News

We Love Collaborations!

Recently, we were contacted by Robbie Hunter, and Auckland-based photographer that wanted to do a photo shoot using ethical and sustainable products for weddings.  We were all in!

ethical wedding ringWe are absolutely thrilled with the results.  The model (@hannahmcrae) wore one of our symmetrical facets bands.  The bouquet was from @l.b.flowers (I'd like one on hand for daily use) and the makeup was by @calistya.mua

engagement ringWe hope we get to work with these ace people again.  Heaps of fun.


Asymmetrical Facets Ring

I just spent the last 3 hours editing product photos, one type of product in fact, some new snaps of our Asymmetrical Facets Wedding Band.  I just stared at them for the last 3 hours straight and I'm still in love with them (in fact I'm wearing a super wide one on my finger right now), so you might want to stare at them too.  Or buy one for your sweetie.  What.  You can buy your own here.

Boom.  This is the very ring that's on my finger right now.  One of my BFF's husbands ordered it for her as a surprise, it didn't fit and I WAS SO HAPPY because it did fit me. 

Maybe you're a yellow gold ring kind of person?  

Or Rose Gold?  And GIANT.

Or teeny tiny with a diamond!

Or maybe you need two that are best friends!


This Time Last Year

I can't believe I haven't written about this until now.  Actually, I totally can as it took me two years to post about our wedding and I'm still sitting on a post about the ridiculously amazing, out of this world, blow my mind hand crocheted life-size crocodile sleeping bags my Mom made for my kids Christmas 2015.

Well.  Well, well, well.  Etsy made us their featured seller.  Which is a huge deal.  If you're not an Etsy seller, you probably don't know what a big deal it is.  And even if you are an Etsy seller, but started in the last couple of years, you probably don't understand why I think this is a big deal.  To be honest, it's not as big a deal as it used to be, as the featured seller used to hangout on the front page of the web site for a week, which would translate into LOTS and LOTS of views.  Nowadays, the featured sellers hangout on the Etsy Blog, but because I remember those big deal days so much, it was a HUGE deal to me and something I always super hoped would happen.

Well, if you made it through all of that, checkout the feature!  Or, just scroll down to see the lovely and super talented Rachel Brown Photography did for us on super short notice 1 week before Christmas.  And if you go right down to the bottom, you can see my hilarious before and after of the amazing work my BFF Poppy (hire her for your wedding!) did. 

Love this one!  Siggy blackening etchings.Siggy is so pretty.   Pip cracking my ass up.  It happens a lot. The long view of the (old) workshop.  I've reclaimed this room as my own.  I painted it pink.

Siggy talking about an order with Ash.  We work in weekly bunches, with all the orders for the week on one tray.  After the Etsy feature, we had to build bigger trays.  

This is the look I make when I'm scared an order is missing.  I promise I found it.

I'm pretty sure one of us must have farted-one of few things that can inspire that look of love and admiration from Ash

The whole team!  Look how Ash and I are drinking OJ while the Ladies drink all the wine.  Just kidding, we started drinking mimosas at 9AM and the Ladies had to hold everything together while we lost orders and farted inappropriately.


Holiday Ordering Info

 

We are currently on our annual family holiday from December 16th-January 7th.  We will have limited email contact during this time.  If you have an urgent question about an existing order, please write URGENT in the subject line of your email.

If this is you'd like some info to help you get started, this link might answer most of your questions:  http://www.ashhilton.com/pages/how-to-buy-a-ring

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!


Happy Birthday Charleston, New Zealand!

The Charleston beach where we get our ethical gold

I heard on National Radio this morning that Charleston, New Zealand is celebrating it's 150th birthday this weekend and thought, "this will make for some great blog and social media fodder!  We love Charleston!"  Here's why.

Hopefully, it's pretty obvious that ethical wedding and engagement rings are our bag around here.  It was a major turning point in our business when Ash first started looking into worldwide gold mining practices.  What he found was shocking.  So many people were aware of the atrocities surrounding diamonds, but not many people understood the huge environmental and cultural toll that precious metal wreak on the world.

He knew he couldn't just bury his head in the sand and ignore the situation.  He reached out to his suppliers and found out that they only source gold from New Zealand and Australia, which have relatively good mining practices, BUT the majority of it comes from traditional mines, which can create up to 20 tonnes of mining waste to extract enough gold for a single wedding ring.  Uh, not so great.

This is what a traditional goldmine looks like.  Yuck.

Then!  He remembered that his Dad, Jim, had done some work for a guy collecting alluvial black sand gold from a beach on the West Coast.  This is where Charleston comes in.  Charleston was a big gold mining town in the 1800's.  All the gold mines are long gone, but not all the gold is!  Gold from the mines has washed down the rivers and mixed in with the black sands of the beaches.  Jim's mate had purchased the rights to a gold claim in Charleston to collect this black sand gold.

A much better scene than an open pit mine.

It's basically bigger-scale gold panning involving a tractor and rubber matts and a slurry of sand and water.  Two people operate the plant right on the beach.  They do use mercury in the process, which we were concerned about, but Jim told us that they always end up with more mercury than they started with, so they're actually removing mercury from the beach that's washed down from the old mines.Sparkles of gold in the sand!

I just love this whole story.  Ash wants to make ethical jewellery, but can't find a supplier that can help him out.  Jim has gold fever and thus was one of 3 people to work at this little gold lease.  Ash is able to visit the set up, see how it all works and know 100% that it's all up to snuff.  Ash can make wedding rings for people from gold that comes from the same place he grew up knowing that it in no way messes up the environment or screws people over.  

Our ethical wedding rings sometimes have surface imperfections as the metal isn't refined in the traditional way, but alloyed by Ash in our workshop.

