the piece like water colour paint would a bit of paper, it flows and runs, and catches in the engraving of the design. The colours blend and clash and stick to where they feel with a bit of manipulation, they form the beauty of the sky. Once the popularity for the piece grew and grew we met demand and made earrings and rings and broches, the whole range now offers a piece for anyone who loves aurora, or Shetland or colour. It’s one of our most popular ranges with both customers and staff.