There are few things better than when your super-talented pals go viral for all the right reasons. Bonnie Bling maestra Mhairi Mackenzie hit the virtual pages of Vanity Fair online at the weekend, after one of her zeitgeist-capturing Trump is a Jobby protest sign pins caught the eye of one of their photojournalists. Scottish insults just say it better, no mater where you are in the world.
With designs inspired by women’s rights, the Scottish referendum and the late night twitterings of everybody’s least favourite comedy president, Bonnie Bling’s acrylic jewellery often blends activism – with cuts going to charity, where appropriate – and Mhairi’s trademark wit; thanks, as I recently discovered, to an ever-present sketchbook and her in-house laser cutter. But it’s her cheeky designs inspired by Scottish slang and culture that she remains best known for – and now, she’s offering you the chance to make them yourself.
Glasgow’s Hidden Lane is home to both Bonnie Bling’s studio and the Hidden Lane Tea Room, the latter of which was the perfect venue for a Sunday crafternoon. I arrived to a long table set with delicate vintage china cups and saucers and slightly less delicate miniature pliers – at which Lynsay, in an absolutely magnificent rainbow sweater dress, had kept me a seat. Because us crafting together always ends well.
(Sidebar: does anybody else have a friend whose wardrobe is so magnificent you keep wanting to tap her on the shoulder to see if she’s tagged the brands? In recent months, my stalking of Lynsay’s outfits has intensified to the point that I once bought the dress she was wearing online while sitting across from her at dinner. The internet has a lot to answer for.)
Of course, you can’t host an event at the Hidden Lane Tea Room without some tasty treats, and we indulged in super-chocolatey tray bakes and the perfect fresh cream Victoria sponge while Mhairi shared a bit about the history of Bonnie Bling and talked us through the acrylic charm necklace we’d all be putting together. Mhairi had taken the liberty of shrinking down some of her most iconic designs, giving us plenty of Scottish-themed charms in just the right amount of detail to choose from – think teeny Irn Bru cans, the Duke of Wellington with his traffic cone and even a Hielan’ coo!
Before we got started on our necklace proper, we had the opportunity to practice with our pliers by attaching a cute yellow Scottish slang charm to a keyring with the ‘jump rings’ which, we were told, would be our friends or nemeses throughout the afternoon. A jump ring is a slightly larger metal link which can be pulled apart with pliers and then closed again – or, alternatively, can ping off the end of your pliers and end up somewhere on the floor…
…but I wasn’t about to let myself get disheartened, for a veritable rainbow of acrylic charms were making their way around the room – it was time to plan our necklaces! One participant seated near me opted to keep it simple with a row of multicoloured cattle, while Lynsay planned a necklace in her trademarked all brights, all the time colourway. Me? I confess to picking out a selection of blues and purples that would compliment my hair, at least until the next time I decide to change it up.
Although we were using smaller jump rings for the necklace itself, I soon got into the swing of it and managed to string together my charms in the order I had laid out with no more jumpin’ jump ring disasters! I was even able to use one of my spares to make a keyring to take home after all. Throughout, we talked, laughed and snuck extra pieces of cake – all while Mhairi kept an eye out to make sure that nobody was struggling past the point of fun and to offer a helping hand where needed.
For extra credit (not really – nobody was getting graded) we were able to customise our necklaces still further with a touch of acrylic paint. No steady hands or artistic flair required here, as the shaky-handed among us could simply colour over the etched parts on some of the charms and then wait for the paint to dry in before scraping the excess off. I mean, you can’t have a traffic cone and not colour it orange, right??
But the real highlight of the afternoon was still to come: a short walk over to Mhairi’s studio, where we got to see the official Bonnie Bling laser in action! Mhairi drew up little tags with everybody’s initials on them in a Word document, and then we watched excitedly while the laser etched and cut them out on silver glitter acrylic. Or, at least, I was excited. Because I am a big nerd. Seriously though: as fun as it was getting hands-on with charms, chains and pliers, it was seeing a computer-generated image translated into something sparkly right in front of me that really brought home to me how fulfilling it must be for somebody like Mhairi to bring those notebook sketches to bold, cheeky life.
You might not be able to fit a laser cutter in your garage, but until then you can head along to a Bonnie Bling workshop and get a little taste of that magic.
Get involved: The next Bonnie Bling workshop is a Valentines spectacular, taking place on Sunday, 11th February at the Hidden Lane Tea Room. Participants will get to make a charm bracelet, a pair of cufflinks or earrings, get 25% off any Bonnie Bling purchases on the day, have a tour of Glasgow’s best-kept shopping secret The Hidden Lane AND enjoy tea and cake, courtesy of The Hidden Lane Tea Room! Book your ticket on the Bonnie Bling website.
For future workshop dates, keep an eye on the Bonnie Bling Facebook page.