If you're in New Zealand, go to Charleston this weekend for the party!  You can go and try out black sand mining for yourself, see the old goldfields and ride the train up the Nile River.  More info here:  http://www.westcoast.co.nz/events/150th-anniversary-charleston-goldfields/

 


In Defence of Halloween

This is going to come as a HUGE SHOCK to our American friends out there, but there is a strong and vocal anti-Halloween contingent in New Zealand.  I KNOW!  Why?  How?  Usually you think New Zealand, and you just automatically think, better.  I mean, there's even a dish soap flavour named "New Zealand Springs."  Not a lot of countries could be a successfully marketed aroma.  This shocking cultural misstep (alongside whatever it is they serve me when I ask for nachos), was my first real "Brand New Zealand" disillusionment.  

This family's gonna do the crane move on your bad attitude New Zealand!

There are a variety of complaints.  First and foremost, what I hear is that it's an American (and therefore automatically really bad) tradition that's being foisted on the unsuspecting children (parents) of New Zealand.  I get it!  America has done a lot of crappy-crap to the planet.  I wasn't so pleased living in America, so now I live in New Zealand, so I get it!  BUT!  I am still American (which a lot of people seem to forget when telling me how terrible Halloween is simply because it, like me, is American) and there's not many aspects of our culture that I feel comfortable celebrating out in the wider world.  So, I think you should let me have this one.  And if you don't want to play along, that's cool.  I do think you'll be missing out on a helluva lot of fun though, so open your mind and let me try and convince you. 

Let's go to the moon!

Some background.  I grew up in the deep South in a very small, Christian and conservative town.  My parents were very non-traditional.  We were poor at a time when it was really important to have expensive jeans and all your Christmas presents wrapped in matching wrapping paper from the fancy department store.  We didn't go to church.  Most holidays highlighted all the ways we didn't fit-in.  I was far from alone in this alienation.    

It doesn't have to be all about sugar!  Banana ghosts for crying out loud!

BUT!  Halloween was always the great equaliser.  Everyone was invited.  Everyone could participate.  You didn't have to be rich or white or Christian to have a great Halloween, all you needed was a little bit of creativity.  In fact, for that day, you could turn yourself into ANYBODY.  You could be the president, or an astronaut or a bumble bee or a super rich guy.  The most egalitarian holiday ever.  Kiwis are into that, right?

The other thing I hear is, "It's rude to send your kids out begging for candy! Give me candy or I'll do a trick on you!!"  Ok.  I can see how this one would be a bit tougher if didn't grow up in the Halloween culture.  I got all the candy as a kid, so now, as a grown up, I'm super excited to give that candy back to the world.  You don't have the buy-in, fine.  But surely it's worth $10 a year to have your own personal parade of cuteness and creativity coming right to your doorstep?  These kids (hopefully) worked really hard on their costumes, so I don't really see it as begging.  And by the way, I have a strict no costume, no candy policy.  But I will soften if they can tell me a joke or do a dance. 

Other than that, it's really more vague arguments about how it's just not a New Zealand tradition and bah, humbug.  Well, so?  New Zealand isn't really teeming with celebratory holidays, why not take the time to have a bit of fun?  I've never heard anyone decry Blossom festivals or Diwali celebrations or even Dia de los Muertos.  Which brings me back to Halloween = America = Bad, which makes me sad and sad for my 50% American kids.  BOOM.  Guilt bomb.  

How can a kid in a Robin Hood costume made out of paper be anything but good??

I guess the other two main detractors are the commercialisation and the sugar.  Which, yeah, you can go crazy and spend a lot of money, but that's a total choice just like in every other aspect of life.  And the sugar, welllll.  “He that is without sin among you, let him eat the first easter egg."  

Ok fine, the Iron Man costume is pretty lame and commercial, but whatev, he got if for Christmas :)

So!  I have one last point.  I always see all these nostalgic posts about how before social media, you knew where your friends were because there was a massive pile of bikes outside a house and how we used to know it was time to go home because the street lights were coming on and how kids learn so much from roaming the neighbourhood with their friends.  Well, Halloween helps with that.  It gets all the neighbours out and talking to each other and laughing at the costumes and meeting all the other kids on the street and your kids find new buddies to hang out with and that's good.  And healthy.  And FUN.  

 

 


Hey! We Got Married!! Two years ago.

Do you wanna know about our wedding?  Do you love super photo-heavy blog posts? Do you have a super-high tolerance for narcissism and giggly, sappy explanations of someone else's happiness?  Well!  Have I got the blog post for you!  And if you answered no to any of those questions, just be so happy we're not friends on Facebook, I made those fools look 600+ wedding photos.  I'm 38 years old, happily married, have birthed two babies with no drugs and I have zero shame.  ZERO.   Let's get started.

I never thought Ash and I would really get married.  All the people that we love are scattered far and wide and I knew that we would never be able to have them all together in one place, so really what was the point?  Then!  All of our immediate family happened to be in the same country, at the same time, THE STARS ALIGNED and BOOM our wedding (and more importantly, our wedding theme) was swung into action.  We had a window of 1 month to pull it off and a pretty small budget, because we love limitations and hate sleep.  

Luckily, our closest circle of friends and family includes, a former wedding invitation designer, a wedding photographer, a professional make up artist and a wedding celebrant.  And, you know, we've made a few wedding rings in our day.  So!  That's the deal.  Here's the porn.

This is the invitation my insanely talented Sister created for us.  It's perfect.  I love it.  I have extras that I look at a lot.  She made sure to put in both mine and Ash's star signs as well as the Matariki constellation that Ash mapped out in diamonds on my engagement ring many years ago.  

These are the boys swimming at the beach down the road from our house the morning of the wedding.  Lucky, lucky.

This is Ash reading one of approximately 17,000 lists I made.  I still have them all in a special box, because lists are the best thing ever.  My Dad taught me that.

Ash and I share a similar personality flaw that makes it nearly impossible for us to buy things.  It's taken us 5 years to buy a duvet cover.  Which made it hard to organise a wedding in 30 days, we both had to buy shoes.  Luckily, Ash already had a suit.  He never found the right shoes, so he bought these at the op-shop the day before the wedding.  In that box is an antique pocket watch I gave him.  He carried that and a compass my Dad gave him the year before he died.  When Ash pulled that out and showed me just after ceremony I almost lost my shit.  

