From Scotland to Dønna, with Silver and Gold in her Eyes.

Text and photo: Leif Steinholt, Helgelands Blad


The friendship of Mharit's parents with a couple on Dønna, led Mharit Hulbert (24) from Scotland to the same island.  Now she is established there with a her local boyfriend, and is in full swing creating her own gold and silversmith workshop.
The visits of the Scottish researcher lan Hulbert to Dønna in 1994 and 1995 have left lasting impressions. Now his daughter Mharit is building a gold and silversmith workshop on the island, while he himself has moved his company GPS Collars to Norway and specifically, Dønna.  


Outside the old shop in the north of Dønna, the ice cold wind whips over a parking lot covered by thick and rutted ice.  In the doorway stands Mharit Hulbert (24) ready to receive me with a smile.
Mharit - with an 'h'. 
“My parents wanted the name to have a more Scottish sound”, she explains when we are safe inside.
We will return to the H. For this story, also has a prehistory.


Life is full of coincidences.Some of them end up being life-defining; setting the framework for life as it is here and now, and giving the direction for how it will unfold in the future. It must therefore be acknowledged that if the Scottish hare researcher, Ian Hulbert, had not been involved in a research project on Dønna in 1994 and 1995, Mharit Hulbert would not have been on the island on this cold and windy day in March. She would
probably never have set foot on Dønna, nor found her boyfriend here. And would not have done what she is well under way with now: Establishing her own gold and silversmith workshop in the premises of the old disused shop on Nord-Dønna.


On Dønna, Ian Hulbert and his wife Fiona, became very good friends with the farming couple, Jens Carlsen and Tone Andersen. This resulted in several visits after the research project was over, and in 2008 their twelve-year-old daughter Mharit came with them for the first time.  “Since then I went back in 2012,” she recalls.   “And in 2015, 2016”. The last three times, Mharit had a summer job at Dønnes farm, at the same time as she studied in Scotland to become a teacher.  And notably: In 2016, she discovered love.  Namely, Dag-Einar Eide Knutsen (now 28), who had grown up right over the hill from the workshop.  Then, when Mharit Hulbert traveled to Dønna again in the summer of 2019, it was not just to visit.  But to settle, and to start her own business on the island.


“I have wanted to work as a silversmith for a long time, and to run my own business. The plan is to make a living from my own business eventually.  I will start slowly, and build myself up,” Mharit says when she has brought us into the large room that will house Mharit Hulbert Silver and Gold, as the company is called.  Mharit has loved making jewellery since she was a little girl, and when she was thirteen, her mother put her in touch with the renowned and meritorious silversmith and engraver Malcolm Appleby.  He lives near Aberfeldy, the small town in the middle of Scotland where Mharit comes from, and took her under his wing.  “Since then I was often in his workshop.  He has taught me everything I know,” she says.


When Mharit moved to Dønna, she first got a job at Drømmehagen nursery in the north of the island.  Since last autumn, she has worked as a teacher at Nord-Dønna Montessori School, which is housed in the same building as the nursery, and teaches English, Music and Art and Design.

Mharit had the Norwegian language in her when she moved. “A nice thing about the summer jobs at Dønnes farm, was that I had to try to communicate with the guests in Norwegian.  So when I moved here, people could understand what I was saying,” she says.  Since then, Mharit has worked to formalise her Norwegian skills, and on Wednesday next week, the Norwegian exam at Dønna Adult Education is on the program.  

“And I have a good deal with the kids at school.  They understand that I do not understand everything, so I will teach them English, if they can teach me a little Norwegian,” she laughs.


Mharit enjoys her teaching job, and very much appreciates having being taken so quickly into the warmth of a new employer when she came “I really like working as a teacher.  It makes me happy, and I feel like I'm making a difference and giving something back in return.  So I am very fond of my job as a teacher.  At the same time, it helps me realise my dream,” she says.  However,  in mid-January the Dønna council have Mharit Hulbert Silver and Gold a very welcome and appreciated grant of NOK 50,000 from the councils business fund, as well as an offer of 100,000 in a loan.

“It is expensive to establish yourself.  I am missing some equipment, and have started to buy a little,” says Mharit - and praises council director Tor-Henning Jørgensen for the fantastic support and help in the application process.  “He has been very helpful.  I had intended to send an application to Innovation Norway as well, but there were so many rules to follow. So I'll have to wait a bit.”


