The question we get asked most often is “How did you get your jewelry in Vikings?” The short answer is that we answered the phone. Little did we know that, with that one phone call, our life was going to change!
I was sitting at the computer one afternoon, when the phone rang. It was a very pleasant woman with an amazing Irish accent, calling from Ashford Studios in Ireland. She was in need of bracelets for a TV show, had found our website, and really liked our work.
Before we go any further, I should explain that while getting jewelry in a TV show or a movie sounds exciting, it rarely turns out to be that exciting in real life. We probably get contacted 2-3 times a year by “TV shows” and “movies” needing jewelry. Most times it is a very small project with a limited budget, often looking to get free stuff to use; other times it’s a project still in the concept phase, and it never even gets off the ground. Sometimes it is for an actual TV show like Reign or From Dusk Til Dawn, or Spartacus: Gods of the Arena or The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, but our jewelry may or may not show up on screen (you can see a few of our kilt brooches on Scottish characters in Reign; we’ve never been able to spot any of our work in any of the other shows). And every once in a while the call is from a legitimate movie, like Beowulf and Grendel. We got a piece of jewelry on almost every one of the major characters in Beowulf and Grendel, which was indeed very exciting! But that is the exception, not the rule.
So I’m on the phone with this very pleasant woman from Ireland, who is explaining that they are making what sounds like a documentary, and I thought she said it was for the BBC (although I probably just mixed up the BBC with the History Channel). They needed bracelets for a brotherhood of warriors, which would get featured prominently in the show, plus lots of other stuff. She was trying to get me excited about the project, but it wasn’t working, because I’ve heard this pitch before. She did place an actual order though, and wasn’t asking for anything for free. So I took down what she wanted, and thanked her. I figured one day someone would tell me about some documentary they had watched on the BBC that had a few of our bracelets in it – not a bad thing to be sure, but not life changing. And after awhile I forgot about it.
Fast forward a year and a half. This show called Vikings has come out, and all my friends are watching it. I always wait and get anything I want to watch on DVD, so I can watch it while I work, and so I hadn’t seen any of it yet. Once again I was sitting at the computer one afternoon when the phone rang. It was a new customer, who wanted a bracelet like the ones we made for Vikings. I told him no, we didn’t make anything in Vikings. He told me that yes, we did. I told him that if I had jewelry in a show as popular as Vikings, I think I would know. He told me I was wrong, and made me promise to go look at the Vikings website. I took his order – he wanted a bracelet with raven heads instead of the dragon heads, which was no problem. After I hung up, I went to the website, and I found this:
This time we got excited! We told anybody who would listen that we had jewelry in Vikings! We of course started watching Vikings, trying to spot our work, and we scoured the internet for any images from Vikings that showed our jewelry. When we learned there would be a second season, we eagerly awaited the next call from Ireland for more jewelry! But that call never came. The second season came out, and we figured that while some of our pieces might show up somewhere, the excitement was mostly over. And then, in the middle of the second season, Aethelstan saved Ragnar’s life in a battle, prompting Ragnar to gift his arm ring to the priest-turned-warrior, and in that instant our life changed!
Suddenly we were on every Vikings fan’s radar, all wondering where they could get that bracelet! Our business literally doubled overnight, and we started taking orders and making “Ragnar’s bracelet” as fast as we could (We have no idea how many we have made of them over the years, but it’s in the thousands). And we decided that no matter what we had to do, we were going to have more of our jewelry in the third season!
However this proved to be difficult. Due to a computer crash, we no longer had the phone number for Ashford Studios, and finding it again wasn’t easy. At that time, their number was not posted online anywhere. So we sent off a number of emails to various people and companies associated with Vikings, asking if they had any contact information for the costuming department. Eventually two emails came back, both with the same phone number. And so I took a deep breath, and dialed the number.
A woman answered the phone, again with an enchanting Irish accent. I explained who we were, how we were involved with Vikings, and asked if it would be ok if we mailed them a free box of jewelry to use in the next season. She told me that this would be “lovely”, and gave me the address to send it to. We grabbed 2 of everything we made that could conceivably be used in a story about Vikings, and put them all in a box. Then I realized that if I declared any value on the contents of this box, they would have to pay a 23% duty on that value, and therefore they might just refuse the box. So I took an even deeper breath, wrote “movie props – zero value” on the customs form for a box containing approximately $10,000 worth of our jewelry, and sent it overnight through FedEx. Our luck held, the box arrived safely, and they LOVED IT!