This is Ash's Dad Jim.  We call him Jimbo, but I don't think he likes it.  He doesn't usually get too excited about parties, but he was super sweet leading up to the wedding and was super helpful.  He even let me decide if he should wear his pink shirt or his purple shirt.  I went for purple.

This is Tom, Ash's cousin and best man.  His family gave us 1/2 a cow for our wedding present, which was the best present ever.  Don't ever play cards with him.

Henry was so, so excited to wear fancy, fancy clothes for the "wetting."  I found the cutest vintage suit from the 40's and he wore blue glitter ballet flats. 

Ok, so, you guys.  Ash made me a gold constellation necklace and tiara for my wedding present.  Full disclosure, I did ask him to make me a necklace, but I told him to make it in brass.  He and my Sister designed it in secret and then he made it in gold.  It's the scariest thing I own.  Also, the most beautiful.  

These are my wetting shoes.  And the necklace and tiara.  I bought my shoes second hand (yuck!) and the lady said in the listing, "they just sit there in my closet like sad princesses waiting to be worn."  And I was like, "whatever, I'm gonna wear those everyday."  Nope, still sad princesses.  But, they make me happy.  Unless I'm wearing them and then I hate everything.

Remember our ridiculously beautiful wedding invitation?  Well guess what?  My Mom turned it into our ring bearer pillow.  I have absolutely no idea how she got these wizard-like abilities, but it's the prettiest, most perfect pillow in the whole, wide world.  She embroidered a font!  Two fonts!  And then stipple-painted the milky-way and hand embroidered all the constellations.  How can she do this?  I can't even write my kids' names on their lunch boxes without making an embarrassment of myself.  

Ok, so I maybe stole the colour theme from my bedroom.  Dark blue + gold 4-life.

This is me applauding my ridiculously talented husband and his tiara-making skillz.  Can your husband make a tiara?  Mine can.

Let's take a minute to appreciate how beautiful my Mama is.  It seems I did not get her skin and its inability to wrinkle.  Thanks Dad.

This is the face that you want your friends to make when they see you all made up for your wedding day.  The whole day could have stopped right there, because this look on my beautiful friend Fie's face made it all worth it.

And also this one.

Oh, and also.  My beautiful friend Poppy is a makeup artist.  You should hire her for your wedding, this is her web site.  I really do have the best and most talented friends ever.  #blessed.

If Ash ever infuriates me and I think I want to leave and go back and work at a cafe in Texas and drink only margaritas and eat only queso for the rest of my days, I look at this photo of myself and remember that this was how excited I was to marry him.  And we were already 9 years, two kids, a mortgage and a business in, so I knew exactly what I was getting myself into.

This is Jonny.  He married us.  He was one of the first real friends I made in NZ and he's kept me laughing ever since.  He and Ash have known each other for 20ish years and he's just like family.  Thanks Jonny!

Ok, these are Ash's two siblings besides Siggy.  Tom and Zoë.  Aren't they cute?  Zoë has her PhD, knows how to play all kinds of instruments, is teaching Henry how to rock climb and is smoking hot.  We all kinda hate her a little bit :)  She learned a song, a very special song, to play for the wedding ceremony and then just happen to pick out the two other songs I really wanted her to play but was afraid to ask her to learn on such short notice.  I'm surrounded by wizards.

This was the most magical moment of the ceremony and I missed it as it was before I walked in.  We got married in the woodsy part of our back yard over a little bridge.  Henry, who was 4 at the time, was in charge of pixie dust.  He had a little pouch of superfine glitter and threw it into the air as he twirled and jumped.  The gold glitter hung in the air and it was like magic.  Wish we had a video.

My nephew Jacob is a martial arts super hero and gave a display of his skills just before I walked in.  It was awesome by all accounts.

Truman was in charge of the pillow.  He knew he had to hand it to Evan, but then he took it straight back after the rings were detached and hasn't let go of it since.  He also refused to wear a shirt or have his hair brushed.  Everyone seemed very concerned about this.  It just felt like home to me.

My BFF told me she loved this pic because I'm literally dragging my Mom up the to the altar.  I was super-psyched!!  I also love all the smiling happening in the background.

This is the exact image I had in my head when I was imagining our ceremony in our backyard.  I still can't believe how lucky we are to have the incredible talent of Victoria Vincent in our lives, but more on her later.

Definitely the sweetest moment of the day, Ash made wedding rings for the boys and we gave them to them during the ceremony.  

These are our wedding hands.  Here's a little secret, I've never been much of a jewellery person, and even though our whole lives revolve around making and selling wedding rings, I never **really** understood what the big deal was.  Until I had my own.  And especially once Ash had his on his finger.  It's the only part of the wedding that's with us every, single day and I really do get excited when I catch sight of his.  It's so tangible! Plus, the whole unbroken circle of infinity thing is pretty cool too.  

These are my girls!!  My sister Autumn on the left and her daughter Suzannah on the right.  They are the sassiest, funniest, sharpest, smartest, most beautiful ladies in the whole wide world.  I'm waiting, waiting, waiting for the day when Autumn does something stupid so that Suzannah gets so mad that she comes and lives with me in New Zealand.  It's never going to happen because my Sister wins everything.  

After the ceremony was finished all the guests went back to our place for some snackies and drinkies and Ash and I had some portraits taken.  See?  Plenty of wrinkles, thanks Dad.  But, they're happiness wrinkles, so it's ok.

This is my smokin' hot husband. That made me a golden crown.  And homemade donuts.  But not on this day.

Truman came over to me and gave me lots, and lots of kisses and cuddles.  Note the pillow.

This is Ash's Granddad, also named Ash.  He's stunningly awesome and hilarious and makes sure your whisky glass is never empty.

This is Ash's Aunt Mary, his Grandma Shirl (Granddad Ash's wife and the sharpest, funniest lady around) and my Mother-In-Law from Hell, Jude.  What can I say about Jude?  She's the styliest, hippest, loveliest lady around. She will kick your ass at tennis, hang up on you if call while the cricket's on, meet you in Europe at the drop of a hat and make you buy the nicest shoes in the shop.  She's who I want to be when I grow up.  Except for the cricket part.