Along with lots of small intricate pieces of equipment that have been put into place, in the middle of the floor stands a black-rimmed metal press of the old and very solid kind, from Scotland, transported in a large lorry on the last leg to Nord-Dønna.  “I do not know how much it weighs, but it is heavy!” states Mharit, and estimates the age to be over a hundred years.  She just had to take the press with her after discovering it outside an old steelworks - rusty, and not in a good condition.  Since then, she has spent a lot of time restoring;  scraping away the rust and painting the large machine.  When she gets more established, it will be used to emboss patterns into silver jewellery.  "Here and there I can attach steel plates that I have engraved a pattern in," she explains.  “Then I put the silver in the middle, and lower the pressure.  That way I can make several pieces of jewellery from the same engraving.” One of the basic rules she has is to take care of old tools, Mharit carries this with her from her master teacher in Scotland.  “I often look for things I can use.  And if I can't, maybe they can be used for decoration!”


However, a large and heavy metal press is not at the heart of Mharit's production.  But meticulous craftsmanship, where a sense of form, precision and patience are important keywords “Engraving is a very old way of using silver,” Mharit states.  “The techniques I use may not be so modern, but that's how it is done.”

In an extensive sketchbook, she has pencil drawings of things that may become something in the future.  On a work table in a corner, a large number of pointed tools are lined up, waiting for an engraver.  “I like it when the light gives life to the silver,” she says, and holds out a circular piece of jewellery where the engravings make the reflections shine in an alternating play when the jewellery moves.  

What inspires you?

“Here in Norway: Nature.  Flowers, water, sea, clouds.  From Scotland, I draw inspiration from traditional gunengraving.  By the way, I feel it is has some similarities to Norwegian Rosemaling, so I plan to develop ideas for my work along these lines".  


So far, only two pieces of jewellery have been created in the new premises;  the other finished products have been brought by Mharit from Scotland.  The goal is for more to be in place by the time summer comes, and that she can receive visitors in a fully furnished room. Then people should be able to move around the workshop, surrounded by the tools and implements, instead of just standing and waiting in front of a counter.  When everything gets more and more established, she is thinking of starting courses in engraving. Exchanging products with someone in the US who makes pearl jewellery is also among the plans, as is online sales. In her mind's eye, Mharit can clearly see where everything should be located.

“There will be a table and a bench, there and there.  And the lines on the wall there, should be shelves,” she says, pointing.  “I hope that we manage to finish the whole workshop by the summer, but do not know if it will work out like that.  If not, it should at least be ready by Christmas.  But there will be a shop here this summer anyway.”


When the shop opens, it will take place in collaboration with Dønnes farm. The plan is that the tourists who come to the farm and Dønnes church, will also be able to get a trip along to the old shop, just a few kilometres away.  Here they will find a variety of local produce. Mharit Hulbert is not the only one who has moved into the old shop and has things to sell.  For the past two years, enterprising ladies under the name Bakertøtten have run a bakery café, and in part of the building, Jens Carlsen and Tone Andersen's son Andreas - a childhood friend of Mharit's boyfriend Dag-Einar - started production of local meat under the name Carlsen Kjøtt og Vilt.  The building also provides office space for an employee of the Norwegian Agricultural Advisory Service.  And - right in front of the front door of Mharit's workshop, - there is an unfurnished room waiting for dad, Ian Hulbert, to move in with his company GPS Collars (see separate case).


Thus, we return to the starting point: Ian and Fiona Hulbert's visits to Dønna in the early 1990s.  “ I think that their life in Norway inspired them a lot,” says Mharit, and tells about when Dag-Einar came for Christmas in Scotland.

“He thought that things would be very different than at his home in Norway, but it certainly was not.  "You even listen to Sissel Kyrkjebø when you decorate your Christmas tree!".

The connection to Norway thus led to a daughter with a Norwegian-sounding name - but with a Scottish twist in the spelling.  “The idea with the h was to make the ‘a’ longer when a Scotsman pronounces the name.  Without the h, it becomes a very short ‘a’,” says Mharit.

Then we can add that in the Old Scottish Gaelic language, «mh» is pronounced as «v» Now the Scottish twist has ended up on Dønna. With gold and silver in her eyes.

All of this text is written by Leif Steinholt from Helgelands Blad.

Translated by Mharit Hulbert 

To read the original article in Norwegian follow the link below. For å lese den originale avisartikkelen i Norsk følg link:

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