As exciting as the second season had been, it was nothing compared to the third season of Vikings. Our jewelry was showing up everywhere, with multiple pieces often used in the same scene. And in one scene, one of the pendants got turned upside down, showing the “Crafty Celts” signature!
Everyone we knew was excited for us. And people kept saying we should try to get in the show as extras. At first I thought this was silly – we made the jewelry they were using, but why would they let us be in the show? But people kept saying it, and eventually I decided to take a chance and see – the worst that could happen was for them to say no. So I emailed the head of the costuming department, saying that if she ever need a Celt as an extra, I was available. I included this picture, taken by a friend at an event we go to called Pennsic:
The email I got in reply said “We are actually filming a big battle scene next week and we need a lot of extras, so I’m sure we could work you in.” This was not the reply I was expecting. Once I could breathe again, I put two plane tickets on a charge card, and told my son Kelley to start packing, because we were going to Ireland for a week to be extras in Vikings!
If you have never been, Ireland is a wonderful country to visit. It is beautiful, and the people are welcoming and pride themselves on their hospitality. Once we arrived in Ireland we were treated like visiting royalty! A car was sent to pick us up and bring us to the studio. Once we got there, as we were being taken up to the costuming department, a man dressed as a Viking walked past us. Kelley and I looked at each other – this was the moment it became real to us. We got a tour of the costuming department, and met all the craftspeople who worked there. We were introduced to the costume designer Joan Bergen, (who has won several Emmys for her costuming work in The Tudors – we got to see the actual Emmy trophies in her office). Later in the week we got to meet Travis Fimmel (Ragnar) and Clive Standen (Rollo). I honestly think Clive Standen may have actually been more excited to meet us than we were to meet him, and he remembered who I was when I got to meet him a second time at VikingsCon.
We were fitted for Viking costumes, and were slated to be in one of the fight scenes in Paris the next day, as berserkers under Rollo’s command! But when we arrived in the morning, the plans had changed. A fight scene on top of the walls of Paris was taking longer than expected, and we couldn’t be in that scene, both because all the characters in the scene had already been established, and also because we had not had the training required by their insurance to be 6 stories high up on the wall. So we were quickly refitted with different costumes for a dinner scene with King Ekbert and his son Aethelwulf. I got to be a Saxon guard, and Kelley was a servant at the table. We didn’t get to actually meet Linus Roache (King Ekbert) or Moe Dunford (Aethelwulf), but we did get to watch them act.
The next morning when we got there, we were told the scene on the wall was still dragging on, and that there were no scenes being filmed that day that we could be in. But how would we like to spend the day helping to make costumes in the costuming department? Kelley got to make a sword baldric that would be used on an actor they were going to set on fire the next day (a Viking falling to a fiery death in a Paris battle scene). I got to work on a belt for Ragnar’s stunt double!
We were told that for the rest of the week there would be no more scenes that we could be in. The fight scene on the wall, involving several principal Viking characters, was still dragging on, and the big battle scene we came to be part of, which would include those same characters, couldn’t happen until the scene on the wall was competed. So they suggested we spend the rest of our time in Ireland being tourists.
We were a little disappointed, but really it had been a grand adventure so far! However, as we were heading out at the end of that day, the casting director for the extras caught us and asked if we could come back tomorrow. There had been a last minute change to the schedule, and they were filming a big scene establishing the French Court in Paris that didn’t involve any of the Viking characters stuck on the wall, but that did require as many extras as they could get. And if we could come back tomorrow, it would be a big help!
We showed up early the next morning. This time I was fitted to be a French guard, and Kelley was dressed to be a member of the court. There were about 8 guard extras, and we walked onto the set of the French Court in random order. And as luck would have it, I ended up as the guard right next to the French King!
The next day we flew home, ending the most amazing of adventures!
We continued to provide jewelry for Vikings, mailing a box off before filming started for each new season, filled with all the new designs we had come up with, and occasionally making something specific they needed (like Rollo’s Silver Horse Bracelet).
Vikings has come to an end, but the sequel, Vikings: Valhalla, is in production at Ashford Studios, and will feature more Crafty Celts jewelry.
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