This is Astrid, our amazing photographer's daughter.  Since I don't have any daughters, I've decided she's also my daughter.  Hope that's cool Tor and Lico.

Ash has always been a van guy.  Not a creepy van guy, but a, "let's just put it all in the back of my van" kind of guy.  This was the first van we bought together.  We gave it to Jimbo a few years ago, but are still allowed to borrow it for special occasions.  Now it's painted with political protest messages in bright red paint.  

Wedding Party party time.

Just strolling and being smug as hell.

This one just speaks for itself.  It's saying, "I'm a badass photos."

We read a lot of those, "how to look great in photos" articles.  This is our best work of the day.  We were squinching, but not too hard.

This is our album cover:

So, not only did my sister make the invitations, design the vintage celestial theme posters and get way drunker than me to distract from my embarrassing level of drunkeness, she also arranged all of the flowers.  SHE WINS SISTERS.

This is one of said posters.  We got free images from the Library of Congress and then had them printed on plan printers in dark blue ink.  Now, they decorate our house.  Except for the one that Truman pulled off the wall and ripped into a million pieces.  He's a terrible human.  Apart from his dimple, that's really cute. 

This is Saali.  He and Ash grew up together and he couldn't make it to the wedding on such short notice.  Except that Siggy is the best Sister/in law/friend/badass ever and flew him in to surprise us!  WE WERE SO SURPRISED.  He sang a beautiful love song that he wrote.  It was amazing upon amazing.

Ash and Autumn cutting the wedding cake.  Wait.  What?  So, I have this ridiculously amazing Aunt Gail.  She made that wedding cake and it almost killed her.  I thought I was asking for something easy, but apparently ombre blue icing is not easy.  Not at all easy.  It looked exactly, exactly how I wanted it to and it tasted freaking amazing.  She also made lots of allergy free treats for all the kids and pretty much just blew all of our minds.

You know how I said that mine and Ash's family and friends are sprinkled all over the world and couldn't all be there?  Well, they all got together and made a video.  A video I still can't watch unless I don't have anywhere to go for several hours because it makes me cry so, so hard and when I cry I get this crazy red patches all over my face.  I have no idea what I did to gather up so much love in my life, but I did and it's all in one video.  The absolute best wedding present ever.  This photo of me watching shows approximately 1/1,000,000th of the emotion it evoked in me.  The rest of it was dumped all over the poor caterers in the kitchen where I hid out and sobbed.  I really wonder what they thought happened to me.  They were highly concerned and made me eat cake.

This is one of many, many favourite dancing photos of the night.  My beautiful friend Anna is proving that she made entirely of light and pure joy, my Mom's in behind her gettin' it on, I'm totally in the zone, and Ash is drunk-hugging off to the left.  There's a lot of dance photos.  We danced till 5 AM.  It was epic.  It was my wedding wish come true.

Not only did the super-talented Victoria Vincent take all the photos, she also showed up to set up and clean up.  This is a day after photo and I love it.  All the amazing work from all my super-talented wizard friends and family had been enjoyed and eaten and drunk and loved and danced up into a mess.  A beautiful mess.

Like what you saw?  You can have it all too!  Hire my amazing friends!!  Poppy Make Up Artist is seriously legit.  I had no idea I could look like that.  She has this incredible way of making everything around her just look better (probably because she's so hot).  The Old Saint John's Hall is totally beautiful and right in the center of town so you can be as loud as you want and everyone can take a cab home.  And Victoria Vincent is the most talented photographer ever made.  She's also a good dancer and her husband is super hot.  Her (my) kids are pretty ok too.  


A Sweet Night

So, most parents have a sense of bedtime urgency that kicks in about halfway through dinner when the conversation has dissolved into shouting about THE DARK GREEN CUP and TACOS ARE NOT MY FAVOURITE and you're wondering how you've failed so miserably as a person that your children are at the same time completely spoiled rotten and starving to death.  

Well.  Ash does not experience this urgency.  In the evenings he gets all sentimental and quality-timey and says, "sure!" to requests that I can't even hear because all my brain voices are sing-shouting "15 MINUTES TO WINE TIME" to the tune of one of Missy Elliot's songs.  

All this is to say that one night Henry got to make his own diamond ring at 8PM on a school night and the photos are the sweetest thing I've ever seen.  

Henry's design concept:

Getting to use the torch to solder the ring.

And now it's a circle!

Filing out the rough bits.

Hammering until it's round.

Pushing the prongs over the "diamond."  It was important to henry that the diamond was upside down so the pointy bit was up.

More fire.

The finished product!

An ethically made (apart from the child labour) recycled sterling silver and 14ct beach gold ring with a 1CT reverse-set cubic zirconium.  Not for sale, private collection.


Winter Wedding Rings

A little round up of my favourite winter wedding rings.  Such a fun time to get married!  Snowy, cuddly fires, men in suits, hot toddy's, all so delicious.

This is our snow on pines ring in 18ct Rose Gold.  You can find it here.

 We call this the Oregon Pine Tree ring.  I think it looks like a Christmas tree.  I secretly want Ash to put colourful stones on the branches to look like Christmas decorations, but that might be too much.  Here's the link to buy.

 This is the same ring as above, but in yellow gold.  I don't know which I prefer.  Hmmm.  Here's the link to this one.

 And this is just snowy, snowy perfection.  Also looks good with a few more snowflakes and diamonds thrown in the mix.  We're always happy to make custom rings if you want it a little different. You can buy this one here.  

 


Our Epic Journey Finale: Hawaii

I don't know if you know this about me (Laurel), but I've got some incredible friends.  The kind of friends that you can be a total ass around and they not only still love you, but kind of love you more because they're just that awesome.  And hilarious.  And really, really good looking.  And they laugh at my jokes so, so loud and I don't even think I'm funny at all.  Well, two of these friends turned 40 this year, which was the catalyst for this whole Hilton family adventure.  This is one of them:

We were partying on the big boat.  That's a tiny bottle of wine in her hand.

