Cumbria Life Casting in Silloth

Welcome Back Fund - funded by ERDF

‘Making memories’ is a phrase everyone is familiar with, and Cumbria Life Casting in Silloth is taking this to a whole new level with its range of handmade jewellery.

“There’s a little piece of Silloth all over the world,” says Victoria Rudkin, the creative behind the creations of Cumbria Life Casting. She’s seen her jewellery commissioned by customers as far away as South Africa and the USA, though most of her clients are much closer to home. Cumbria Life Casting began when her husband Mike expanded his skills as a plasterer to begin crafting casts of hands and feet as mementoes for families. They had a unit in Carlisle before moving to Silloth two years ago and decided to open a proper shop on the high street when they relocated to the popular seaside town.

“Who wouldn’t want to move to Silloth? It’s a beautiful place,” says Victoria, whose workshop windows overlook the town’s lovely green and the Solway Firth beyond. She says she loves being part of the friendly community there and that it’s proved to be an ideal place for her business as customers love visiting to place their orders and pick up their unique pieces made by Victoria and her assistant Amanda Carter.

She now specialises in hand-crafted jewellery, with a twist. Nearly every piece she creates includes something completely personal that her customers want to use to mark the life of a loved one, like ashes, locks of hair, finger or paw prints, or even substances like breast milk.

Ashes are by far the most popular inclusion, to remember the life of both humans and pets. Victoria says she only uses a tiny amount which is usually mixed into resin. Visitors can choose from a range of precious and non precious metals, with titanium, silver, and all colours of gold making for popular choices. The team make bracelets, necklaces, charm beads and key rings in all shapes, sizes and designs.

Most of the customers are women, but around 30% are men, most of who ask for rings, tie pins, cufflinks or a masculine bracelet. Some clients want a piece of art for their homes, rather than jewellery, so Victoria also creates paperweights, wall art or plush teddy bears holding resin hearts. Her work has also been used in commemorative pieces for funerals, christenings and weddings.

“We have been asked for all sorts, we have a massive catalogue,” says Victoria. “It’s all about creating something that gives people that sensory connection with someone they have lost.”

Victoria and Amanda aim to make every visit to the showroom as welcoming as possible. There’s a handy box of tissues sitting on the side because they know this is always going to be an emotional process: “When we create the designs we play meaningful music, the candles are lit and we have a chat with the person we are making the piece about. It’s comforting for us but also for the relatives who have trusted us to deal with their loss. It’s incredibly important that each person and process is personalised.”

With fingerprints we take a photograph and scan them. Handwriting can be scanned from a birthday card. It’s the same with prints of hands and feet – we take the print with oil on a specialist paper. A finger print could be done with pencil lead on to a piece of sticky tape. Paw prints can be photographed from a print in the sand at the beach.

“I worked out a way of preserving breast milk that’s completely safe. One of my friends gave me the idea. She had a difficult pregnancy and had a really hard time breastfeeding. She wanted to celebrate that journey and everything that she had gone through with it.

“At the time, there didn’t seem to be anyone else doing that and it was never part of the business plan but it’s proved really popular. I had to find a way of doing it because I discovered you can’t add breast milk to resin. It will rot so we turn it into a powder instead. I won’t tell you how I do it. I don’t divulge my secrets.

“Some pieces are easier than others. I wanted to make everything as wearable and beautiful as possible.”

Most of Cumbria Life Casting customers come from across the county, as well as Lancashire, Newcastle and Scotland.

“People will travel to come and see us,” adds Victoria. “We do sell online and have sent jewellery to America, South Africa and Australia.

“If there are ashes left over after we’ve created a design, they often ask us to scatter them here. ‘You live in a beautiful area’ they say. It’s surprising how many people have a connection with Silloth.”

Cumbria Life Casting is taking part in a new Shop Local Allerdale campaign, organised by Allerdale Borough Council and supported by HM Government’s Welcome Back Fund and ERDF, the European Regional Development Fund.

Cumbria Life Casting
6 Eden Street
Silloth CA7 4AD