Most mums have their child’s handprint somewhere: pressed into finger-paint and smeared on butcher paper, captured in clay, or even immortalised as a Thanksgiving handprint turkey. And, over the years, many of these treasured objects end up gathering dust in the bottom of drawers. Milly Larmer is trying to change that, with her business, Small Print, bringing a piece of your kids to dangle from your wrist, neck, or even keys.
So, what is it?
It’s solid silver jewellery. It’s pendants, it’s key rings, cufflinks and charms, with your child’s fingerprint, hand or footprint, drawings or writing on it. If they wanted to make a key chain with ‘I love you, Daddy on it’ they could write it and I’d engrave it. And I put their names and their ages, so you know how old they were when you had it done, or a little message, ‘I love you, Grandma’, that sort of thing.
How do you do it?
I use precious metal clay, which was developed by Mitsubishi in the early ’90s. It’s a bit like playdough, basically. That’s what I tell the children, that it’s just a very boring coloured playdough. So I roll it out and take the fingerprint, and then use little cutters and cut out different shapes and styles and what have you. Then I engrave it when it’s dry, fire it in a kiln at a really high temperature, tumble it and polish it and various other things. It’s all done by me, all done here at home, all hand-made. I just love doing it.
This is a bit different – how did you get started?
I’m quite arty anyway, but I hadn’t done anything like this before, so I had to go on quite an extensive training course because it’s quite tricky to get a proper fingerprint into clay.
You started doing this in Dubai before moving to Qatar; what sort of reaction have you had here?
People really, really love it. They think it’s a great product. I think the reason they like it is that they get to use it – it’s not just a picture that goes on a wall and then, when they’re nine or 10 or 11, it goes under the bed because they don’t want to look at it any more. You can wear the necklace; you can use the key ring; the dads get to wear the cufflinks, all that kind of thing. And there’s such a big audience, you know – christenings, birthdays, anniversaries Christmas, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, there are always different points where people are going to want it.
So, what do people have made?
I just had a customer come in; she’s got a nine-month-old son and I’ve made her a bracelet. She’s having a hand and a footprint done every three months until he’s a year old, so she’s got a record of him growing up.
That’s cool – is it just babies, then, or can grown children surprise mum too?
This is really sweet: I had one dad at Christmas who did this completely off his own back. He was in his late 60s and all of his sons were over here for Christmas. The youngest was 31 and the oldest was 45, and they made a charm bracelet for their mum for Christmas. Big adults, absolutely! There’s a lady whose 16-year-old son has just gone to boarding school and she’s absolutely devastated. So I collared the boy before he left and he made a fingerprint necklace for her. So now, while he’s over there, she’s got his fingerprint around her neck.
Does everyone in the family have to be in Doha for this to work?
No – I had another lady come and she wanted to make a charm bracelet for her mother. She’s got three sisters, and they live all around the world, so their poor mum’s stuck in the UK with all these grandchildren in different places. They sent me handprints of all the grandchildren and I made a bracelet. I need a handprint in dark colours, which they email to me; then I make it into a stamp and put it into whatever piece of jewellery they want.
You do handprints, footprints, fingerprints, children’s artwork and . . . pawprints?
I’ve just started doing paw prints. There are a lot of people in Doha who have dogs and cats – loads of them. And people have just gone crazy for it, it’s certainly something different.
What makes these pieces so special?
When I was in the UK and Dubai, I did quite a few at a children’s hospice where children are terminally ill. I would make jewellery with the children before they died. It was really, really tough, but I sort of flipped the coin and thought of what was I doing for the parents. You’ve just got something with them. With the fingerprints, I don’t use moulds or impressions, the fingerprint goes straight into the piece of jewellery, so it’s literally touched by that person, and you’ve always got that with you.
I think it’s beautiful jewellery, and the range is expanding all the time. So every piece is unique and you get to use it; you don’t just shove it away in a cupboard. It really touches you; it really kind of gets you when you give it to someone. And that’s what I love about it: I make it for somebody, and I’m really chuffed because they’ll come and pick it up and go ‘oh, it’s gorgeous I love it’ – that’s their reaction and they’re not even the ones who are receiving it; they’re giving it to somebody else. I just think about all those people on Christmas Day who open presents that I have made. People absolutely love it.