The plan was to meet in Hawaii.  For some reason, I thought it would be more economical to go ahead and go to the Mainland of the US at the same time since we would be in that hemisphere.  It didn't work out that way, but alas.  I also thought it would be no big deal to end our epic journey with this super-duper epically anticipated dream holiday with my best friends.  Seriously, we started planning this trip in 2012.  Again, I completely over-estimated my kids.  It's easy to do, a lot of the time they're stunningly incredible.

Truman was officially super-duper x 1,000,000 over travelling by the time it was time to go to Hawaii.  Every night before bed he would ask, "is tomorrow the day we go back to New Zealand?" for a solid month.  He was sick of the heat, the city, the tacos, all of it.  He wanted his cloud bed and his blue transformer car. And then the day before we flew to Kauai, he got a huge fever and spent the entire day in bed.  Great.

He seemed fine when we got up in the morning to go to the airport, but he wasn't really.  He hung in there as best he could and I got totally, totally swept up in the excitement of it all.  We all did.  When we finally got to Kauaii and to our first night's accomodation, had a little to eat and then checked out the beach, we were super stoked.  Especially Truman, he was so, so happy to be in the sea.  There was a perfect little lagoon for him to splash around in and body board and it was great.  He was a little grumpy at meal times, but mostly great.

So, we made him go lots of places.  Lots of places he didn't want to go, like the beach and the other awesome beach and that other beach with all the sea turtles.  And he cried, and he whined.  And I felt like I failed as a parent because I raised this brat that can't even appreciate freaking sea turtles.  And then we had a whole family melt down on the most beautiful beach I've ever seen and I cried (not just because there was sand in my eyes because it was thrown there by rage).  

The next day, Henry woke up with a fever.  And then Truman had bad bathroom stuff going on.  And then one of the awesome dudes we were travelling with got crazy sick and had to be in bed.  And I remembered.  Oh!  I didn't raise a brat.  I'm not a terrible parent for being all permissive and letting him breastfeed until he could ask for it by name and giving him another piece of avocado toast that one time when he asked for it all rude and whiney.  I'm a terrible parent for dragging my sick kid all over damn Hawaii.  

So.  That was all the bad stuff.  I had to put that stuff first so that you can read the rest of this without totally hating my guts.  Hawaii is amazing.  I think I was so excited to hangout with my friends for a whole week, that I forgot to think about the fact that Hawaii is probably the most beautiful place in the whole damn world.  And I thought the water might be kinda cold, but it's not.  It's warm and beautiful.  And guess what?  Henry totally caught a wave!  And snorkelled every day.  And I was so, so, super proud.  

And Ash fulfilled his lifelong dream to work from a hotel balcony in an exotic location.

And I climbed up on Ash's shoulders and *almost* got two fresh coconuts down.  Luckily Kiwis never give up, so Ash climbed up that damn tree and got the coconuts, fulfilling Henry's life long dream.  Henry was not super impressed with the fresh coconut, too much internal hype.  So we did what anyone else would do and turned those coconuts into piña coladas.  The world's best ever piña coladas.  When life gives you coconuts, make piña coladas.  Is that the piña colada industry's slogan?  It should be.

Oh, and we stayed in a mansion!  I think it was a mansion.  I'm not really sure, but it was FAAAAANNNNCCCYYY.  It had 6 bathrooms and a swimming pool and speakers on the lanai.  It was crazy.  I'll never forget our first day there, all 8 of us running around like we won the dang lottery.  It was great.  And I don't think I took a single picture of our times in the house.  Which I'm sad about.  But also not sad, because I was too busy laughing and eating and drinking Mai Tais and just generally feeling super-loved up having all my people in one place.  One super-duper beautiful place.

The whole thing made me just want to scoop up all the people that I love and move to some island with lots of coconuts and rum and sea turtles and warm water and just live there forever.  Does that ever work out?  It doesn't seem like that ever works out.  Or maybe it does and all those people are just having way too much fun to take pictures.

What I do know is this:  You should go to Hawaii.  It's pretty.  And if you're lucky enough to have your best friends with you, well then you've just made some piña coladas out of coconuts.  Also, it's ok to write ridiculously dorky stuff like that if you're happy.  Or a little bit rum drunk.  I'm both, so I'm good.

And thus concludes our travel story for now.  There will be more.  We already have a Facebook group set up for my 40th birthday in 2.5 years.  Paris.  Wanna come?


Eco Friendly Wedding Decorations

Tips!  I love tips.  Everyone loves tips.  That's why Pinterest is so popular.  I spend a lot of time hanging out in the world of internet weddings, so I thought I might start sharing some cool tips that I find.  Today's tips: eco-friendly wedding decorations.  TIPS!

I think the best way to be eco-friendly in your decorating is to apply the principal of re-use.  Especially good if you can re-use something that would be thrown away and turn it into something beautiful.  I think this re-use of bottle caps would make a ridiculously cool backdrop:

It's an art installation by Mary Ellen Croteau.  I found it here: http://www.greenprophet.com/2013/02/garbage-art-ideas-mary-ellencroteau/ The Green Prophet is such a cool web site that focuses on Environmental Issues in the Middle East.

When Ash and I got married, my sister and I found cool trinkets and vases at the local recycling centre and then painted them all gold.  This was an awesome (and cheap) way to make stylie little table decorations.  I still use them around our house.  Which I think gives me re-use bonus points.  

Ooooh!  Aaaah!  Gold spray paint makes everything better.

Add some flowers, and voila!  Super cute centrepieces.

The other thing we did was have poster prints made from vintage images found online in the poster archives of the Library of Congress.  You can download full-resolution images for free.  We picked ones that we loved and fit our astrological theme.  We knew that they'd make great artwork to hang in our house after the fact.  Which we did with glee!  Until an a certain second child ripped one down in a fit of destruction.  I told him that didn't fit with our brand, but he didn't care. 

The other thing you can do is to find interesting greenery in your garden and use that.  I love this thyme garland (photo by Sarah Wood):

I also love this idea to use leaves instead of place cards.  ( Calligraphy by Natalie Chang via Magnolia Rouge)

 

All so lovely!  And none of it ends up in a landfill full of streamers and confetti and place cards and balloons.  Although, that kind of landfill sounds kind of awesome.

And, hey!  If you're looking for some super rad eco-friendly wedding rings, might as well have a look while you're here!


Holiday Ordering Information

 

It's that time of year again!

Merry Merry!  So that we can enjoy the (far too short) New Zealand Summer, we dedicate this time every year to hanging out as a family so that we (and Siggy and Pip) can be with our kids while they're having their school holidays.
The work order queue is now full, so all orders will now start shipping on the 29th of January.  Any order placed between now and then will have a scheduled shipping date that we will send to you via email.
We will be answering emails about once a week.  If you need something urgently, please put URGENT QUESTION in the subject line of your email.

Our Epic Journey Part 3 - Texas!

So, I've been trying for weeks to write this post, but it's hard ya'll, so I think we might just have to settle for a photo essay.  Texas is big and crazy beautiful and full of crazy, big, beautiful people that I love.  It still stings almost everyday that my life is here, yet a big part of my heart is there.  The kind of life that my kids get to live in New Zealand is something that I could never give up, and man the current state of Texas politics and education is seriously, seriously messed up, but it's so important to me that the boys feel the extreme warmth of character mixed with cowboy swagger that comes from living in a place so hot, friendly and full of dangerous animals. 

Henry's starting to get it.  He told me a few times that he felt like Texas was his home.  My favourite quote from the whole trip, "All the people in Texas really, really love me.  Even people we don't know just seem to like me."  

Water tower, Gruene, TX.

Truman in a really old dance hall with his new shoes and new purse.

We didn't get to stay for the beer portion of the dance hall evening unfortunately.

Truman just fits right in.

A beautiful mission in downtown San Antonio. 

Big ass wagon wheel at a truck stop in the middle of West Texas.

Henry on a super early morning hike in Big Bend National Park

I'm pretty sure this is Ash's first selfie.

Henry took this photo as we were all rushing to watch the sunset through "the window" at Big Bend National Park.  I just love it.

And Truman took this photo of Ash and me in the desert.

The dudes dressed up to go horseback riding.  Unfortunately, there is no horse back riding at the dude ranch on Sunday.  Next time boys!

One of the telescope domes at the Macdonald Observatory.

Truman at the State Capital in Austin.

Krause Springs, one of my favorite swimming spots outside of Austin.

Well, this is me!  

I don't feel you can ever relax to this extreme in a cold climate.

Or stay in the lake all damn day. 


Our Epic Journey Part Two!

After selling our souls to Disney (or rather paying large sums of money to surrender them), we said our goodbyes to the best hosts ever and set off on the part of the trip that I was super, duper excited about. I won’t say it was the part that I was MOST excited about (ahem, friends and family, uhhh Hawaii), but I was pretty, super, stoked.

We decided to take the train from LA to Austin! I had done this trip in reverse when I was 16 and absolutely loved it. Ash and I toy with the idea of taking it every time we travel to the states, usually, my desire for queso and family overrule the scenic route.

We decided this was the year to go for it. We had heaps of time scheduled in Texas and knew that the boys would love it. Bonnie and Andy (best hosts ever) dropped us at Union Station in LA around 9 and our 35 hour journey began.

I wish I had more photos of Union Station; it was stunning. Ash and I got a bit lost and a bit frustrated and then had a run in with that bitch Karma as the bottle of red wine we were trying to sneak onto the train smashed inside Ash’s backpack.

Hot, sweaty and dripping wine we boarded the train. We booked a sleeper car, which was kinda cool because it’s kinda like first class train ridin’. In our disheveled state, I felt like the conductor was going to suggest we might feel more comfortable riding in the freight car, but he didn’t. He was nice and told us where the free coffee and juice were located.

Our car was awesome. It spanned the whole width of the train car and had 4 bunks-3 singles and 1 double that transformed into four seats and two tables during the day. The boys couldn’t believe our luck that we had a transformer car. Ash took a shower with his backpack and we all got into our jammies and the train rocked the boys to sleep. At about 2 am. Jet lag was not kind to us.

Meals are included in the price of the sleeper car and we were all excited for breakfast in the morning. It was so much fun, Amtrak dining cars are my new happy place. I know that we did actually pay for our meals, but the idea that we got to eat whatever we wanted for free made me happier than it probably should.

The dining cars have limited space, so they do what’s called “community seating” aka, you have to sit with strangers. Since we were a party of four, we just got to benefit from all the other awkward conversations around us and didn’t have to engage in any ourselves. Lot’s of “it’s the journey, not the destination!” mixed in with “I’m scared to fly” or, “my head injury prevents me from going on planes.”

The absolute best part of the train is the observation car. Big swively chairs under a glass dome roof. This particular journey goes through the desert southwest. The Sonoran desert was my and Henry’s favourite with its big cacti. I think the boys were expecting more of a Saharan looking sandy desert, but quickly got used to the idea of cacti and tumble weeds and red dirt. Henry took about a bazillion photos and videos. Truman mainly talked really loud and bumped into people unapologetically in the hallways.

 Ash and I got to read and drink wine and take our own photos. Train travel really, really is the most relaxing way to travel. In general, the other people on board are there because they like to take things slow and to talk to other people about how they like to take things slow. No one has to drive, you never have to go through security screenings, the kids can move around freely and there’s always time to enjoy the journey. Even if you can’t freakin’ wait to get to the destination!


Our Epic Journey, Part 1

Well, we're home.  This past June, we headed off on a 2 month overseas adventure thanks to the kind understanding of all of our lovely customers, the ever cool-headed Pip that manned the emails while we were away and lovely Siggy that got the workshopped all stocked up and organised so that Ash could leap back into the swing of things upon our return.

Born and raised in Texas and now living in New Zealand, I've made this long-haul between the two places about 9 times now.  Henry's done it 4 times and Truman 3. We felt prepared.  We packed minimally.  We needed no diapers.  We made sure to include lots of swagger and over-confidence in our suitcase, because our kids are awesome!  We travel all the time!  We're patient and kind to each other!  Our kids can amuse themselves at restaurants! Who needs wipes!?!

Me.  I needed wipes.  We were sticky constantly.  Because we fed our kids, LOTS of lollies and marshmallows to quiet all the yelling and whining, which is a totally awesome long term solution and does not beget more yelling and whining and crying.  Also, Truman throws up when planes land.

But, enough of that real talk.  Let's look at some pretty pictures and pretend only the good and attractive times happened!  Our first stop was LA.  We usually just skip through the airport here and head straight to another plane to Texas, this year we decided to spend a few days with our dear friends, Bonnie and Andy and their two littles Maxfield and Molly Lou.  Best decision ever.  

 

 Truman got to meet some dinosaurs.  And also some bison.

Henry checked out the lunar lander.  

And I got to see the REAL SPACE SHUTTLE.  I totally cried.  Bonnie said I would, and I did.  It was incredible.  We almost didn't go, the kids were over it, but we forced them.  These became a theme on our trip.

Oh!  And we went to Disneyland.  Yeah, Disney, they're kinda evil and we're ethical jewellers, so maybe I this doesn't really jibe with our brand, but dude, it was pretty magical.  We stayed for 16 hours.  We rode everything.  We had cocktails (cocktails!  at Disneyland!).  Our friends were incredible tour guides, knew exactly where to go and what to do and were just all-around the best!  If you get a chance, stay with Bonnie and Andy in LA.  You won't regret it.

The boys are sitting on a bench made out of popsicle sticks.  Because they're in the land made for bugs and so everything is made out of giant, fake trash.  It's pretty amazing.

Tru's favourite ride was the stroller.  Turns out, he likes his space and comfort zone to be intact at all times.  Which is tricky when you're travelling for two months solid.  Routine is just not really available.  Sorry Tru!  I hope you don't hate us forever xoxo

But then again, sometimes it's worth it, eh Truman?  Sometimes the sun starts to set and you wake up from a long nap in the pram and your Dadda takes you on a rocket and then you get to spin and spin in a giant tea cup with your best bro Henry and the hard stuff is all worth it.

 


We're going on a field trip!

We're heading to Texas so the boys can experience the "other half" of their roots whilst avoiding rattlesnakes and eating lots of BBQ.  Pip will still be around answering all incoming queries and scheduling orders to be shipped upon our return.

***THIS IS THE IMPORTANT BIT HERE***

All new orders will start shipping on August 28th.  We will still be answering emails per usual on M-W-F New Zealand time.  If you place an order in this time, you will receive an email telling you when you can expect your order to ship.***

We will have a small selection of "ready to ship" pieces available here. https://www.etsy.com/shop/ashhilton?section_id=17366708&ref=shopsection_leftnav_10

Please note that all resizes will happen upon our return.

Thanks so much for your support and understanding while we stretch and grow as a family!


A Big Day!

Earlier this month, our oldest boy, Henry, started school.  Here in New Zealand, kids usually start on their 5th birthdays, but none of us were quite ready back in September (well, Henry probably was, but Ash and I were not).  After lots of talking and thinking, we decided the first term of 2015 would be a good time to start the transition and by early March, the day had arrived.

Henry takes his time.  He took 3 days to be born, he takes hours to fall asleep, is the last one to finish most meals and loves his "morning thinking time."  We weren't sure how he'd take to getting up super duper early.  So far, he loves it!  He has his own alarm clock and has learned how to take a shower all by himself.  I'm pretty sure I'll be getting my coffee served to me in bed in a few weeks time.

Where we live, there are two amazing primary schools to chose from.  One is nationally recognised for it's academic achievements, huge variety of extra curricular options and an incredibly beautiful sea view.  There are about 300 students.  The other is a small, country school with 50 students.  The curriculum is very holistic and community based with lots and lots of opportunity to play throughout the day.  Both great choices.  We chose the smaller school.  Henry was instantly comfortable there (we all were) and all of us couldn't be happier.  We're just beginning our relationship with the school, but the overwhelming feeling I get when I'm there is one of kindness.  All the other kids (and staff) are just so, so kind.  The big kids always take the opportunity to tell me how well Henry is doing.  I just love it.

I think Henry was most pumped about getting to take the bus to school.  I think Ash and I both imagined that we'd ease into this, maybe riding it with him for the first few weeks, but Henry had other ideas.  I arrived at school to pick him the first day and he insisted on riding the bus home with all the other kids.  So, we let him.  Plus, he's got the world's best bus stop ever.

I've never met another kid like Henry.  He seems shy, but he's not really, he's just hanging out with himself in his own head.  Like his Dad, he seems to be good at almost everything he tries and isn't afraid to try anything new.  Also like his Dad, he enjoys the company of others, but is also 100% satisfied doing his own thing.  Unlike his Dad, he gets incredible joy from dancing (might get that one from his Mama).  The future is bright for ole Henry Hilton, so pleased we get to come along for the ride.


Camp Weddings!!

So, I first heard of a Camp Wedding a few years ago when my good friends Jason and Melissa got married at her old Summer Camp.  They called it adult camp and all my friends got together and had a blast paddling canoes and drinking wine with straws and crying tears of beauty witnessing that pretty, pretty couple get married in front of a damn river.  I cried my own tears pregnant, cold and on the other side of the world.  I digress...

Anyway, they're super popular these days, big surprise! So much fun!  Such cool fonts!  S'MORES!!!  Anywho, these are my favorite camp wedding ideas images I've seen lately (starting top left and heading clockwise):

1) http://theeverylastdetail.com/colorful-summer-camp-themed-wedding/

2) http://www.intimateweddings.com/blog/woodland-weddings/

3) http://greenweddingshoes.com/dreamy-vintage-inspired-florida-camp-wedding-val-lee-part-2/

4) Hey!  Those are a set of custom design rings we made!  Get in touch here if you want us to design some for you 


We're On Holiday!!

Every year we go on a family holiday to enjoy the (far too short!) New Zealand Summer.  We will check emails weekly while away and will be back in the office from January 12th.  Orders placed during this time will be ready to ship starting on January 30th.  

Our handy "how to buy a ring guide" located here will answer most of your questions in our absence.  If you have an existing order and need to get in touch ASAP, please put "EXISTING ORDER QUESTION" in the subject line and we will get back to you as soon as we see it.

If you're in New Zealand, you can always check out one of our galleries while we're away.  Here's a list of our current stockists:  http://www.ashhilton.com/pages/stockists

Thanks so much for your continued support of our family business.  We feel incredible gratitude to do what we do and to work with so many amazing people during the year.  Check out our Facebook page and Instagram to see what we get up to over the holidays.

 

 

 

 

 

 



This is the Best Thing That's Ever Happened to Me

Yes, it's a thing. How shallow, I know!  It isn't really the best thing that ever happened to me, I mean, I have kids and I was a high school cheerleader.  In TEXAS.  But, holy toledo, when I unwrapped this bad boy from Ash, I had that "best thing ever" feeling.

You probably can't even tell what it is.  Well, it's a brooch. But, it's more than a brooch, it's ART.  It's an art brooch.  It's brooch art.  It doesn't even look like a real thing, all floating out in space, but it is.

It was made by Joe Sheehan.  I could try and paraphrase his concept, but here it is, copied from his artist bio on the Pataka web site: "His work has looked at the commercialisation of the jade industry and the limitations it places on jade and its potential as a medium for relevant art practise, asking why much modern greenstone carving looks like museum-held works, rather than objects of this time."

Basically, jade carving (or greenstone or pounamu) has been going on for a long time in New Zealand.  Māori used carved greenstone for implements and adornment and it is sold throughout New Zealand today, usually in adornment form and usually in traditional shapes.  

Joe makes modern looking objects out of this traditional, beautiful material.  Earlier works than this brooch included an incredibly detailed ballpoint pen, a working lightbulb and a cassette tape that played the sound of the river where the greenstone was found.  He's kind of amazing.  He's kinda my crush.  So, when I opened this little parcel up, it had a pretty big impact.

But!  This is not just a post to show off my amazing new brooch (but look how pretty!).  No, it's to make you feel bad about shopping.

This gift got me thinking about art and presents and the fact that 'tis the season. And the fact that Walmart keeps it's workers in poverty and how terrible that really is.  And how Ash and I always struggle to find the balance between our own ethics and our desire to see our kids do that HAPPY,JOY,OMG I GOT THAT PLASTIC THING FROM TV dance on Christmas morning.  Especially considering we make our living from people who decide to avoid mainstream, big box, over-manufactured wedding rings and so it's pretty much bullshit that we don't do try our very best to do the same thing.

I know this is not a new concept.  I'm really not trying to make you feel bad. I'm writing this now because there's still time.  I'm writing this to remind myself not to be a jerk.  We don't have to panic shop at Walmart.  We can still order something from Etsy or buy the plastic thing of joy used from Ebay.  Or some theatre tickets, or a handmade gift certificate for babysitting or a foot rub or to clean the windows or...THE OVEN.  Let's do it.  Let's just do that.  I've never, ever regretted buying art (or plane tickets). 


Christmas Ordering Information

Merry Merry!  Here are some important dates to make sure that you get your gift where it needs to be in time.

 

For New Zealand Orders:  All orders must be placed by December 12th.

 

For International Orders:  If shipped via airmail, orders must be placed by November 21st

                                         If shipped via courier, orders must be placed by November 28th

 

Please let us know in the notes upon checkout that you would like to receive it for Christmas.  If you would like it gift wrapped or in one of our handmade wooden boxes, get in touch and we can help you out!

 

 


Jonny and Anya

Jonny!  And Anya!  Well, these guys are some of our best friends in the whole wide world.   Really, they're kinda like family only not in the least bit annoying and they don't participate in Secret Santa during Christmastimes (yet).  So, when we heard they were engaged (yay!) Ash and I were just sitting around wondering when we were going to get to make their rings.  That's our standard wedding gift, which is awesome and also kinda lazy on our part.  

Jonny and Anya grew up with morals and manners and politeness and all sorts of things mine and Ash's hippy parents didn't really introduce us to, so when we finally got the call it was like, "well we really hate to trouble you and please send us an invoice and if it's too much trouble" and we were like, "don't be crazy! We were starting to freak out about having to pick out a stick blender or something (which if you know anything about Ash or I, this is a process that generally takes about 3 years because of our diabolical mix of pickiness and thrift- also the laziness.)

So, we were so, so, so, so lucky because we got to make their beautiful rings that they get to wear everyday for the rest of their lives.  And Jonny and Anya are so lucky because everyday they can look down at their hands and think of me and Ash and our thrift, pickiness and laziness.  It's a win-win.  

ALSO!  It was a great way for us to force Jonny to be the celebrant of mine and Ash's wedding which was about a month after their!  Win-win-win!!!

 These amazing photos were taking by wedding photographer extraordinaire (and also one of our very, very, very best friends) Victoria Vincent.

 


Ring Sizing

Oh ring finger sizing!  A tricky art!  Here's the best method we've determined along with a helpful little illustration.

To determine your correct finger size, you need to first figure out what width of ring you’d like as this directly affects the size needed.  As the width increases the size needs to increase a little as well.

Almost any thickness/width/finger size is possible - including ¼ finger sizes but with etchings usually 3mm is as narrow as we like to go. 

The best thing to do is to try on rings with different widths to find which one you like the look and feel of.  When you find one that is the right size and width, measure the size - to the edge of the ring.

Another way to find the right width is to cut pieces of card in different widths and wrap them around your finger.

If you are using an existing ring to find a size, the inside diameter is what you're looking for, small amounts make a big difference so a measurement to the nearest ¼ of a millimetre is needed.

You can also purchase plastic finger sizes for US$ here.

Titanium cannot be resized so it is very important to get the size right first time.  If the size needs to be adjusted any more than 1/4 of a size up a new ring will need to be purchased.

 

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